posted on July 9: Support services for academic computing restructured


[img_inline align=”right” src=”” caption=”John Platt”]McMaster is restructuring its computing support services to provide increased support for and dedicated resources to the academic computing needs of the institution.

McMaster's Board of Governors approved a plan for the Organization of Academic Computing at McMaster at its June 15 meeting. (The plan was approved by Senate earlier last month.) John Platt, special adviser to the provost and vice-president academic, developed the plan following a survey of the resources and activities involving academic computing at the University. (His Initial Report on Academic Computing came out in January 2001.)

“While not being an extremely unique organization, implementation of (this) plan would be a giant step forward for academic computing and teaching support systems at McMaster,” writes Platt in his final report. He outlines the many reasons why an increased focus on and reorganization of resources dedicated to academic computing is needed:

  • there is no organized strategic planning for academic computing above the Faculty level;
  • an impressive amount of activity is going on in several pockets of the University but these activities receive woefully inadequate institutional support;
  • McMaster lags behind other institutions in its support for academic computing;
  • McMaster will be unable to sustain its current level of academic computing without serious investment;
  • faculty are not aware of the technological tools available to them.

McMaster has fallen three to five years behind many institutions in applying technological tools to the pedagogical mission, Platt writes. With the university facing an increase in student numbers and recruiting new faculty, more support and resources for academic computing will be needed.

The plan approved by Board calls for McMaster's Learning Technologies Resource Centre (LTRC), which operates out of the Centre for Leadership in Learning (CLL), to be expanded into a “one-stop shopping centre” to provide academic computing support to faculty. Platt would like it to become a spot where academics could go to get all the information they need about academic computing in addition to providing the necessary technical support. He also sees the resource centre as helping faculty to connect with other resources available through Computing & Information Services (CIS) and Media Production Services (MPS).

As part of the new organization, an academic committee will be established to oversee and provide strategic planning for computing issues. The Advisory Committee for Academic Computing (ACAC) will consist of representatives from the various Faculty computing committees and will be chaired by Platt.

To create the new organization, a considerable amount of restructuring will occur:

  • The new Academic Computing unit, along with the CLL, will report to the Provost and Vice-President Academic;
  • The Information & Services Technology division (headed by Marvin Ryder), which includes CIS, MPS and Telecommunications, will report to the Vice-President Administration;
  • The academic director of the CLL, Dick Day, will also serve as the academic director of the LTRC. Staff previously on loan to the resource centre from CLL, CIS and MPS will become permanent members of the newly expanded LTRC. This includes the executive directors of the centre: David Walker (executive director, research and computing) and Bart Strong (executive director, media and administration);
  • Other positions contained in the expanded LTRC organization include an evaluation research faculty co-ordinator, a tester/evaluator, programmers, digital video and imaging specialists, and various other support staff. These staff will come from CIS and MPS whenever possible and some new hires.
  • Learnlink would be “housed” within the LTRC organization but the course of Learnlink and its intellectual control will continue to reside with the faculty group that controls it. Staff in the LTRC will provide support under the supervision of the Learnlink Faculty Administrator (currently Carl Cuneo).
  • < /ul>

    “The proposed restructuring follows a long series of consultations with academic leaders, as well as key faculty and staff in the area of academic computing. It should be expected that any restructuring of the magnitude suggested in this report will stimulate some concern,” observes Platt. The proposed organization is similar to how other North American universities have organized academic computing on their campuses.

    The restructuring plan became effective July 1 and the budget lines of the areas involved will be adjusted accordingly. However, the facility will not be fully operational until September (time is needed to classify, post and hire staff). The Office of the Provost has allocated an additional $500,000 to the LTRC for the restructuring. The LTRC is also supported by a $1-million grant from the Royal Bank. To view a diagram of the new organization, click here.

    The new academic computing unit will result in a decreased demand on CIS and MPS for support for academic computing and a need for restructuring within these units. The mandate for CIS will be on two core activities: maintenance and support of the IT network and administrative computing. Writes Platt: “One of the advantages of the academic restructuring plan is that it will allow CIS to focus on these two important functions.”

    The LTRC will be temporarily housed in the basement of Thode Library. An open house will be held in the fall.