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Monday, January 27, 2003

  • The online environment is out there
  • Game 'sharing' brings network complaint
  • Student's a star at Star
  • Staff training program resumes
  • And a few other notes today
Chris Redmond

Today is Family Literacy Day

[At the foot of the NH steps]

About 60 protesters stopped at Needles Hall at midday Friday, on their way to the Student Life Centre and Federation Hall. The issue: the closing of the Bombshelter pub and Fed Hall in a dispute between UW administration and the Federation of Students over how they're to be managed. Many of the signs referred to the part-time jobs that have dried up because the bars aren't open. At the end of Friday's march, the Federation announced it's launching a fund to help students who are in need for lack of that part-time work.

The online environment is out there

About 100 UW faculty members are already using the teaching tool of the future, I was told on Friday as I met with four people from UW's Centre for Learning and Teaching Through Technology (LT3).

The new tool -- still being tinkered with -- is the UW Online Environment, abbreviated UWone (that's pronounced "UW 1") and sometimes explained as "a set of tools" for creating and managing the online parts of a course.

As I met with Andrea Chappell, Les Richards, Diane Salter and Peter Goldsworthy of LT3, they made it clear that they're not pushing UW instructors to move whole courses onto the Internet (although that sometimes happens too, especially for distance education). More commonly, parts of a course can be made electronic, helping students to acquire information in advance to make lectures more effective, or to simulate experiences so that labs can go faster.

"We recommend that people start small at first," said Diane Salter, who has played a key role in the workshop where those 100 professors have learned something about putting instruction online. Another 20 faculty can get the course in February, and 20 more in March. And a version of the course is starting today for subject specialists in the UW library who are working with professors on helping students use information resources effectively.

[Laptops on round tables]

The "Flex" lab in the Dana Porter Library, where four hours of face-to-face sessions make up part of the faculty workshop. The rest of it is online.

UWone is a home-grown alternative to various commercially available "learning environments", said Andrea Chappell. It gives UW teachers an easy interface to the tools they need -- for creating online quizzes or discussion groups, for example -- "instead of having to navigate through something that's provided by somebody else". For a while, much of UWone used tools that are part of the commercial Blackboard "learning portal system". Currently, tools from the Pennsylvania State University's Angel system are being used.

"The tool is not available to everybody on campus yet," said Chappell. "We're using it with a controlled set of people" -- the ones who have taken that faculty workshop series, "The New Classroom".

A workshop about Merlot, one of the "learning object repositories" in which UW is involved, was to be held tomorrow, sponsored by the LT3 technology centre. The workshop has been rescheduled for next week: Wednesday, February 5, at 2 p.m. There's still room for people to sign up, says Peter Goldsworthy in LT3.
Said Chappell: "Once we're ready, we can roll it out to a larger audience. But that will imply that we have support . . . this is not yet a production environment."

She said there have been discussions in the University Committee on Information Systems and Technology about "what it will take to support a system like this" and who would be in charge of approving and managing it. "We're hoping to have our environment stable for this fall," Chappell said, but still just for the limited number of faculty who have had direct LT3 training in using it, and whom LT3 is equipped to assist when they need help.

An important aspect of UWone is that it's oriented to a professor's teaching needs and a student's learning needs -- the particular technology used is supposed to be secondary. UWone is based on the "T5" model of planning how a course is delivered. I'll return to this subject tomorrow.

Game 'sharing' brings network complaint

He was half expecting it, and it happened on Friday morning: Reg Quinton, in charge of computer security at UW, got a message complaining that somebody at UW was using KaZaA software to distribute computer games without copyright approval.

Under attack: Some of UW's computers were among thousands around the world that were hit by the so-called "Slammer Worm" on Saturday morning. After what sounds like a busy few hours, Doug Payne of the information systems and technology department announced in early afternoon that things seemed under control: "Six affected/infected on-campus systems have been identified and disabled or disconnected from the network."
The complaint came by e-mail from the Interactive Digital Software Association, which said the UW computer network was being used to "infringe the rights of IDSA members" to profit from their products. The letter asked UW to "immediately remove or disable access to the infringing material".

"We have notified responsible contacts," Quinton said later on Friday. "The primary problem area is, of course, ResNet." He sent an apology to the IDSA.

He reminds the campus that the "acceptable use" policy on computer networks talks about file-sharing that violates copyrights. "The story I'd like to get out," he said, "is that there are consequences -- consequences for the user and nasty consequences for the institution. Wasting our time, for one."

Student's a star at Star -- by Jenna Olmstead, from the UW Recruiter newsletter for co-op employers

Not all employers realize the full potential that UW co-op students have. Luckily for Star Technology Group they were able to recognize in Rob McMillan (4A Math/Business) the ability to take on incredible responsibility and be an invaluable part of their team. Star Technology Group, an IT Professional Services provider, was founded in 1998. They have been successful in implementing fully integrated wireless workforce management systems for a variety of industries and Rob has been an integral part of these implementations.

[On red chair] Hiring Rob (right) as a co-op student was of great benefit to Star. His manager Chris Whittington describes hiring co-op students as a "win-win strategy" that benefits everyone involved. Whittington quotes such benefits from hiring a co-op as, "being provided [with] an eager apprentice who was open to new ideas and methods, and a remarkable opportunity for our younger consultants to develop their management and team-building skills, accelerating the development of our own people."

Rob has been involved with a number of important projects during his time with Star. He is most proud of his work on the Rogers Field Service Management Systems (FSMS) project, as his activities there had a fundamental impact on the daily operations of the technical fleet. In two and a half years, Rob and Star Technology Group trained and equipped over 1,100 technicians with mobile computer terminals, helped redesign many of the dispatch processes, and trained about 100 dispatchers. Rob was also in charge of creating and implementing an inventory control system that tracked 1,200 mobile terminals worth $4,500 each.

Rob's employers didn't limit his talents to just working in Toronto. Because of his involvement in one of the most successful deployments of a highly complex wireless dispatch solution, Rob became a leading person in configuring the application. This contributed to Star's decision to send Rob to Dublin and Cork, Ireland, to assist in training users for Eircom, Ireland's equivalent to Bell Canada. Rob was particularly honoured with this appointment as he was the only person chosen, even over other senior consultants, to accompany his manager. Although Rob was kept busy all day he managed to find, "a number of places to go at night to have a pint of Guinness, see some live Irish music, and watch a football game on television." Rob's work on the FSMS project also took him to the Maritimes twice, working on operations in New Brunswick and Newfoundland.

Star Technology Group treated Rob like another one of their consultants, rather than a co-op student, and thus was able to recognize maximum benefit from his potential. Rob's employers empowered him to make key decisions that affected the final results of each project he was involved in. When asked whether he will work for Star Technology Group after graduation Rob replied, "My business cards have already been made."

[Beside Grebel sign]

The new president of Conrad Grebel University College, Henry Paetkau, is profiled briefly in last week's Gazette. He took the new position January 1, succeeding John Toews.

Staff training program resumes

The new Get Up and Grow brochure will be mailed out next week, says Renee Rahamut of UW's human resources department, and that means opportunities for "training and development" for staff members.

Says Rahamut: "The popular Leadership for Results program will be offered again this term with morning or afternoon options." The following other programs will be offered in the course of the winter term:

Staff interested in registering for Get Up and Grow courses should send the registration form from the brochure to Rahamut, or call ext. 2078 for more information.

And a few other notes today

[Thomas] There was yellow "Do Not Cross" police tape around Tim Horton's and the cafeteria entrance in the Modern Languages building as I walked through this morning, and UW police and food services bigwigs were on hand. Seems someone broke in during the weekend, presumably in search of cash (or Tim's coffee, I suppose). The hope was to have both services back in operation shortly.

The English department had a very special event on Friday afternoon, the dedication of a room (Humanities room 232) as the W. K. Thomas English Department Faculty Lounge and Library. Keith Thomas (right), who retired in 1991, was the English department's founder, with his arrival from Acadia University in 1960, and served as acting dean of arts for fourteen months in 1960-61.

[Roll Up Your Sleeves] As the graphic says: Roll up your sleeves, Canada! A blood donor clinic is under way in the Student Life Centre today through Thursday (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). A sign-up sheet is available at all times at the turnkey desk.

Tours of the new Co-op and Career Services building are scheduled for 12:00 and 12:30 again today and tomorrow: meet in the main lobby. "If these times are inconvenient," writes Lisa Mack of CECS, "groups wishing to have a guided tour can call to arrange a suitable time." She's at ext. 3040.

A portion of the ring road. near Engineering III, will be closed tomorrow from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., the plant operations department warns. "Air handling units for the Engineering III addition will be hoisted onto the roof," says construction coordinator Hans Knepper. "There will be no vehicular access to Engineering II, Physics, Chemistry, Earth Sciences and the Davis Centre library loading dock."

The staff association says there are still spaces on the bus for its February 5 ski trip to Ellicottville, New York. The price is $70, and tickets are available until this Friday from Nancy O'Neil in the Student Life Centre, noneil@uwaterloo.ca.

And a further reminder that people at UW do have lives beyond the campus comes from Alexandra Lippert in the development office, who tells a touching story of having taken in a dog -- a border collie, about eight months old -- that was found wandering around the little town of St. Clements, where she lives, one freezing night last week. "He is at the K-W Humane Society," she writes. "I call each day to check in to see if the owner has showed up, but not yet. The dog will go up for adoption next week. I am desperate to find him a loving home as he is such a wonderful dog."


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