Faculty Council Discusses Information Technology Initiatives, Computer Help
The Faculty Council heard presentations on more than five different information technology initiatives yesterday, prompting questions about whether students and staff are getting too much help from the Faculty of Arts & Science (FAS) Computer Services department.
The questions arose out of a working demonstration of the Portal Project, an initiative that will give FAS affiliates access to a personalized Web site with constantly updated links to Harvard information.
According to Director of FAS Computer Services Franklin M. Steen, the system is at a late stage of development and his department is hoping to release an open beta sometime in the next few weeks--meaning that anyone in the FAS community will be able to use the service and submit feedback.
Though use of the system is not strictly mandatory, some council-members worried that the continuous addition of new technologies makes life more--rather than less--complicated.
But Steen, who presented the project to the council, said he predicts that the system will eventually be integrated into daily routines.
"It's optional--but I think faculty are concerned that the expectations of them will rise," Steen said. "It's like e-mail. I think there were faculty that resisted e-mail for some time, but I think almost all people use it now with the understanding that it helps communication."
Steen said that to achieve this, the portal needs to have "compelling" features so that people want to check it.
One such feature might be the message-board, which would allow qualified posters to make announcements to relevant users.
In the first release, that ability will be restricted to selected administrators, such as the Dean of FAS and the Dean of the College, but future revisions would allow coaches to send schedule-changes to their team, or clubs to make announcements to members.
A user's profile--the server data that determines what information a specific user will have on their page--will be based on a combination of information from the registrar, and preferences given by the user. Steen said that the service will respect privacy by not monitoring behavior, even to assist in gathering preferences.
But Steen admits that, like any electronic service, it still takes time to use.
"Sure, it's more time," Steed said. "But also the hope is that it's more benefit."
The Council also heard presentations on the developments of ASPERIN, the Arts & Sciences Personnel Information system; HERS2, the FAS Registrar's new records system; and HOLLIS, a successor system to the current library catalogue of the same name.
In other business, the council heard a presentation on "Distance Learning" initiatives offered by the FAS Division of Continuing Education. The presentation was a status-review on what the Council expects will continue to be a hot topic in education.
The subsequent discussion focused on intellectual property rights and the ownership of the 'instruction'--the faculty-member, the University or even the tuition-paying student.