The Information Technology department provides computing and media services in support of learning, teaching, research and administration at the University of Calgary in Qatar (UCQ).
UCQ IT provides high-speed internet access to employees and students at UCQ. This service is in the form of a 100 mb/s IP VPN service acquired from Ooredoo Telecommunications which is the leading internet service provider in Qatar. All wireless and LAN connections from the campus utilize this service. Packet shaping systems are part of this deployment whereby when necessary UCQ IT can shape traffic. UCQ IT monitors this system closely to ensure adequate bandwidth is in place to provide employees and students with the connectivity they need on a day-to-day basis.
The fundamental technology component in the delivery of quality IT services to teaching and learning at UCQ is the main campus enterprise technology infrastructure. This infrastructure supports over 40,000 students and 8,000 employees and general associates. UCQ avails of all suitable aspects of this infrastructure just as if the campus were in Western Canada. This infrastructure includes PeopleSoft ERP, D2L LMS, University Portal, mail and messaging and management systems. UCQ abides by all policies and procedures associated with this world-class infrastructure. As a result, Teaching and Learning at UCQ was established in its early days and remains today as a quality service to learners and faculty.
The Finance, HR, and IT administrative portfolios at UCQ which provide critical services to teaching and learning are integral components of the corresponding main campus administrative portfolios. Strong business relationships exist between the respective portfolios.
As a matter of illustration, the central IT group in Calgary utilizes a system of IT partners and zone managers, one for each faculty or zone. The central IT zone manager for Qatar is the Director of Information Technology. Other portfolios have similar structures. UCQ like any other campus or faculty in the university engages central IT services via a state-of-the-art service management systems. These systems are used a means of UCQ engaging central IT in the provision of IT-based teaching and learning systems. It is a highly structured, formal, and reliable business process that ensures that quality IT-based teaching and learning services get delivered to the UCQ campus in a timely and reliable manner. It is important to note that similar structures exist in Finance, Human Resources, Student Services, and Marketing and Communications in order to deliver these types of services to the teaching and learning community at UCQ.
A team of professionals in central IT review incoming requests for service and ensure that the right prioritization is applied to such requests for all projects submitted university-wide.
UCQ has a team of IT professionals that provide high quality service in the area of teaching and learning. In fact, since most of the enterprise systems that are time consuming and costly to build are run out of Calgary, the UCQ IT group is able to concentrate more on the teaching and learning areas of UCQ. As such, a high degree of focus on IT service is in the academic area. Employees are provided with state-of-the-art laptop computers upon arrival at the campus. An extensive suite of software products is also available to faculty to support teaching and learning.
UCQ maintains an electronic help desk as a means of receiving requests for service from faculty. These requests are received and dispatched to a suitable IT support person for action. The faculty member can track the status of the request electronically to see where it is in the system and the activity on that request to date. The faculty member is notified on all activity on the request and is notified electronically when the request is completed. Requests for service are escalated to central IT in Calgary as required.
UCQ has deployed VMWARE’s technology virtualization to support its infrastructure and to support computer desktop services for students. VMWARE is the industry leader in technology virtualization. UCQ has invested heavily in this technology. There isn’t a university anywhere who hasn’t deployed virtualization or is at least considering such a deployment.
All campus servers that support learning have been virtualized. This drastically increases efficiency, administration, and speed of server deployment especially in cases where servers are required for teaching and learning.
Most notable in this deployment is that all computer workstations for academic use are virtualized. This deployment essentially means that desktop computers configured especially for student use are accessible from anywhere on the campus from any computer or mobile device. This is especially useful for students when they require access to high performance virtual computers at the campus where with virtualization these systems can be accessed from anywhere on the internet. Students will no longer be required to purchase expensive computers or software and can instead use their home computer.
The network infrastructure necessary to build this virtualization environment is significant. State of the art storage systems, blade enclosure-contained blade servers,, advanced fiber channel switching for communication all combine together to establish a technology environment that will rival any deployment by university campuses of similar size and complexity.
UCQ’s classrooms are equipped with the very latest in media technology that promotes teaching and learning. All classrooms contain interactive displays with associated software that is much sought-after devices in 21st century classrooms. In addition, each classroom contains the following:
UCQ’s language center and computer science laboratory facilities are equipped with state of the art virtualization technology. This technology delivers Windows desktop services to students and faculty in such a way that academic windows desktops are available anywhere in the campus and ultimately anywhere on the internet. This will greatly increase learning flexibility whereby students can access desktop technology from anywhere on the internet any time they please.
UCQ has deployed a number of Polycom high definition high fidelity HDX-based room-based video systems at its facility as well as room systems from Vidyo. Polycom and Vidyo are leading vendors of video conferencing technology. The systems are located in the campus auditorium, board room, and a number of classrooms. These systems are used administratively and academically. UCQ utilizes this facility for its Distinguished Speaker’ series of seminars and presentations. In addition, lectures are delivered by industry specialists from all over the world and are presented real time in an interactive mode with the students. The system also includes recording capability which can be used to record video conferences for later use or it can be used to stream video conferences live to the internet.
UCQ has deployed Vidyo in conjunction with its room based systems. This system allows external participants to communicate with UCQ’s room based systems from any desktop computer/mobile device from any location of the participants choosing. This relieves the external participant from having to locate a room based system yet allows UCQ to leverage the considerable investment that has been made in these very costly room-based systems. UCQ promotes the delivery of learning from experts from anywhere in the world in a location of the expert’s choosing. This technology initiative has the great potential of broadening the base of learning improves the quality of teaching by allowing UCQ to deliver learning outside the boundaries of the traditional UCQ classroom.
UCQ has deployed a world-class network utilizing the latest Cisco network infrastructure switches, routers, firewall, and network management systems. These devices are configured in such a way that teaching and learning has access to local and web-based resources over a world class high speed network. Security devices exist on the network that protect teaching and learning data. SNMP management systems are in place to monitor network utilization and to pinpoint resource configuration errors and inefficiencies. The backbone and edge switches are configured at 10 gb/s over fiber optic cable. These edge switches connect to the main core switch over fiber optic cable. Content security and control systems are in place at the core of the network. These systems scan all data coming into the university to ensure that it is free from malware/spyware and viruses.
UCQ has deployed the latest Wi-Fi network at the campus. Wireless access points are strategically located where students and faculty congregate. Access control systems are in place to ensure that authenticated students and faculty gain access to academic data on the UCQ network. All access points run at 802.11n speeds of 254 mb/s. These access points are shared by academic personnel. The wireless LAN is separated into a public access component and a university component. With the latter, any stakeholder can get on the network for internet access. With the university component only authenticated users can access network resources. Wireless LAN controllers permit IT staff to centrally manage the environment to ensure all access points are up to date, functioning properly, and are accessible by all users.
All course outlines, academic committee data, academic policy data, teaching and exams schedules, etc. are stored on the UCQ Intranet. The Intranet is built using Microsoft SharePoint. Faculty post pertinent content on the site for dissemination within UCQ. This collaborative environment keeps all stakeholders within the faculty informed on the latest issues in the program. All documents, files, folders, etc. created by faculty members are stored on the site. This content is highly secure and permissions for various components of the site are closely monitored. Faculty generally has read access to the files. Select individuals within the faculty have modify access to the files/folders/document libraries and can update the data. SharePoint Designer is used to develop workflow applications for administrative units.
UCQ has deployed the leading media platform on its network from vBrick. This system consists of media encoders, high definition PTZ cameras, and high fidelity microphones. This system allows events to be streamed live on the internet or recorded for later playback. These systems have been deployed in UCQ’s language center and it the university auditorium. The system will be used extensively for academic applications most especially but not limited to language education. It has been shown that real time feedback to students as they study and practice speaking and presentation skills significantly improve these skills. Students are encouraged to utilize the system to record language lab activities as they occur. The student and the instructor as well as the class can review and critique the student activity and provide constructive feedback to the student.
The quality of faculty onboarding is vital to the teaching and learning process. UCQ has developed a structured process that ensures that all local teaching and learning technology resources are available to faculty upon arrival at the university. This process also includes establishing the faculty connection to the main campus enterprise systems including student administration system, web portal, electronic mail, and the university’s learning management system as well as ensuring that UCQ-based services are ready when new faculty arrive.
The following teaching and learning systems are in place at UCQ:
The IT service at UCQ is governed by the main campus IT policies and procedures just as any other faculty at the university. These policies and procedures ensure that information is private and secure and that systems are built in accordance with university wide system security standards. All student biographical and demographical data is stored on highly secure electronic systems both in Calgary and in Doha. More information on the various policies and procedures can be found at www.ucalgary.ca/policies/
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