Research & Instructional Support Group
Planning Submission

Peter Marshall, Last Updated 1997-10-28


The Research & Instructional Support group is responsible for the following major areas:
Research Support [res-#], including:
user support for high-performance computing: Sparc/Cray/Maspar; research database support (and web interfaces); general computer/communications consulting for researchers; statistics and special purpose Unix research software (Matlab, GCG,...) support; unix workstation support for researchers(?).

Instructional Support [instr-#], including:
instructional web space and web-based applications; research into new (typically web-based) services; general purpose student labs (SLB, UC and NSC Faculty of Sci); support for special purpose labs: Arts language lab; Markex development.

Web Support [web-#], including:
web servers (corporate, instructional, publish); campus-wide search engine; web tools, statistics and services; policy and coordination (SUWWW, campus information providers).

In addition, people in the group have been working with or leading the following non-research and instructional ITS and University projects and support areas [other-#]:

R & I Group Goals

We're still working on these. Currently we have some virtual pieces in place, eventually these might be instantiated as physical places staffed by experts:
  1. Build a Research Technology Resource Centre where people come to find out how to solve their research computing related problems (or get referred to the appropriate expert). Develop an excellent computing environment for UWO researchers.
  2. Build an Instructional Technology Resource Centre where people come to find out how to solve their instructional computing related problems (or get referred to the appropriate expert). Provides tools and facilities for instructors. Work closely with the Educational Development Office (EDO) and the Faculty of Communications and Open Learning.
  3. Build a Web Resource Centre where people come to learn about how they can use the web to solve their problems with this enabling technology.

    For each Centre we'll:

    • Publish an inventory of resources (hardware and software).
    • Identify experts for the various facilities and packages for referrals (both in-house and faculty experts).
    • Set up a direct call referral service.
    • Continually develop and acquire new systems and resources to help researchers, teachers and administrators to get their jobs done.

  4. Build a campus-wide student teaching and drop-in lab system that is well integrated into the existing student account setup system and provides a rich and robust environment for learning. Software will be coordinated with the results produced by the Instructional Technology Resource Centre.

Summary of Current Year Projects

Project Completion Date Project Description
res-1 Spring 1997 Cray Day -- high-performance computing conference.
web-1 Spring &
Fall 1997
Corporate, Instructional and Personal web services established and/or further developed (general search facility replaced and enhanced, new graphical statistics reports, extended database capabilities for the web).
instr-1 Fall 1997 Designed and built a new web-based practice exam marking system: IQ.
instr-2 Fall 1997 Introduced a web-based conferencing system: Caucus primarily to augment class discussion but is also being used to deliver distance education.
instr-3 Fall 1997 Established UC general purpose instructional computer lab -- now have over 90 computers available for undergraduate instruction.
instr-4 Winter 1998 Re-built the Science Faculty's instructional computer lab with 25 current PCs.
other-1 Winter 1998 Converted most EMC2 users to a new standards-based e-mail system.
web-7 Winter 1998 Move (with NCSM) web servers, caucus service and campus web indexing applications to off the systems providing the campus e-mail system to provide a more stable service for both.

Ongoing Major Projects

Project Completion Date Project Description
other-2 Spring 1998 EMC2go project to convert the last few administrative users to standards-based e-mail and shut down the old system.
web-2 Spring 1998 Work (with NCSM) on procedures to allow easier sharing of web maintenance probably using the Unix group functionality.
instr-5 Summer 1998 Moving Caucus (web-based conferencing system) from its current pilot status to production.
Project Completion Date Project Description
other-3 Summer 1998 Building some NT expertise in the department by implementing an NT-server-based network for the Faculty of Education.
web-3 Fall 1998 Lists project (with NCSM and Operations) -- providing and converting formats for the many user-ID lists currently in use: e-mail, caucus membership, web space sharing, web restrictions, class, Markex.
instr-9 Fall 1998 Move Markex (exam marks analysis system) from the VAX to a PC platform -- perhaps integrate on-line and mark sense systems.
web-4 Winter 1999 Databases on the Web -- Web interfaces to research (and possibly other) databases: involves NT web server investigations (with Dr Piche), possible purchase of hardware and software and depending on the outcome of the investigation turning this into a service.
other-4 Spring 1999 The migration of applications (including e-mail) off the VAX and onto another platform or drop the service.
other-5 Spring 1999 Spin-off services from the EMC2go project including LDAP-based directory services, calendaring, NT system validation and private newsgroups (Collabra).

Projects to be Initiated Next Year

Project Completion Date Project Description
res-2 Spring 1998 Organizing a research computing day/conference -- a generalization (to include more than HPC) of last year's Cray Day.
res-3 Spring 1998 Modifications to the Cray charging scheme to try to better balance usage between the cray and other ITS HPC systems.
instr-6 Spring 1998 &
Fall 1998
Develop an instructional services brochure for distribution at Perspectives on Teaching conferences to supplement our Web pages for the Web challenged.
instr-7 Summer 1998 Look into new possibilities for the instructional labs: NT-server, Samba, new processes for managing and adding users.
res-4 Summer 1998 Develop a communications and marketing plan for the research consulting services that we provide.
res-5 Summer 1998 Cray hardware upgrades (possibly directly funded by researchers).
web-5 Fall 1998 Web server support on NT platform (assuming NCSM support for the OS): partially in response to the senate report on the Web, as a result of the Databases on the Web investigation and as an outgrowth of growing NT expertise gained through the Faculty of Education NT-based project.
Fall 1998 &
Fall 1999
Investigations of new web-based tools and technologies for instruction:
  • On-line examination marking (as a follow-on to the successful practice exam service).
  • Investigation of new conferencing/groupware tools (like Collabra as both a general purpose tool and an instructional tool (as a follow-on to Caucus).
  • Chat, electronic whiteboard, moos, MUDs, pow wow.
  • Web page and site creation tools (like MS-FrontPage).

Old Problems

The following issues merit further discussion within ITS.