5.9.2 Desktop Computing – Software

Background

SCSU faces many of the same issues in supporting a variety of software packages and multiple versions of these products as it does with hardware. These issues include purchasing standards, individual preferences, technical support, and legal compliance.

Frequently, users purchase software through the Computer Store on campus. Personnel at the Computer Store are aware of the recommended standards articulated by the Microcomputer Standards Committee. They encourage purchasers to align their request with these standards.
However, the level of understanding among users regarding the Microcomputer Standards and support for software is not clear. (See www.stcloudstate.edu/tltr/appendix8.asp.)

Based on history and user preference, a variety of systems and software are available on campus. The principle operating systems are Windows for PC platforms and MacOS for Apple platform, respectively. Some specific uses of Linux can be found, particularly in the COSE. In addition, SCSU has a campus-wide agreement for a number of Microsoft products. These products are routinely installed on new machines at the time of purchase. Also, a KeyServer has recently been made available for some important but not necessarily widely-used software applications, e.g., statistical and graphics applications. MnSCU continues to pursue a system-wide software agreement for an Instructional Management System (see 5.4.5 IMS). As with hardware, SCSU supports a range of software products that meets the needs of a vast majority of users. Even so, with the limited technology support and available budgetary resources on campus, adequately supporting all software products would be difficult.

Lastly, the current evaluation of acceptable use of software on campus is spotty. Technologists from the various HelpDesks and college technologists are aware of university policy. Currently, MnSCU is drafting a policy for "computer and information technology resources acceptable use." Once this policy is drafted, it will be necessary to evaluate campus policy and determine its level of alignment with MnSCU policy. (See 5.2 Policies & Use.) Beyond these nuts and bolts points, it is essential to apprise the campus community of SCSU's institutional responsibility to comply with legal standards for hardware and software use.

Goals

In the next five years, SCSU should

  • continue to evaluate and articulate the recommended standards to all campus users
  • identify the majority of users’ needs and determine the most cost effective approach to
    • purchasing and replacing/upgrading software on a regular cycle
    • aligning technical support based on software choices
    • determining if users have appropriate technology (see 5.9.1)
  • evaluate software support and upgrades in common computer use areas, such as open computer labs (see 5.10) and electronic classrooms (see 5.4.2)
  • maintain practical diversity within the computing environment on campus with an understanding that all software cannot reasonably be supported.
  • continuously monitor software to assure legal compliance with SCSU and MnSCU policy, which should be regularly disseminated to the campus community.

Specific Actions and Timeline

A committee will be established to evaluate software on campus. This committee should be constituted from the Microcomputer Standards Committee and any additional users currently underserved by this group.

  • The committee will follow the standard timeline (see 5.0) for carrying out and reporting on specific actions.
  • The committee will evaluate the campus standards for software currently in place.
  • The committee will determine the most effective method of evaluating software use and needs (both general and discipline specific) and should recommend a replacement cycle. Some possible approaches might include Computer Store records, business office records, or departmental surveys.
  • The cycle of software evaluation should continue on a biannual basis, alternating with a biannual comprehensive evaluation of hardware (see 5.9.1).

Resources

As with other components in this plan, making any firm estimates about the costs associated with implementing the articulated goals is difficult. Personnel will need to be assigned to or be part of the committee to assist with data collection. The role of the committee and administrative decision makers will be to determine the most effective use of resources to meet the greatest number of users’ needs. The concept of total cost of ownership should be investigated and used, if appropriate, in evaluating technology needs.

Evaluation

  • Has the committee employed the campus standards for software in developing recommendations?
  • Has the committee effectively evaluated user software needs and made appropriate recommendations?
  • Has the committee addressed the acceptable use policy on campus and relative to MnSCU policy and communicated these policies to the campus community?
  • Have administrative decision makers acted upon the committee's recommendations so that user needs have been met when possible?
  • Has the committee provided a final evaluation of its work in 2008 with recommendations for the next technology planning cycle?

Revised: May 2003