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Why Atomic Learning For Online Technology Training?

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Although we would all like personalized technology training to meet all of the needs that arise when working with software for our jobs, and preferably instantly upon request and for free, this isn't very realistic.

It seems that when presented with the choice of continuing each day to do work with software that one is not overly familiar with, being frustrated that it doesn't "work the way it should" or "work the way I want it to", or having to settle for online training on software, the latter choice would be the better one with regard to productivity.

GPS Alliance IT has chosen Atomic Learning instead of Lynda for two main reasons:

  • Atomic Learning is a Minnesota company
  • Cost - Information gleaned during research on online technology training from a page I have linked to below indicates that by moving to Atomic Learning, this customer would be able to offer training to 1950 more users compared with the cost of offering Lynda training for just a few licenses.

Article - A lower-cost alternative to Lynda.com

Computer Purchasing Policy

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GPS Alliance workstations are purchased exclusively through vendor offerings available at the University. The only caveat MAY be tight time constraints.

Why?

We have staff dedicated to understanding the technology, appropriate pricing, and negotiating access to proper products and support for the University enterprise environment. Taking advantage of this and not doubling these costs by trying to chase down equipment that may be a bit cheaper is the proper use of resources.

While doing research to bolster my reasoning for this policy, I received the following email from a colleague at the UofM. This person is a desktop configuration manager in one of the colleges. The author gives good reasons to utilize the purchasing options negotiated by OIT for the University of Minnesota community (as I know my opinions aren't reason enough...)

Components in a consumer grade computer will typically be of lower quality (power supply and so on). Please understand that the components themselves are only the beginning of the concerns.

Warranty support options and contracts have to handled differently than for standardized computers. Computers that are purchased by the University through a standardized program have additional contractual support. A home based computer could have it's warranty voided by having a regional tech open the case to perform maintenance. At a minimum simply having to take the time to support a non-standard computer will result in excessive and needless labor costs.

There are also licensing concerns with regards to the operating system and software that is installed on the computer. Some software that is 'free' to home users such as 'Spybot Search and Destroy' or 'AVG' is very distinctly not free in a work environment. This can have significant financial implications.

For example the University of Minnesota has licensed Symantec Antivirus through a site license. If your Best Buy computer is pre-loaded with McAfee (or whichever other software vendor paid advertising money to Gateway) and used in a work environment it can result in the University being financially culpable to a vendor that the University does not have a contract with. Similar agreements are also used for Operating Systems and productivity software such as Microsoft Office.

When purchasing computers a range of models is chosen for support. This allows the University to standardize support costs such as image development, software and spare parts availability.

Introduction of a non-standardized computer is also a security threat as the computer may have a virus inadvertently installed on it by the user or the factory. If the environment is subject to federal laws such as HIPAA the use of a non-standardized computer could also result in a HIPAA violation and fine.

Regulations for many standards require that any computer that is put into production to have gone through a standardized imaging process.The very first thing that IT does with any computer - Windows, Mac, Unix or otherwise is to wipe the hard drive and load a standardized image on it. This is an industry best practice and the University owns specialized tools just to support this practice.

Please do not use non-standardized computers through third party vendors. Your temporary cost reduction on the front end will more than be lost on the back and constitutes a security risk to the rest of the production network.

Dell -
The University of Minnesota has a strong relationship with Dell Computer. Reasons to utilize this relationship for Windows workstations:

  • Service from a dedicated sales team
  • Newer technology offered
  • Minnesota Department of Administration is the chief procurement for the State of Minnesota.
    1. Define standard requirements
    2. 34 states are part of the program
    3. Discounts are even larger for the UofM that at the state level.
  • Monthly meetings with Dell and UofM/State of Minnesota representatives to negotiate products
  • Many technicians at UMN are Dell-certified. This can result in a cost-savings as we have access to these folks through various channels to help troubleshoot problems.
  • The UofM negotiates business class workstations rather than consumer-grade. For the OptiPlex, Precision and Latitude lines, Dell promises at least 3 months overlap in upgrading to new models. The Inspirion, Vostro, etc. can be dropped at a moment's notice and thus the environment for replacement parts can turn more volatile quickly.
  • Pricing Stability

Policies of use of technology resources

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Acceptable Use of Information Technology Resources

Guidance For Using Information Technology Resources

The UofM's official agreement for software purchased through OIT's software programs can be found at OIT Software License Installation and Termination Agreement

Software Maker Policies/Agreements with UofM:

Adobe
Of Note: Adobe does allow one copy of their product to be installed on a personal/home computer if it has been purchased with UofM Departmental funds and installed on a work computer. Here is the policy verbage -


  • 2.5 Portable or Home Computer Use. Subject to the important restrictions set forth in Section 2.6, the primary user of the Computer on which the Software is installed under Section 2.2 ("Primary User") may install a second copy of the Software for his or her exclusive use on either a portable Computer or a Computer located at his or her home, provided that the Software on the portable or home Computer is not used at the same time as the Software on the primary Computer.

While this does not specifically state whether or not the computer at home can be one that is not purchased by university funds and maintained according to UofM standards, I have been given the okay by OIT software manager Justin Halverson

Illness Emergency Contingency Planning

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The following are steps to be prepared for any type of illness emergency at the University when experiencing extended absence by a moderate to large number of staff.

Set Up Your Voicemail

Enable your web account for Gopher Messaging. This allows you to check your voicemail through any web browser, send voicemail to your email account, forward your work number to another number, and set up a "0" out option to the front desk (known as a personal assistant) for callers who need immediate assistance. Refer to this article about Gopher Messaging. If you manage the mainline for your office, please be sure that the message there is also updated to match the standard OIP policy.

Prepare a Personal Contingency Plan

While planning is being done at the unit and Dean's Office level, it is important for each staff member to resolve and document how they will work from home. Each unit should record the personal contingency plans for each staff member.

Prepare for Working Remotely

Review this checklist for working remotely.

  • Change my voicemail to say I'm out and not checking messages/the office is closed
  • Update my email to say I am out/the office is closed
  • Check my email/voicemail from home at least twice a day OR I will provide details to my back up to cover my work while I'm out
  • Know how to access my Gopher Messaging account via phone and web
  • Install UofM Virtual Private Network on my home computer and will use it whenever I do University business
  • Know how to access my unit's phone tree.

Alert HR and IT About New Staff and Students

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Report new staff to Pam Miles and OIP Tech two weeks prior to arrival.

In the e-mail to OIP Tech, include the following:

  • Full name and x.500 (UofM internet ID) as soon as it is known.
  • Office or desk location/ what computer(s) that need an individual account setup
  • UMCal resource access requirements
  • Database access requirements
  • Software/Operating System training required
  • Special software needed
  • Phone installation, move, or configuration support needed

Database Strategy and Methodology

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There are many database environments from which to choose and new options arriving all the time. Advancement is inevitable and, in technology specifically, that advancement comes at a high rate. Because of this situation, it is important to have a development methodology implemented so as to not be "led of course" and waste time pursuing flashy new tools promising benefits that may or may not be realized.

Desired qualities for an OIP database development tool:

  • Standards-based
  • Ability to communicate with other systems and formats
  • Ease of implementation
  • Ease and speed of development
  • Cross-platform development
  • Affordable - taking into account development time, user experience, etc.
  • Strong user community

OIP has long been a FileMaker-based office for its database tool. FileMaker continues to lead its competitors in the workgroup database development space because of its robust design, yet approachability and ease of use. It can be used easily by novices and expand to support large workgroups with complex needs. It is not intended to be an enterprise database tool - the University already spends plenty of money on that. Instead, FileMaker implements standards-based connectivity options to connect to enterprise systems as well as other systems, file formats, etc.

One of the great benefits for seasoned developers is that it is designed as a rapid-development tool, so it saves great amounts of time because standard tools and processes are already built in, but is self-contained so no other technologies are needed for implementation of solutions.

Therefore, OIP will continue to utilize FileMaker as its core database development tool.

For web pages with database back-end needs, OIP will utilize the free and ubiquitous PHP language for its connectivity between FileMaker and websites. PHP is the most commonly used environment of its class and there are massive amounts of information available on development, as well as pre-built tools and applications to snap in to any solution.

Use of Workstations and Servers

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Workstation and server space, in particular, can seem limitless, but it is not and does cost OIP money to provide. It is important for all staff to manage the items stored on OIP servers so that the space provided is being utilized appropriately - to achieve the missions of OIP and the University of Minnesota. OIP workstation and server space is not to be used for storage of personal items.

The University's position on usage of University-owned equipment:

Computers, networks and electronic information systems are essential resources for accomplishing the University of Minnesota's mission of instruction, research, and service outreach. The University grants members of the University community shared access to these resources in support of accomplishing the University's mission.
These resources are a valuable community asset to be used and managed responsibly to ensure their integrity, security, and availability for appropriate educational and business activities. All authorized users of these resources are required to use them in an effective, efficient, and responsible manner.

Acceptable Use

  • Information/data and systems may only be used by authorized individuals to accomplish tasks related to their jobs. Use of the information and systems for personal gain, personal business, or to commit fraud is prohibited.
  • Information not classified as Public must be protected, and must not be disclosed without authorization. Unauthorized access, manipulation, disclosure, or secondary release of such information constitutes a security breach, and may be grounds for disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.

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