Panel Discussion on Academic Computing

By Amitava ‘Babi’ Mitra, Associate Director, Office of Educational Innovation and Technology

The Spring 2007 IT Partners Conference featured a panel discussion on academic computing, chaired by Babi Mitra from OEIT. The panel focused on three aspects of academic computing at MIT: institutional support for the academic computing innovation cycle; enterprise-wide academic computing service and; academic computing coordination across the MIT Libraries, DUE and IS&T.

Babi Mitra(OEIT), Phil Long(OEIT) and Katie Vale(OEIT) presented elements of OEIT’s strategy as well as how OEIT supports the innovation cycle from ‘experiment’ through ‘incubate’ through ‘transition’ to ‘service’, discussed the five programmatic areas that OEIT is focusing on --- Visualization & Simulation, Collaboration Tools, Cross Media Tools, Course and Learning Administration, and, Active Learning Environments, and shared vignettes from some of the programmatic areas including those on image management, STARbio and Second Life. The question to be addressed was as to how OEIT could provide
the most benefit to MIT education?

And how could it work best with IT Partners to do this?

Josh Scott (IS&T-ISDA) and Arti Sharma (IS&T-ISDA) spoke about Stellar, the 24x7 course management system and service. Usage had grown from about 150 courses during Fall 2002 to 619 during Spring 2007. Stellar was now expanding from course management functionality to content and collaboration services. Upcoming features for Stellar 2.1 to be released for 2007-08 included a page for every subject, gradebook release, wiki tool, survey tool, Thalia integration, web single sign-on and other feature improvements. Stellar 3.0 slated for 2008-09 would focus on other Sloan School-driven changes (e.g., flexible materials tool, flexible subsections), the Alfresco ECM, further Thalia integration and a dashboard view of courses.

Babi Mitra(OEIT) then spoke about how ACCORD (the Academic Computing Coordination Group) was set up to provide a seamless and satisfying experience for faculty and students in their use of academic computing services. Convened by Vijay Kumar (DUE) and comprising Steve Gass (Libraries), Oliver Thomas (IS&T) and Babi Mitra (OEIT), ACCORD’s charter included communicating, understanding needs, and facilitating. This group receives guidance from and reports to the MIT Council on Educational Technology. The areas of immediate focus included revitalizing the community of service providers (formerly Ed-Tech Partners) into the "Accordiacs“, updating the Teaching with Technology website, and reaching out to faculty and student clients.