Technology innovation and service are infused throughout the operations of American University. Three primary campus providers offer support for the technological infrastructure of teaching, research, and learning in collaboration with the Schools, Colleges and administrative units.
The Office of Information Technology
The Office of Information Technology (OIT) provides central support for the university’s computing and telecommunications needs. OIT supports three distinctive services functions: enterprise systems, information security, and technology operations. Important services offered by the Office of Information Technology include:
• operation of the university's enterprise information systems
• information security
• voice and data communications
• wired and wireless networks
• Internet and Internet2 access
• cable television
• Help Desk
• technology training
• on-site support and hardware maintenance
• 24-hour Network Operations Center
Wired and Wireless Networks
American University’s network infrastructure (Eaglenet) is a fiber optic backbone network used to transmit data throughout the campus. Over 7,000 EagleNet outlets are in place so that each building has a direct connection to campus computing resources and the Internet. EagleNet, at its core, uses Gigabit Ethernet to transmit data and interconnect servers and network segments. Gigabit Ethernet is the fastest networking technology generally available today, with the ability to transmit one billion data bits per second. Depending upon the campus location, end-user connections may be 10 or 100 million bit per second switched Ethernet ports, or shared 10 million bit per second ports. Network protocols supported on EagleNet include TCP/IP and Novell's IPX. DHCP is used to automatically assign a network address to each PC when it is connected to the network.
Wireless network usage on American University’s campus has doubled over the previous academic year. The Office of Information Technology has improved the wireless campus network by installing new wireless access points and other new switch technology to increase the reliability and availability of the wireless network. Wireless connectivity is closely monitored by the Office of Information Technology’s engineers.
The Information Age has brought with it the ability to share, store, and transmit data with the click of a mouse. The risky part of this equation is that storage and transmission of sensitive data across computer systems can be difficult to protect, increasing the need for vigilance. Computer systems are complex. They can include operating system software, applications and programs, databases, hardware components, and networks. Each of these elements requires a different method for protecting the data. Adding to the complexity is the dynamism in terms of the way the systems and their parts interact and their requirement for frequent updates to fix bugs or protect against the latest hack attack. All of this collectively underscores the need to take responsibility to protect the sensitive data.
OIT's information security team supports the Executive leadership of AU in protecting and defending American University's information assets. This is accomplished by implementing appropriate and efficient security practices in IT planning, implementation, management, and operations, while assuring confidentiality, integrity, authenticity, accountability and availability.
The team works to accomplish this through:
• ensuring compliance with applicable policies, laws, and regulations
• enforcing university policies and standards
• highlighting sources of risk to university management
• implementing technologies that increase the visibility of potential risks to our data
• developing repeatable processes that validate security in IT systems and services
• contributing to awareness, training, and education programs
• initiating partnerships with departments to evaluate and improve their computer security practices
• safeguarding new technologies and services
• applying the principles of depth in defense when employing solutions
• investigating and responding to security incidents
The Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning
The Center for Teaching, Research & Learning (CTRL) facilitates the appropriate use of technology as an integral component of effective teaching, scholarship, creative activities, and professional practice.
The Center specializes in the following areas:
• online learning support
• Blackboard administration
• audio-visual services
• creating podcasts
• managing specialized computing facilities
• managing restricted datasets in conjunction with the Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Research
• serving as a resource for American University’s new High Performance Computing project
This innovative structure emphasizes that teaching, research, and learning goals must motivate technological applications rather than the reverse and sets American University apart from most institutions of higher education.
Center staff members are creative senior professionals and highly skilled consultants who are committed to facilitating and supporting faculty teaching, research, learning and advanced technology needs. The Teaching and Learning Resources Group collaborates with faculty and doctoral students to ensure that cutting-edge pedagogical techniques are widely available in AU classrooms and that faculty are supported in their research programs. The Faculty Corner offers one-on-one faculty consulting and support services in a comfortable environment. The Audio Visual Systems & Services group provides high-quality assistance for everything from daily classes to special events with national stature. The computer laboratories and Training Center cater to thousands of AU community clients each year.
The mission of the Academic Multimedia team is to offer AU faculty and students an increased interactive experience with teaching and learning beyond the classroom by utilizing media on a number of platforms, such as, iTunesU, Blackboard, and other web-based mediums. This will allow faculty the ability to teach further and move beyond the traditional boundaries of the classroom with their lectures, research and publications. The use of these mediums will enhance American University’s contributions and reputation to the global academic world.
Blackboard is a web-based software application providing online e-learning support for most classes at AU. Each semester, courses use Blackboard to share documents, such as syllabi and assignments; course communications (including a discussion board); private e-mails and chats for course members; and, in some instances, online surveys and exams.
One of the main outlets through which the Academic Multimedia Services delivers academic content is via iTunesU. Participants can download audio and/or video files, known as podcasts, one at a time or subscribe to an entire course and have new items download automatically as soon as they become available. Faculty members have an opportunity to record lectures, guest speakers, and present research and publications for their students, as well as to a worldwide audience through iTunesU.
Videoconferencing assistance is another service offered to the American University community. It provides a way to link colleagues without having to pay enormous travel and lodging fees. If a speaker’s physical presence is not necessary, videoconferencing offers a solution that saves time, travel expenses and stress. The Center can also provide assistance using video Skype to bring in speakers. The ability to videoconference depends on the match of capacity between AU and partner organizations.
The Advanced Statistical Network of Center for Teaching, Research and Learning
The Advanced Statistical Network (ASN) consists of three specialized computer labs:
• Social Science Research Lab
• School of Public Affairs Lab
• Mathematics and Statistics Lab
These facilities provide space and software for using computer based statistical software in classroom instruction. The ASN also provides consultation for faculty in carrying out research with a statistical component, as well as a forum for presenting ideas that use statistics. The ASN provides advice to faculty on research design, data collection, and statistical analysis. This advice can apply to faculty research intended for academic publication or for sponsored faculty research. Previous work has included projects funded by both public and private groups.
The University Library
The University Library offers a variety of information technology services to the entire American University community. These services include:
• support of MyALADIN and other electronic resources
• instruction on information literacy
• management of Library facilities using the latest technologies
• operation of the Anderson Computing Complex
Librarians at American University work closely with others to support faculty and student research. Assistance is provided through reference service, instruction, and via active liaison relationships between subject specialists and their respective academic units. Technology is an important tool for research support. SearchBox provides access to the ALADIN Catalog and 90 percent of the university’s electronic journals. The ALADIN database consists of books, media, music and the digital collections of the Washington Research Library Consortium. The Library also provides a venue for remote assistance from library staff by use of both e-mail and instant messaging. This provides a convenient way to get immediate reference help. Since the Library piloted the instant messaging service in 2006, use has tripled.
Film and television studies are an important part of the curricula in the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Communication. Video is widely incorporated in courses taught in the other colleges at American University as well. The Library encourages the use of film and video for instructional purposes and fosters the study of film or video as an art form, a communication tool, and an agent of social change. The Media Services Unit develops and maintains a collection of media materials; offers media related services; and provides classrooms, equipment, and other playback facilities in support of the academic and staff development programs of the University.
The Unit operates the electronic classroom/computer lab and the Digital Media Studio. The Digital Media Studio is a section of Media Services devoted to providing users with access to equipment, applications, and workspace for development of projects and presentations. Media Services has six high end Apple Mac G5 computers for audiovisual editing and graphic design work. AU users may use these for projects ranging from compiling audio interviews to creating a DVD of video field recordings. Media Services staffs are available for help with all levels of projects.