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Roundtable 2013-10-23 (Click here to see all questions and answers from this event)

This Roundtable event was held in the Information Services Training Room on Wednesday, October 23, 2013.

Attendees: Leonora Fruchey, Kate Burdick, Kevin O'Donnell, Jessica Rehling, Jill Black, Laura King, Pat Talbot, Carole Harris.

IS Team Members: Ryan Finn, Melanie McNutt, Olga Lechuga, Larry Farmer, Peter Cole, Angie Kimmel, Blake House, John Rogus, Cindy Roach.  Student Assistants: Tammy Todor-Nits (notetaker), Amber Brown (Photography)

Special Thanks to Gordie Froman who could not attend but submitted questions and to Melanie Parish for arranging for subs, pizza and Salad from Marco's Pizza.

Q: How can we make online applications for student campus positions more seamless and responsive to applicants? (Culinary Services)

A: Everything can be done to make it better. It recently was added to our list of projects and our intention is to rewrite this system. We hope to bring in some students and get their perspectives. We are looking at some cool technologies that are going to make this process a whole lot more responsive. We can possibly utilize smart phone applications and QRcodes (barcodes).  We will be looking for stakeholders or volunteers for focus groups to help us develop requirements and features for the new system.

Q: How do other campuses handle the online application process? (Culinary Services)

A: This is a good question and one that requires more research.  Once the project kicks off, this could be part of the process, researching and questioning other schools.  However, initial research indicates there is probably not a perfect software that we can buy.

Q: Are there specific people who handle certain software? (Culinary Services)

A: Yes, there usually are. A lot of the software you use daily is supported by the tech team.  However there are other applications coming from the Network team or other groups. It depends on the software. Regardless, if you have a question or problem, call the help desk and they can point you at the right person or resource. The help desk is our single point of communication.  They might be aware of a system problem or outage that other staff have not heard about yet.  So your best bet is to contact them.  If you ask for a specific person, they could be out of the office, busy on a project deadline, or unaware of things the help desk knows. 

Q: Can you use a service request to request information or training, instead of requesting a specific device or service? 

A: Certainly.  The service request will be routed to the expert in that area or to the trainer.  Also, you can reply by email to any service request (SR) update in your inbox.  Your reply will be sent to the help desk and they can update the SR.

Q: What is the biggest concern IS has about the people who use the software and hardware for RHS? (Culinary Services)

A: We want customers to be knowledgeable and we want them to be safe. We want to give you what you need to do your job.

Q: What additional IS Resources are available? (HR)

A: Our website: http://is.rhs.msu.edu is a constant source of information.  You can log a service request there or call the help desk.   We also are working to develop the Frequently Asked Questions Page (FAQs) of our website so it can be a solid source of information and self-help.  We are working to categorize the content and reorganize it to allow customers to search and find what they need faster.   We will continue to develop Technology Guides and make those available on our website or the V: drive.  These guides are 1-2 page documents that help you accomplish a specific task or navigate a system. 

Also, many folks want to know who to call for what.  There are typically 3 phone lines to call for our department:

  • Help Desk 517-353-1691 (for new issues and service requests)
  • Front Desk (Reception) 517-353-1694 (if you are returning a call to a staff member)
  • Spartan Cash Info Line 517-355-CASH (2274) for customers with Spartan Cash accounts

Q: What is the best format for submitting mass Access Requests?  (If you need the same system access for multiple people)

A: If you need to request computer system access for 1-4 people, please fill out individual ARFs-Access Request Forms-for each person (http://is.rhs.msu.edu/faqbook/arf-forms-where-find-access-request-form-arf.) However, if you need the same access for 5 or more employees, we recommend a group ARF. A copy of this form was provided at the Roundtable event.   You can access this form in the same location as the single person ARF.

Q: Why can’t we use wireless internet for sign-up events? (REHS)

A: RHS Information Services does not directly support wireless connections on campus.  These are maintained by IT Services.  The limitation may have been a requirement in the past, but may no longer be an issue.  One caution, if you are going to use wireless, you will need to make sure that you have a wired outlet as a backup option in case of an outage or poor wireless signals.  Also wireless is not currently available in every location, so it may be that wired connections were preferred, because they allowed for a consistent plan.

Q: Are we getting tablets for future sign-up events or Opening check-in, End of Year checkout?  I heard RMS has an app that makes this easy? (REHS)

A: RMS (Residential Management System) does have an application, but it is not very user-friendly, which doesn’t make it a great option.  It also costs $25,000.  For Check in, there has been a check in application developed and in use at another university.  It seems convenient for smaller universities. We might look at this for the future.

Rolling out tablets is not in the immediate plans.  RHS team members have some ipads, but they are not a good option for sign up.  This is because RMS works with Microsoft Internet Explorer.  Internet Explorer does not work well with ipads.  Ipads use safari as their browser. Microsoft tablets, which would be a more compatible option, are expensive and currently not supported.

Q: Will our department have online “office” type documents similar to MSU Google Docs, so we can create surveys and forms that don’t cause so many issues with students trying to use their Gmail accounts and failing to get access? (REHS)

A: Some folks are already trying to use Google docs for this reason, however, this causes some problems because students likely have a personal google account AND one through MSU.  If they are logged in on one account, they have to log out of google before they can use the other account.  This can be confusing to users/students and generates calls to our help desk.

We’re exploring using Microsoft Sharepoint for this reason (Also, see later question about Sharepoint).  It will allow us to create surveys, logs, wikis and form templates, all in a web environment. Sharepoint will allow us to communicate and collaborate by using web-accessible documents.  You won’t have to connect to the V: drive every time.

Since this question asks about surveys, specifically, it is a good time to mention that the RHS Assessment office would like to know about any surveys going out to students. The Assessment Office team members (Paul Goldblatt and Jennifer Thach) have offices in our Information Services Building.

Roundtable discussion touched on the MACH forms that students fill out when they check in. This form allows them to indicate starting room inventory and conditions.  An attendee remarked that It would be nice to send out the form in Google docs, and be able to customize by building.  However, there are issues with this because of the personal vs. MSU Google accounts.

It was suggested that I.S. is looking at a possibility of creating an iPad application for this type of thing.

Q: How much troubleshooting are we, non-IS technology wizards, allowed to complete on our own?  Is there a share drive location with common “tech trouble” FAQs and answers?  Processes for trying to fix things on our own, so as to leave you all free to answer the big questions…like when 104 Brody is getting all of the extra monitors I ordered?!?!  (REHS)

A: It goes without saying that safety and caution should prevail.  Don’t work on or open up any devices that could be dangerous or have heat or electrical hazards like monitors, power supplies, printer fusers.  If you do not feel comfortable, don’t do it.  Now once we’ve said that….if you feel comfortable and knowledgeable, we welcome all info you have and all troubleshooting steps you have tried.  Just update the Service Request with steps you’ve taken.  It keeps us informed and will make our jobs easier. The more information you can provide, the easier it is for us to diagnose. If you have an error screen write down the error or code.  It might make sense to us. 

If you get a blue screen take a picture of it.  Open up a services request then send the picture to our help desk staff by email.  Due to recent improvements in our service request system, the Help Desk can now attach pictures or documents to your service request.

Q: Who do you consider to be the most eccentric computer dude(ette) in your group? (REHS)

A: We used to have some more eccentric characters on staff, but not so much now.  We are all cool.

Q: What are the phone calls that you hate getting? (REHS) (Answered by 3 staff members)

Answer 1: " I learn something every single day, so I like all the phone calls I'm getting. It's nice to help all of you. I'm challenged by the calls."

Answer 2: "The calls that don't provide information. I can take people yelling occasionally. Some folks are so frustrated when they call that it is difficult for them to say anything that would help us fix the problem. Some people can fall into the trap of thinking we know more than we actually do. Unfortunately, we're not wizards.  We need information to put us on the right path. "

Answer 3: "The same thing applies to voice mails. The more useful info the better."

Q: Is it harder to work with somebody who is like you (computer guru) or not like you? (REHS)

A: Both. It depends on what the person is like. It's good if you know computers, unless you take it to the point where you think you know everything and you aren’t open to the help I am offering. I don't get frustrated by people who don't know computers that well.

Q: My question would be more of a comment in that when we are scheduled to have group trainings at IS, to have all the computers up and running. Often it takes a good 20 minutes from our training time to get everyone on the same page—and I usually need all the training time I can get . I know everyone needs to log in when they get there, but maybe there are a couple short cut tricks IS can do to get us to the login page more uniformly. (REHS)

A: We have recently developed some training logins for use only in our training room.  However, these can only be used when the training does not require V drive access or the desktop Outlook application.  This would allow the facilitator of the class to login before everyone arrives.  We will need to change the settings so computers don’t go to screen saver lockout if inactive for 15 minutes.  We may also be able to work with the facilitators of classes to create some test files for these training accounts so that people can freely play with those.  

When IS schedules training in our training room, we usually don't plan for a full house, but when someone else uses it they may pack it. That requires that we make sure all computers are working properly every day.  One of the challenges we have with the training room is the size and setup.  We have a need to use it for staff meetings, classes and collaborative space.  We are looking at how to reconfigure it to allow for more multipurpose and flexible use.

Q:  I’ve heard REHS is moving to Sharepoint. When will that be implemented? What is Sharepoint (does it replace something we already have)?

A: It's a document management tool available through your web browser. It integrates Microsoft office products, and it does a lot of other things too. We would like to merge myRHS with a Sharepoint site. We have spoken with other organizations that have set up Sharepoint sites, and what we learned from them is that it's not easy. We don't have an exact date of when it will be available.  You will probably see the basic offerings within a year (barring unforeseen issues). However, because of its complexity it may take a few years to fully roll it out with all its features in a meaningful way.  It offers document version control, collaborative work, and a lot of other really cool features.

Q: Should we wait for share point for our projects or should we start using other things like Google calendars?

A: If you would like assistance with calendars, Guidebooks or forms, and we'll be happy to help you.  Just log a service request.  We can't make promises with Sharepoint as far as release dates because there is still a lot to plan and work out.  Though, it is a high priority.  We don't recommend using Google docs with students because it gets complicated with personal vs. MSU Google accounts.

Q: Is Sharepoint going to have unlimited space?

A: There will likely be space limits, to encourage smart storage and make sure we can back up all the information.  However, the limits should not be too restrictive.

Q:  I really want to be able to access files away from my office. Will we ever be allowed to VPN in? Or use a dropbox-like product? (Is that what Sharepoint is?)

A:  You can currently use the MSU VPN (virtual private network) to access your files on the v: drive when you are not in your standard workplace (for example, from home or another campus location). We have a document about how to set it up. It will require an IS staff member to install it for you initially, (just log a service request for assistance).  However, once it is installed you can login and use it from anywhere with an internet connection.  If you want to use it on your home or personal computer or ipad you can download and install it yourself. For more information see: http://vpn.msu.edu

Q:  Is there any rhyme or reason to the share drive? Someone told me there were protocols and policies to follow on what gets saved where but I have never seen anything to tell me that. Can I really just create a folder wherever I want?

A: The reason the V drive is organized the way it is because we partnered with MSU University Archives to come up with a consistent university-wide filing convention. We're trying to still keep some kind of common ground between RHS units and MSU as a whole.  If it is something that other staff in the division need to get to you should store it under V:\[category].  If it is something that only folks in your department need to access, store it under V:\Department\[category].  Ask around your department.  There has been a project where IS team members have been meeting with designates from each unit to plan and organize a file structure.  Chances are there is someone in your unit that can guide you.  If you don’t find them, log a service request and we will be happy to help you hash it out.

Q: Will we always have keys for student rooms or will we have keyless entry (card access) at some point in the future?

A: (This was answered by a customer attendee, in part.) The attendee previously worked at another University that used card entry or keyless entry.  The system was not reliable and resulted in many hassles.  The readers used battery power (so they didn’t have to hard-wire power to every door).  The readers kept going down because batteries were dying.  (Also, an IS staff member commented) if the system uses mag stripe cards, the parts inside the readers that read the cards stop working or the cards lose their magnetic encoding.  If it uses proximity or contactless (radio frequency) technology, the cards can be a security risk.  People with malicious intentions can use devices to steal your card info (even though they might be in your purse or wallet).