Resource center links University of Information Technology and its extended campuses

by MAJ James Pennington

A key component of the University of Information Technology is a resource center that serves as the link between UIT and its local schools and extended campuses. As UIT�s technical arm, the University Resource Center will provide a portal through which the Signal Center�s training products are shared and accessed.

UIT resource center components and partners Resource center components and partners.

URC will therefore provide technology-based support for:

Student management;
Web and simulation server farm;
Software management, to include technical and tactical simulations;
UIT website (collaborative webtools and web-portal classrooms); and
A 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week help desk to respond to trouble calls from users having technical difficulties accessing or using UIT�s website, on-line classes or simulations.

Mission

As I mentioned, part of URC�s mission is to serve as a portal from UIT to the student for lifelong learning. Another part of the mission is implementing a digital library that supports storage of the simulation and web-based training software and databases, as well as providing comprehensive search capability.

URC will also provide technical support for UIT�s help desk, which will aid people at other locations (extended campuses) to direct calls to experts who can assist users with technical problems and provide other information as needed.

Also part of URC�s mission is implementing a student-management database that enables UIT to manage each student�s training needs individually throughout his or her career.

Standing up URC

URC is planned in three phases:

Phase I (August-December 2001): Initial fielding of equipment and manpower to stand up URC. In this phase, the Signal Center purchased the required servers, software and contractor support to begin developing the on-line classes and student database, as well as upgrading/redesigning the Fort Gordon website into a searchable "knowledge center" with collaborative tools (Microsoft SharePoint and Blackboard web-portal virtual classroom software). Two of the first projects were worldwide on-line testing for the military-occupation specialty 251A warrant-officer advanced course and a simulation server for worldwide access to the AN/TRC-173 simulation (and any others developed by our target point of mid-December).
Phase II (January-September 2002): Expand URC to its full organizational structure and spectrum of support. At this point, URC�s offices will be established and more staffing set up (see following figure).
 
Resource center organization Resource center organization.

Phase III (Fiscal Year 2002-FY03): UIT is fully formed and the URC structure falls in place as an integral part of the university concept. The offices are relocated appropriately to facilitate its role in UIT.

Collaborative environment, web-based virtual classrooms

To stand up URC, the Signal Center has purchased the following hardware and software:

Five rack-mounted dual-processor servers with RAID 1 OS and RAID 5 data storage;
Microsoft SharePoint software to provide UIT with a collaborative tool to share and distribute digital information (hierarchical web design, digital library, discussion group capability); and
Blackboard software to provide our instructors with a commercial-off-the-shelf solution for web-portal virtual classrooms.
Microsoft SharePoint screen sample Screenshot of Microsoft SharePoint shows interface UIT students will be using to collaboratively share and distribute digital information.
Blackboard interface Screenshot of Blackboard software's interface for web-portal virtual classrooms.

URC process chart

The digital library will be a growing entity, contributed to by many authors. The following figure describes the required processes, flow of data in and out of URC, and internal and external agencies that will interface with URC to build the digital library.

Resource center data flow Resource center data-flow diagram.

Summary

URC�s development is underway! The equipment is arriving. Hopefully you caught our contractors� demonstration of Microsoft SharePoint, on-line testing and web-based classes with simulation hyperlinks at this year�s Signal symposium.

Much has happened since the information-technology and digital-training master plan was unveiled this summer. Although UIT is still in its infancy, URC is well on its way as the cornerstone organization of the UIT concept.

MAJ Pennington is a member of the Signal Center�s UIT task force and the URC�s point of contact (email penninjj@gordon.army.mil, commercial (706) 791-8182 or DSN 780-8182). He is assigned as the Functional Area 24 proponent manager in Office Chief of Signal.

(Editor�s note: contributions to this article were also made by Barbara Walton, a supervisory instructional-systems specialist and chief of the Training Support Division, Directorate of Training, at the Signal Center. Ms. Walton is also deeply involved in the UIT project and the information-technology and digital-training master plan.)

Acronym QuickScan
FY � fiscal year
UIT � University of Information Technology
URC � University Resource Center

dividing rule

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04/04/12

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