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2008-09 Administrative Reports

September 2008

(print version)

PeopleSoft Human Resources and Student Systems Upgrade

The University processes the majority of its administrative transactions (student records, course information, admissions, grading and advising), and human resource data (employment, payroll, and benefits) through a single, integrated system, PeopleSoft Human Capital Management and Campus Solutions (HCM/CS). In FY07, the University began a major upgrade of the existing HCM/CS, version 8.0. The 17-month upgrade effort to version 9.0 involved the combined efforts of the Office of Information Technology, the Office of the Dean of the College, the Registrar’s Office, the Graduate School, the Admission Office, the Office of the Dean of the Faculty, Human Resources, the Office of the Treasurer, the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, and representatives from many academic departments.

This enormous effort concluded successfully, and on time, in August 2008. In addition to improved and extended functionality, version 9.0 brings a number of significant benefits for the University. Users gain more intuitive navigation, improved search, sort and menu options, more extensive and better-designed self-service, and far more opportunities for personalization. In addition, the upgrade also makes available a new, context-sensitive online help system and streamlined documentation. The project also launched new, custom functionality and a completely redesigned course management system that streamlines new course development and facilitates communication with all interested parties, including deans and the Office of the Registrar. Version 9 also provides a “Faculty Center” which consolidates all of the course-related functions that faculty need within PeopleSoft.

Expanded role for the Language Resource Center

With the retirement in June of Marianne Crusius, long-time head of the Language Resource Center (LRC), OIT re-evaluated the future direction of the LRC and its services. Under Marianne, in addition to providing more traditional support for language instruction, the LRC pioneered the development of an on-demand, internet-accessible video and film service that language instructors, and others, have come to rely on.

Following discussions with faculty, OIT has formally expanded the mission of the LRC. While it will continue to operate in the Andlinger Center and retain a strong focus on support for language instruction, the center will now also serve as a focal point for humanists, social scientists, and others interested in using digital materials and information technology in their teaching and scholarship. In support of this expanded mission, OIT has assigned an additional staff member, Ben Johnston, to head up what will now be called the Humanities Resource Center (HRC), a name change that recognizes the expanded mission, and enhanced support, of the center.


November 2008

(print version)

Expanding the University's online media presence

Approximately ten years ago, the Office of Information Technology (OIT) began to archive videos of public University lectures at www.princeton.edu/webmedia. The University is now expanding access to these online video materials. Pictured below is a sample from the new Princeton channel at YouTube, the popular online video sharing website. By linking to www.youtube.com/princeton, one can find videos highlighting Princeton’s academic research, its financial aid program, faculty and public lectures, as well as presentations produced by students.

Two years ago, OIT created an online audio archive at www.princeton.edu/WebMedia/podcasts that includes recordings of hundreds of lectures and other events. These audio recordings, known as “podcasts,” have proven to be extremely popular. Last year alone, they were downloaded approximately 128 million times from the Apple iTunes store, where they are available free of charge to the general public.

In February, the University launched a newly redesigned home page (www.princeton.edu) that uses multimedia technology to showcase the accomplishments of students, faculty and staff. The University’s online video presence has also expanded through the availability of UChannel, an online multimedia collection of public affairs lectures from Princeton and other institutions around the world. The UChannel site, sponsored by a consortium of universities led by Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, features nearly 1,500 free audio and video recordings of public lectures on a variety of academic topics. UChannel recordings are available through the iTunes store, YouTube, Facebook and cable television outlets. Last year, UChannel recorded nearly 22 million visitors.


January 2009

(print version)

Technology Consulting Services

During the 2007 IT Strategic Planning process, the single, strongest message that emerged from faculty interviews and from conversations with staff in administrative offices was the need for additional IT support. Faculty and staff asked for help evaluating their IT needs and translating these needs into practical, technology-based solutions. As a result of these findings, OIT reassigned an internal position to create a new service called Technology Consulting Services (TCS). TCS helps individuals and departments evaluate their IT needs and recommends appropriate technologies and other process improvements.

Since the creation of this new service, Sal Rosario, the manager of TCS, along with the help of others in OIT, has helped numerous departments and other groups with a wide range of projects, including:

  • Diversity Council collaborative tool selection (Office of the Provost)
  • Web-based calendar solution (Lewis Center for the Arts)
  • Correspondence management system (Office of the President)
  • Trademark licensing management (University Services)
  • Global Health Policy Certificate data management (Woodrow Wilson School)
  • Comprehensive departmental resource/staff calendar solution (Center for the Study of the Brain, Mind, and Behavior)
  • Web content management and research data storage solution (Physics)
  • Authentication system for NJ Transit student discount pricing (Parking and Transportation)
  • Faculty search and retention funds management (Office of the Vice Provost for Space Programming and Planning)
  • Student departmental data management system migration (Psychology)
  • Student car fleet management system (Pace Center)

In light of the University’s current focus on cost savings, in the coming year TCS hopes to expand its efforts to help departments and others use technology effectively to both improve processes and reduce costs.

Gold Medal for Outreach

OIT’s integrated communication and outreach efforts have been awarded a gold medal for Best Practices in Communications in the 2009 CASE II Accolades Awards.

At the heart of OIT’s communication and outreach program is its “Lunch ‘n Learn” series of seminars on technology. The seminars invite speakers with varied affiliations to explore a wide array of technology topics. In addition, during the past few years, OIT has expanded the “Lunch ‘n Learn” series with blog postings related to each seminar and high-quality podcasts of the seminars themselves.

In January 2007, Princeton began sharing the podcasts of its “Lunch ‘n Learn” seminars freely through the Apple iTunes site. The result has been more than 60 million downloads worldwide in just two years, making it clear that audiences around the world appreciate access to the kinds of events that take place at institutions of higher education like Princeton.

The most popularly downloaded talk to date has been Assistant Professor of Music Dmitry Tymoczko’s “Geometry and Music.” Professor Tymoczko demonstrated that major and minor chords map onto a circle in perfect 3:4:5 triangles. Recently, the director of Princeton’s new Broadcast Studio gave a talk entitled, “The New World of Digital TV.” After only one week on iTunes, the podcast was downloaded more than 330,000 times.  

During the past two months, OIT has continued to expand its outreach efforts by creating a comprehensive presence on Facebook. The Facebook entry provides a summary of upcoming technology lectures and events, easy links to Princeton podcasts and photographs, as well as an automatic feed to stories about faculty use of technology in teaching and research found on Princeton’s IT’s Academic blog.

Web-based Course Evaluation

Historically at Princeton, the process for course evaluation has been paper-based and extremely cumbersome.  In addition, although students were expected to provide an evaluation for every course, there was no effective way to ensure that students complied. 

Starting this fall, the University introduced a new, web-based Course Evaluation system. The Course Evaluation system provides far more accurate and timely reports to departments, and students find the system easy to use.

Students log into PeopleSoft to complete their student course evaluations.  To ensure full compliance, students cannot see their final grades until they complete all of their evaluations. In turn, faculty must submit all of their grades before they are able to view their course evaluation reports.


March 2009

(print version)

Printing less at Princeton

Princeton purchased more than 53 million sheets of paper in FY08, the equivalent of about 5000 trees. Stacked up, that would equal 17,760 feet or approximately 86 Fine Hall towers! In the campus computing clusters alone, the number of pages printed increased from approximately 8 million in FY07 to more than 10.5 million in FY08. 

As part of the University’s sustainability initiative, OIT and the Library are partnering to develop a “print-less” initiative. We are actively encouraging faculty, staff, and students to print fewer copies and to use double-sided printing and multiple pages to a sheet when they do print. We are also encouraging faculty to accept student work in electronic form. OIT is recruiting a team of students to help work on this initiative. One idea under consideration is the use of a print quota system to set limits for printing based on usage. The website summarizing the University’s print-less initiative is www.princeton.edu/printless.

Ironically, the trend towards distributing text in digital form has actually exacerbated the printing problem. We know that students often choose to print electronic documents, such as e-reserves and lecture notes, rather than read them on their computer. To encourage students to work with documents online rather than printing them, OIT has looked at several reading technologies being developed by the IT industry. These “eBook” readers have very high-resolution screens and other capabilities such as annotation that may encourage students and others to break their dependence on printing.

OIT has just received financial support from the University’s Sustainability initiative to conduct a pilot project to test this possibility. The proposed project involves giving wireless eBook readers to approximately 100 students in three to five courses. Students will be able to access reserve readings and other course materials (including the syllabus, lecture notes, and other course readings) from the reader. The device will also allow students to archive and search through the material, a clear advantage over paper. We hope that students will print out far fewer of their course materials, which will help to reduce the amount of student printing done at Princeton.

New University-wide Learning Management System

In January 2009, OIT launched a new learning management system, hosted by Learn.com. This new system makes it easy for members of the University community to view and register online for staff training opportunities at Princeton.

The use of a vendor-hosted solution allowed for a rapid implementation with minimal University resources. As a result, a number of departments are already using the new learning management system to advertise, and track, their learning opportunities on campus. These include:

  • Environmental Health and Safety
  • Facilities
  • Human Resources
  • Office of Development
  • Office of Information Technology
  • Ombuds Office
  • ORPA
  • Public Safety
  • Treasurer’s Office

Major features of the new system include: a complete online training catalog, easy tracking of special events and certificate programs, enhanced e-mail notification, interface to Outlook calendars, and comprehensive training-history reports. Managers will be able to view individual staff training histories to track staff development goals and objectives. 

Along with traditional instructor-led classroom teaching, the new system supports a variety of online teaching modes, such as “webinars” and virtual learning. There is also an e-commerce feature for classes that may require a registration fee.