Articles about Green Computing
January 2011 greeted e-Learning in Sakai and the E-Learning System with a rocky start to the term. Repeated problems in various components of the University authentication system frustrated users repeatedly throughout much of the month. However, by the end of the third week of January fixes were applied and service settled into normal operations.
Heavy load on Sakai was a major component of those problems. Although the total number of Sakai courses is not dramatically different from this time last year, or even from the previous semester, what is unusual is the number of people logged into Sakai at peak periods. In the old E-Learning System, peak loads typically hit around 4,500 concurrent users. In Sakai, we are routinely seeing daily loads between 7,000 and 8,000 concurrent users, nearly double our past numbers.
We do not know what has caused this increase in use, though we have a strong hypothesis that it is you, the instructors, driving this. What we know is that students are logging in more frequently and staying connected for longer periods of time. This suggests that the move to Sakai gave many of you the opportunity to re-think how you were using the course management system and to develop better, and higher-level activities in the new Sakai system.
This is excellent news for teaching and learning at UF!
Now in its second year, the Student Technology Fee funds projects proposed by students, staff and faculty through a competitive process. The Technology Fee was established by the Florida Legislature to meet the evolving needs of students and faculty related to technology and its use in an academic setting. This year, the Advisory Committee has received seventeen Concept Papers for review and will select a certain number of those to advance to the full proposal stage. The proposals are varied in nature, but all seek to enhance the student experience by utilizing technology for teaching and learning. The Committee acts in an advisory capacity to the CIO, who makes the final decision on projects to be funded and implemented.
Each year, everyone in the UF community with an idea that fits the guidelines is encouraged to research its viability with the IT units who would support the project, then submit a concept paper. More information about the Tech Fee Proposal program is on the IT website, http://www.it.ufl.edu/community/techfee/. The proposals selected for funding last year and being developed this year are also located on the IT website at http://www.it.ufl.edu/community/techfee/past_projects.html.
The Academic Technology Digital Media Hub is designed to let you record a presentation of any length on a computer for your students to view. Camtasia Relay is an easy-to-use program that you can download and install on any computer, including office, home, and laptop computers. Camtasia Relay allows you to record your voice along with your computer desktop. Scenarios for using this technology might include:
- Recording an entire lecture for students to use as review material
- Recording a lecture when you or a student must be absent from class as make-up material
- Recording a short segment of additional instruction on a difficult or alternate topic
The Camtasia Relay software is already installed on classroom computers in most locations. Camtasia Relay automatically formats your recordings for watching as a podcast on a mobile device, or as a streaming media file on a computer. Podcasts can be automatically delivered with the iTunesU service, or streamed from an AT Video Storage Account. To learn more or get started with Camtasia Relay, go to Video Services and click on the Camtasia Relay or Service Request links. To record your voice on your computer, you can use either a USB headset or a webcam with a microphone. Either device can be acquired locally or online.
The Office of Academic Technology has been working to make technology more sustainable at UF. One way to make UF more sustainable is to reduce the energy that is required to run computers. Energy consumption from computers can be reduced significantly by managing the computers’ built-in power-saving features, turning computers off when not in use, and most importantly by selecting energy-efficient computers when equipment is purchased.
Another way sustainability can be enhanced is by moving faculty-student communications and instructional materials to electronic means whenever possible. UF’s eLearning system can be used to distribute course materials to students without the need to print handouts or other documents for paper-based distribution. The system can also be used to allow students to submit their written work electronically, and eliminate the need for students to print their work at home or in a computer lab before turning it in on paper.
The telephone has long been used to save time and energy by allowing people to communicate over a distance, but the telephone falls short of the task when the need to collaborate on documents or meet with a large group arises. When computers are available, the limitations of the telephone can be overcome with communications software such as Microsoft Office Communicator, which allows desktop-to-desktop communications, either by text chat or audio and video (just add a webcam to your computer for $39 or less), along with document sharing for collaboration.
The Office of Academic Technology has been working with a number of units on campus to equip a number of busy conference rooms on campus with videoconferencing equipment, designed to reduce travel, particularly between UF’s main campus, Eastside Campus, HR building, and UF’s off-campus facilities that are located throughout the state. Even UF’s many distance education courses play a part by allowing students to participate in classes without the need for the student to drive to campus.
The American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, of which UF is a signatory, was organized in October 2006. The intent of this initiative is to bring together the US higher education community to act on issues surrounding climate change. Aligned with this effort is the need to make an efficient use of resources in IT that leads to reduced environmental impacts, or Green Computing.