Summer 2008

The Communicator :: Summer 2008

Conference Draws Higher Educators Nationwide

Educators from around the nation converged on the Middle Tennessee State University campus this past April to attend the 13th annual Instructional Technology Conference.

Organized and sponsored by the Information Technology Division, the event featured presentations, pre-conference workshops, hands-on workshops, and poster presentations that provided higher education professionals a venue to share experiences and expertise in the latest advancements of educational technology.

The theme of this year's conference was "Immersed in Learning"; and featured presentations from eminent featured speakers: Chris Dede, professor of Learning Technologies at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University; Carl Berger, professor and dean emeritus at the University of Michigan; and Julie Little, associate director of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI).

The conference included three pre-conference workshops, three hands-on workshops, two poster sessions, more than 24 presentations, and three panel discussions.

Spam Alert

If you should receive an email purportedly from an MTSU technology support orgaization with what appears to be a valid MTSU address requesting your full name, user ID, and password, DO NOT REPLY. ITD will NEVER request such information with an unsolicited email or phone call.

Hackers use this technique to gain control of your resources to send spam from your email account, store items on your machine without your knowledge, or worse. If you suspect you have received such a message, delete it, or call the ITD Help Desk if you have any questions regarding its authenticity.

ID Cards Get New Look

The MTSU BlueID has been designed to fully utilize the new MTSU Identification Number recently assigned to faculty, staff, and students during the conversion to Banner.

New BlueID cards were issued to all faculty and staff beginning on April 14, 2008.

The MTSU Recreation Center is planning to implement hand geometry technology (a hand-scanning process) for access to the Recreation Center upon completion of the construction and renovation project.

Therefore, the MTSU BlueID Office will collect the needed geometric information as part of this recarding process. (You will still need your MTSU BlueID card for access to the Recreation Center until renovation is complete).

Beginning with CUSTOMS this summer, the MTSU BlueID Office will issue the MTSU BlueID cards to new students. All returning students will be recarded during the fall semester.

If you haven't yet done so, please make every effort to come by the MTSU BlueID Office and have your new MTSU BlueID card made. The MTSU BlueID Office is open from 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Monday - Friday and is located iin the Student Services Building (SSAC), Room 112.

If you have any questions, please contact the MTSU BlueID Office at 898-5523.

General Campus Application

GeneralCampus is the Banner@BlueInfo Access reporting environment. It contains reports that are especially designed for academic department needs.

On January 17, a two-phase rollout was initiated to implement the GeneralCampus application to user groups. Users can access these reports themselves by going to the GeneralCampus folder on MTSU 77 and running the application.

The following instructions detail how to use the GeneralCampus application to run these reports. (This is for MS Access 2003 users only. MS Access 2007 users have different instructions, which can be obtained by contacting John Patterson at

1) Map a network drive to the folder \\mtsu77\banner\GeneralCampus

(to map a network drive, go to My Computer, then select the Tools menu, then select Map Network Drive. Follow the instructions in the Wizard. Select the letter M for the drive if it is not already being used. In the Folder field, type \\mtsu77\banner\GeneralCampus. Check the Reconnect at Logon box. Click Finish and voila! You have just mapped a network drive! However, if you should receive an error message, like "Not Accessible," contact the ITD Help Desk at 898-5345 for more assistance.)

2) Open the GeneralCampus Folder on the mapped network drive and double-click on GeneralCampusReports to run the application. If you should see a security message from MS Access 2003, click Open. Another message will inform you that this is read-only so click Okay.

3) Make your selections on the Ad-Hoc Reporting Main Menu screen.

First, in the Select a Category box, select Reports on Students. (That is the only category available at this time.) When this is highlighted, multiple reports appear in the Select a Report box. When one is selected, a more detailed description is displayed.

4) Run a report by clicking the Run Report button. If the report has selection criteria, a window will open to allow you to enter it. When finished, print the report, if desired, and close the report window. Be careful not to close the main window.

5) Always exit the application from the Main Menu.

Users who have already been given access to this system include current employees who had FOCUS access to the old SIS Plus system. If you are unable to sign in to the system, please submit a work order through the ITD Help Desk system at Click on "Report a Problem"; and follow the instructions.

If you need more training on how to use Access, please visit the ITD Workshops Web site at and sign up for one of the classes like "Introduction to Access for BlueInfo"; or "Advanced Access for BlueInfo."; These training sessions are a great way to learn new skills or dust off those old ones!

If you have worked with ITD on an ad-hoc report program request in the last six months and believe it would be helpful to add to GeneralCampus for others to use, please contact John Patterson at to arrange the details of making this a permanent report on GeneralCampus.

Network Services Update

Network Services recently completed various updates and installations to expand services, capability, and security.

  • The Observatory was brought on line with wired and wireless access.
  • Fire Control monitoring via the fiber optic network extended to the Cope Administration Building and the President's House.
  • The edge router was replaced with a new router from Juniper Networks for scalability, reliability, and cost effective performance.
  • Much of the core router system was replaced, resulting in faster, more secure intra campus communications.
  • The firewall for student housing was replaced for increased security and performance.

D2L 8.3

My Courses Widget
Faculty may now choose to show course updates show in My Courses Widget. Updates for unread discussion messages, ungraded quiz attempts, unattempted quizzes, and unread drop box submissions or feedback can be displayed.

Discussion Boards
With just one click faculty can now create a new topic with the same title as the forum they are creating, or they can set the forum to not post messages until the instructor has approved them. The current version of D2L allows users to post anonymous messages, and forums can be hidden or displayed between a specific set of dates. With the upgrade to 8.3, faculty will be able to lock and unlock forums by dates. Locking a forum stops users from posting new messages, but the previously posted messages are still visible to students. Faculty can use the new pinned message feature to post announcements, summaries of discussion board postings, or rules of conduct, and those messages will always stay at the top of the message list. Faculty can move Topics between forums and can copy Forums, Topics, and associated Pinned Messages.

Messages can now be given a rating of one to five stars by users, and the average rating will display next to each message. Faculty can use rubrics to facilitate grading student discussions and also create grade book columns for topics. When setting up restricted discussions faculty can now select (or filter) by both the Group Category and Forum using drop down menus displayed on the same page. These two items were previously on separate pages.

Drop box
Drop boxes can now be set up to accept group assignments. Faculty can set the drop box folder type to either accept individual submissions or group submissions when the dropbox is created. Once the drop box has been created faculty cannot change the drop box folder type from one category to another.

Grade book
D2L 8.3 includes a setup wizard to streamline the grade book setup process. Different feature sets can be displayed for novice users and for advanced users. Faculty can enter grades in a spreadsheet like interface and can collapse category headings.

Schedule / Calendar
A Quick Add popup window has been added to the interface to allow faculty to quickly create a schedule/calendar posting. The popup window allows the user to enter the event title and indicate whether the event is an all day activity or indicate specific dates and times. The faculty member will need to use the standard New Event screen to create activities that require descriptions, need to be set as private, to set the priority level or to add external links. The New Event screen now allows faculty to specify which users may view specific events. New events can now be added from the drop box, checklist, quizzes, discussions, content, grades and survey tools.

When faculty members click on the Content link on the blue navigation banner they now go directly to Manage Content. Clicking on the View Content button allows faculty to view content as it would display to students. Reports are also available for the content area so that faculty can view the number of users who visited specific pages and the average time spent on each page. Reports can also be filtered by users to view the number of content topics visited.

A print tab button that facilitates printing the Classlist has been added in addition to a report view that displays the number of personal enrollments and withdrawals in a course by role name.

The ability to email selected users has been added to the email feature of the Classlist tool.

Profile: Dr. Scott Seipel

The Game of Life

When students enroll in Dr. Scott Seipel's computer-based decision modeling courses, they're immersed in a virtual universe where they control the world's oil production and have to make strategic decisions that prepare them for the real challenges that await them in the job world.

But the game that Dr. Seipel's students play is anything but child's play.

"I'm a big believer in activity-based learning,"; the professor said. "I think you learn by doing, not by listening. Being able to model business decisions using a spreadsheet is absolutely critical knowledge for anyone in business. Jobs are often gained or not gained based on this skill.";

So instead of simply lecturing about the crucial importance of decision-making in competitive settings, Seipel created an environment where his students could understand and engage in it themselves.

Inspired by discussions at Berkley, Seipel created a game called The OPEC Game where students - for a grade - take on the role of a member of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) and learn first-hand how to make decisions in competitive situations.

"In some respects, this game is a prisoner's dilemma for 13 parties,"; the professor explained. "So if I get students to play the part of one of the 13 OPEC countries, not only do they grasp why OPEC does what it does, they also learn to make better decisions.";

In these of skyrocketing fuel prices, Seipel's OPEC Game is perhaps more relevant now than it was when he created it for his classes eight years ago.

"I have students come back years later and tell me every time they come across an article about OPEC, they read it intently because now they understand it,"; Seipel noted. "It's not always quantitative. There's very much a psychological aspect to OPEC's decisions.";

Seipel's OPEC Game has evolved throughout the eight years it's been a part of his curriculum. When he first conceptualized the simulation, The OPEC Game was manually operated.

"Last semester I was fortunate to have a graduate assistant (Tommy Jefferson) take the game and put it out on the Internet,"; he said. "So you can literally play this game with people around the world. There's no geographical limit.";

Mirroring reality, OPEC countries in Seipel's game essentially controls what they produce. If the organization produces an excessive amount of oil, the price drops. Meanwhile, the rest of the world also produces oil. Therefore, if OPEC cranks out too much of its product, the remaining world nations don't have to produce as much.

"There there are other parties in this that are built into the game,"; Seipel said. "At any given period, players can determine next year's production in terms of oil, collect intelligence, issue news and propaganda, and even make precision military strikes on other countries.";

However, launching military campaigns comes at a hefty price in Seipel's game, and several students have learned that the hard way.

"Students learn that military strikes inevitably fail to achieve much,"; the professor said. "They're very bad economic decisions, and the only reason you do it is to get someone's attention. Military strikes are poor alternatives. Ultimately, students have to learn to work together. It's in their own economic benefit to cheat, but by cheating, they all hurt one another.";

The OPEC Game emphasizes the importance of teamwork. When students don't work together the price of their oil can decline, which means the only parties who are content are the consumers at the pumps.

"But if they learn to work together, they can set really high prices,"; said Seipel, who plays the part of the U.S. in his popular game. "As the U.S., I'm trying to constantly get them to give me low prices, so the students are also fighting pressure from me as another country.";

Seipel hopes The OPEC Game attains an academic balance that is both educating and fascinating for his students.

And so far, his strategy seems to be working.

"We play The OPEC Game for three hours in my graduate class, and they all beg to play it again,"; Seipel said. "Three hours doesn't seem to be enough.";

Before Seipel arrived at Middle Tennessee State University back in 2000, he earned his stripes in the world of corporate finance during 1980s to the 1990s.

"When I first came to MTSU, I converted my upper-level classes from paper-based textbook problems to industry-level spreadsheet analysis,"; he said. "That conversion came from my experience in corporate finance.";

Seipel, who received his doctorate from the University of Texas at Arlington, currently resides in Murfreesboro with his wife, Amanda, and children, Danielle, Cayson, Ian, and Veronica.

ITD Staff News

Paul Collette is ITD's new systems programmer. Paul's job responsibilities will consist of assisting in systems support for the operation of major computer servers within the University. Much of his work will be maintaining Sun Solaris, HP-UX, and other Unix-based systems.

Paul came to MTSU from Belmont University, where he held a similar position as a systems administrator for Systems that Banner, Luminis, and Blackboard application.

In addition, he accumulated a significant amount of experience by implementing Banner at Tennessee State University during its initial roll-out phase.

Paul is a Sun Microsystems Certified Solaris and Network Administrator as well as a Sun Certified Customer Training Manager. He has more than a decade of experience with Unix-based operating systems, mainly with Solaris.

Paul currently lives in Smyrna with his wife, Melissa, and daughter, Paula.

His goals are to maintain ITD's high standards of quality and customer service and plans to implement the best practices of Systems deployment as it relates to stability, security, and availability.

Neil Prater recently joined ITD as a database specialist.

Neil will be tasked with database administration for Oracle, SQL Server, and any other databases that may be encountered at MTSU.

Before coming aboard ITD, Neil worked as a data implementation manager at SureDecisions, Inc., which is a subsidiary of Accretive Health, Inc. His responsibilities there included implementing collection and database loading processes of healthcare insurance claim and remittance data for more than 200 hospitals and clinics worldwide.

In addition, Neil managed a three-member staff of mapping programmers and gained knowledge in Visual Basic, Monarch Data Pump, SQL Scripting, and other tools in developing processes to map and load various standard and propriety data sources to SQL Server 2000/2005 databases. He also was responsible for database tuning for further efficiency and dependability.

Neil holds a bachelor's degree in computer science from Southeast Missouri State University and currently lives in Murfreesboro with his wife of 28 years, Beverly. Their two dogs, Sugar and Minnie, will join them as soon as they sell their home in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Neil hopes to use his 20 years worth of IT experience to provide additional knowledge base to the DBA team. As the previous seven years of his career have been involved in the development of SQL Server data warehouses, Neil plans to help further develop the MTSU data warehouse.

Aaron Schmuhl has joined the Information Technology Division as an information technology security specialist.

In his new position, Aaron will monitor the network to ensure that security is maintained and that all confidential information remains confidential.

Before coming to ITD, Aaron worked as a systems administrator at Tridon in Smyrna where he was responsible for maintaining the servers and clients in the office and factory.

Aaron graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a BBA in computer information systems and holds an array of certifications, including: MCSA: Security in Windows Server 2003, CompTIA Security+, MCITP: Server Administrator on Server 2008, EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacking and Countermeasures and (ISC)^2 System Security Certified Practitioner.

Aaron resides in Murfreesboro with his wife, Amber, and daughter, Isabella.

He plans to use his time at MTSU to uphold the current high standards of security and improve the overall safety of information across campus.

Chris Lombardi has joined ITD as a systems programmer.

In his new position, Chris' responsibilities include departmental LAN server support, ITD UNIX systems support and ITD Windows systems support.

Before coming to MTSU, Chris worked as a systems administrator for the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners where he designed and implemented computing architecture for the Parks and Recreation department.

His other duties included infrastructure design considerations and components such as disaster recovery, virtualization/server consolidation, desktop management, security politics, storage (SAN), and N-Tier application management (Web, application, database services).

Chris holds a bachelor's degree in Computer Science from the University of Pittsburgh and is adept in Novell Identity Management, Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Administration and Reporting Services, VmWare Professional Services and Implementation Training and Microsoft Group Infrastructure.

Chris looks forward to implementing a robust and agile computing environment that meets the business needs of University departments and the educational needs of students.

Tom Wallace recently was named associate vice president for ITD.

Tom, who replaced Tim Brown in April, formerly worked as ITD's technology projects director where he coordinated assigned major campus technology initiatives and projects as well as worked with IT directors, campus technical staff, and other campus offices to improve campus standards and establish the best practices.

In his new role, Tom is tasked with the day-to-day operations of ITD. This includes maintaining communication with the institution constituencies to establish needs, requirements, and schedules for division resources.

Tom communicates daily with division directors for operational and project status updates. He is directly responsible for the areas of computer system support, computer operations, classroom technology, and microcomputing support, as well as the local service providers assigned to colleges.

As associate VP, Tom performs the duties of the division security officer and directs the division in the absence of the vice president.

Tom came to MTSU after serving 16 years at Volunteer State Community College as its director of administrative computing.

In addition, he has also served on various TBR system-wide committees and working groups including the ERP (Banner) RFP

Development, Evaluation and Banner Contract Development Committee, and TETLE (Desire 2 Learn) RFP Development, and Evaluation and Contract Negotiation Committees. He has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from David Lipscomb University and a master's degree in mathematics for Tennessee Technological University.

He lives in Lebanon with his wife, Sherrie, and his son, Adam, who is finishing the sixth grade. Their daughter, Emily, graduated from Lipscomb University this spring.

ITD Staff: Charlotte Caruthers

Not everyone can say they love their work, but Charlotte Caruthers is an exception.

"I like working with computers,"; said the systems analyst, who's been an integral part of the Information Technology Division for over five years. "I've always been interested in seeing the different things you can create using available information. There's a lot of creativity involved.";

As a systems analyst, Caruthers creates ad hoc reports for administrative staff and faculty.

In addition, Caruthers uses her technological knowledge to help others by instructing hands-on workshops.

"We're in the middle of updating the material in the workshops to accommodate the changes with the information that we're putting out there for the users,"; she said.

Working with computers initially wasn't in the cards for the former Mt. Juliet resident who's called Murfreesboro home for 10 years.

When she decided to return to school Caruthers originally intended to earn an associate's degree in small business administration.

However, fate intervened, and Caruthers developed an interest in computer technology while working in Nashville and decided to pursue her education at Middle Tennessee State University in computer information systems.

"I like the database aspects of it,"; she reflected. "At the same time, it can be challenging. Sometimes you have to adapt to work in different areas aside from your own. But there are good people here who work together to get things done. That really makes a difference.";

After relocating to Murfreesboro in 1998, Caruthers graduated from MTSU four years later.

In the fall of 2002, Caruthers returned to MTSU as an account clerk before ascending to the position of systems analyst in 2003.

When she's not generating reports or instructing in workshops, Caruthers is the No. 1 cheerleader, fan, and supporter for her 14-year-old daughter, Chelsey, who's an avid basketball and soccer player and hopes to someday dazzle crowds in the WNBA.

Caruthers and her associates are currently acclimating themselves to the 2007 version of the Access recording tool and are updating their workshops to reflect the new version.

ERP Update

Banner Student

  • Various Student Process Team members worked extensively with TBR and SGHE reporting problems and testing patches to fix established TN statewide mods.

Financial Aid

  • Working through issues with graduate students enrolled in type II teacher licensure.
  • Continued work on change requests for lottery statewide mod.

Human Resources

  • Working on the roll-out of the Leave Reporting system for faculty and administrators to replace the old RECAP system. They are working with pilot groups on campus. The roll-out to campus started April 1, 2008.


  • All required IRS tax forms (1099, 1098T, etc.) were mailed out on time using the Banner administrative systems. Various staff worked hard to meet these deadlines by testing system processes, updating forms through Evisions FormFusion, and cleaning up transaction data.
  • Mid-year cleanup of transaction data in Banner Finance was performed. Various changes were made in the Chart of Accounts to prevent known year-end issues. A trial set of financial statements was produced through the GASB module with few changes needed.

Campus Loan Manager (CLM)

  • Implemented and tested Banner Financial Aid and Finance system interface processes.
  • CLM letters, bills, and messages were tested and revised as necessary.
  • CLM overall system testing continued with disbursements, payments, cancellations along with feeds to Banner Finance and feeds from Banner Financial Aid, which were tracked for proper application.


  • Campus requests for new flows were discussed and it was decided that all requests need to be documented as a work order so the appropriate AISS analyst can be assigned to work with the functional area(s) on that particular flow.
  • Working with the vendor to resolve installation issues with the product.
  • A template for Workflow policy and procedures was shared with the team who reviewed the document to begin brainstorming on a new MTSU Workflow policy and procedures guide. Team members suggested that the document be a work-in-progress as the first flow model is worked on.


Workflow is a software package that will be implemented in phases beginning this calendar year. It is used to improve the performance of business work procedures and works together with Banner to ensure that the outcome of a procedure is consistent and predictable.

Users are responsible for creating the workflow, documenting each step, and the applicable rules. At execution time, by routing tasks, applying business rules and notifying personnel, Workflow ensures that all the steps of a process are performed consistently in a timely manner.

An example of a workflow that is currently being developed handles the rules and processing surrounding a person's name change. This is a seemingly simple process, yet it is ideal for Workflow since several areas on campus are potentially affected when someone asks to change their name, including Human Resources, Student Affairs, the Business Office, and Advancement Services.

Once the product is fully implemented, departments that find they have a need for a Workflow should submit a request to ITD so that the appropriate AISS analyst can be assigned to work with them on design and implementation.