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Division of Information Technology

Priority 1: Advance the academic and research missions of the university


The division worked to improve technology equipment in classrooms across the Columbia campus through the Learn, Innovate, Teach, Enhance (LITE) Classroom Strategic Initiative. The initiative aligns with the university's strategic priority 7, to provide a sustainable campus infrastructure. LITE focuses on improving the efficacy of classroom technology and reducing lost class time due to technology failures. In Year 1 of the program, more than 100 classrooms were upgraded, making significant progress toward the LITE goal to modernize teaching technologies in 500 classroom spaces over five years. Following the first phase of completion, the initiative was placed on hold due to budget restraints. However, the division plans to continue the upgrade of additional classroom as soon as funding becomes available.


In addition to modernizing technology in classrooms, the division improved the support faculty and students receive when there is an issue with the equipment. An Embedded Zone Classroom Support Model was deployed that divides the Columbia campus into five distinct zones based on concentrations of classrooms. Support technicians are embedded within classroom buildings located within each zone. In the past year, there has been a dramatic improvement to both response and resolution times. The model has yielded an improved average resolution time to resolution from 19h:21m:46s to 3h:29m:8s since its deployment.


In the past year, the eLearning Services (eLS) team provided 116 professional development training sessions for faculty. Topics included Getting Started with Blackboard, How to Use the Grade Center, Utilizing Collaborate Ultra, Rubrics for Grading Assessment, and Course Preparation for the New Semester. The team filled 5,233 service requests and responded to more than 125 Blackboard-related incidents. In addition, eLS worked with the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) to provide online support resources for Blackboard Ally, Blackboard Collaborate, Blackboard Learn Original, and Blackboard Learn Ultra Courses. Additional collaboration was provided with the Student Development Resource Center to provide online support for Blackboard Ally, addressing accessibility requirements for their website.


In February, Teaching and Learning Technologies (TLT) launched the TLT Advisory Committee to serve at the intersection of technology and teaching and learning. The committee functions as a high-level consultative body and consults on technology issues impacting teaching and learning and makes recommendations regarding needs and requirements that align with the university strategic plan and future trends in higher education academic technologies and services. The committee also fosters two-way communication and integrated decision-making among academic and administrative units and stakeholders, supporting system-wide planning. In addition, the committee provides continual assessment of proposed teaching and learning technologies, tools, and instructional delivery solutions, reviews end-user feedback, identifies improvement areas, and advocates for investment.

The first action of the TLT Advisory Committee, completed in March, was to formally establish Learning Management System (LMS) Advisory Council as a sub-committee of the parent TLT Advisory Committee and rewrite its charter. This move will allow the involvement of additional stakeholders in the future of learning technologies that are employed across the university system.


The Research Computing Datahub, a 1.8 petabyte storage solution dedicated to USC research projects, was introduced. This highly expandable storage platform enables researchers to move project data off volatile High Performance Computing scratch storage, allowing them to consolidate mid- to long-term research data on a maintained storage solution. This provides better price per Terabyte, security and hardware maintenance, and will help push researchers away from costly and unreliable desktop-level storage solutions.


The RC team implemented Open OnDemand web GUI interface for the Hyperion HPC cluster, allowing cluster users to easily access Hyperion via a web browser to transfer data, manage jobs and spin up interactive Linux VMs to perform workload processing.


A regular, large-scale backup service of researcher data stored on the Datahub to AWS Glacier Deep Archive was implemented. These cloud archives provide long-term Disaster Recovery capability for researchers, at a fraction of the cost of bare-metal solutions.


The RC team worked to expand the Globus High-Speed Data Transfer Service with a High Assurance subscription. The High Assurance subscription creates a Business Associates Agreement between USC and Globus to allow the university to offer secure data transfer capability that fulfills regulated data requirements by most data use agreements dealing with HIPAA and other forms of personally identifiable information.


The RC team worked with several colleges and divisions across the system on research projects. They supported the College of Pharmacy by providing bioinformatics workflows with new software installs, which helped with pipeline optimization. They also provided an out-of-dialog server and taught researchers how to run Nvidia containers, which allowed the lab of Dr. Phillip Buckhaults to simulate and optimize a primer design. The RC staff provided continued support for Arnold School of Public Health and their SAS-Vaya machine learning analysis of health data. RC worked with the Moving Image Research Collections group to move film scanning equipment to the ScienceDMZ to improve researcher workflows and enhance film restoration efforts. The RC team also partnered with University Libraries and the Graduate School to offer the SHARPGrads certificate program for graduate students. The program provides students free training in digital scholarship, computing, and library research concepts.


The RC team provided in-depth computational support, software development, student mentoring, and project management for the following projects: Aedes project, a $3,820,168 grant supported by the National Institutes of Health grant with a Principal Investigator (PI) of Melissa Nolan, Arnold School of Public Health; the AEO-Light project, supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), with PI Greg Wilsbacher, University Libraries; NEH supported SnowVision project with PI Karen Smith, SC Department of Natural Resources; and the Wordification project, supported by the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment with PI Stanley Dubinsky, Linguistics Department.


There were more than 430 attendees at Research Computing Workshops throughout the fiscal year. All workshops were held via Microsoft Teams, which allowed interested individuals to watch later. Twenty workshops were presented on 14 different topics, including:

  • Introduction to Hyperion and SLURM
  • Introduction to Linux Command Line
  • Introduction to Linux Shell Scripting
  • Introduction to Machine Learning/Deep Learning
  • Introduction to Git
  • Introduction to Python
  • Introduction to R
  • Introduction to anaconda
  • Introduction to MATLAB
  • Machine Learning and Deep Learning in MATLAB
  • Introduction to Quantum Computing – Fundamentals
  • Introduction to Quantum Computing – Theory
  • Working with Hyperion: Data Transfer, X-Windows, and Open OnDemand
  • Working with Hyperion: Data Transfer, Globus, and Open OnDemand

In conjunction with the MATLAB educational support team at The MathWorks, Inc., the team offered “Introduction to MATLAB” and “Machine Learning and Deep Learning in MATLAB.” These workshops positively impacted the university strategic priority to deliver “outstanding research.”

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