Montana State University
TitleCollaborative Network Learning Support Request Date2012-11-29
DepartmentCollege of Nursing
RequestorHelen Melland / Ian Godwin Phone994-2671
Campuses Bozeman Billings Havre Great Falls FSTS Extension MAES
Cross Depts College of Nursing ITC
Proposed Dates Start: 7/1/13 End:  
The College of Nursing requests funding for a Network Systems / Communication Analyst II position. The College has increasingly relied on our extensive videoconference system and associated equipment for the delivery of courses, graduate student advising, presentations of graduate work, research seminars, and administrative management across our five campus locations (Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls, Kalispell, and Missoula) and has reached the point where the 1.0 FTE currently dedicated to managing the resources is no longer sufficient for the consistent functioning necessary to support student success.
This proposal addresses Objective S.2: “Physical Resources: Enhance aesthetic appeal and functional quality of MSU physical resources to support high quality learning, research and work environment.” While the proposal is not for physical resources but rather human resources, this additional FTE is needed to allow the college to fulfill functional quality of MSU resources. With five campus sites (Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls, Kalispell, and Missoula) the need for network/videoconference support is elevated in the College of Nursing. In fact, in addition to the numerous cross-campus courses (taught from one campus to two or more other College of Nursing campuses), the entire didactic curriculum for the undergraduate program is delivered to students in Kalispell via an interactive video network. All College general faculty meetings, committee meetings, formal and informal presentations, research work groups, planning meetings, and graduate student thesis defenses are conducted using the video conference network. The need for human resources (another technology support person bringing our total to two FTE’s) is needed to provide the necessary depth and breadth of technological support for a “high quality learning, research, and work environment.”
Funding Type: One-Time Only Funding Base (3-yr Recurring) Funding
  FY13 FY14 FY15 Base ($) OTO Startup ($)   FTE;
Salaries       41484      1.0 
Benefits       17813       
Materials & Supplies            
Contracted Services            
Other Operations            
TOTAL 59297    1.0 
Please comment, if necessary, regarding cost and requirements.

The salary identified is based on hiring a classified Network Systems / Communication Analyst II at the MUS High Entry Rate, recognizing that MSU has had a difficult time finding qualified IT professionals at the entry rate salaries.

Describe the Proposal

The College of Nursing is a distributed program with faculty, staff and students spread across the state on our campuses in Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls, Kalispell, and Missoula. Of our 967 students (fall 2012 Registrar’s Report G, Part A), approximately ½ study and learn outside of Bozeman. Of our 114 faculty, 82 (72%; headcount, not FTE) work on distant campuses, and, eight of the College’s 15 staff also work at our various distant campuses. Currently, the College has 1.0 FTE dedicated to the procurement, installation, maintenance, management, and support of all IT resources in the College. In addition to the ~160 desktops/laptops, this person manages the following network associated hardware and services: Cisco TMS (TelePresence Management Server) Central Management Server for managing 16 video conference endpoints, infrastructure devices, scheduling, etc.; Cisco VCS (Video Communications Server) Gatekeeper, call-control, authentication server for Cisco Jabber SIP-based desktop video conferencing solution; Cisco Codian MCU 30 port High Definition video conference bridge (core bridge for multi-participant audio and video conferences); Cisco ISDN Gateway (used to connect to ISDN endpoints and to connect telephone participants to video conferences); Cisco Content Server (for video conference recording and allows our video conference endpoint to act as a podcast creation device); Apple OS X Snow Leopard Server (used for podcast dissemination); 16 video conference endpoints (class and conference room based video/teleconference systems) and the various associated components (e.g. audio mixers, extron controls, etc); Cisco Jabber desktop video conferencing software; and four Windows 2008 Servers (for ghosting student lab computer and file shares). This position is also responsible for training faculty and staff in the effective and appropriate use of the college’s various IT resources.

The College’s reliance on our technology, particularly the technologies associated with the videoconferencing systems, has grown to the point where even partial “outages” can have significant impact on our academic program delivery. The videoconferencing system (to include the classroom based endpoints and Cisco Jabber desktop application) in the College supports all of the following courses in some fashion: NRSG 225, NRSG 238, NRSG 336, NRSG 341, NRSG 346, NRSG 348, NRSG 352, NRSG 377, NRSG 387R, NRSG 418, NRSG 437, NRSG 444, NRSG 454, NRSG 477, NRSG 487C, NRSG 505, NRSG 506, NRSG 507, NRSG 517, NRSG 521, NRSG 525, NRSG 528, NRSG 531, NRSG 552, NRSG 553, NRSG 555, NRSG 561, NRSG 562, and NRSG 563. Of particular note is that we have a few courses synchronously taught from one campus to students on all the other College of Nursing campuses. Additionally, all of the lecture courses for the Kalispell undergraduate students are delivered from Missoula over the videoconference system.

While the stability of our system has improved considerably over the past six years that we have invested in the hardware and bandwidth end of the equation, delayed and/or dropped connections degrade the student educational experience. With only one person knowledgeable and trained to identify and resolve non-standard troubleshooting issues, it seems inevitable that they occur when he is otherwise unavailable. We believe that the addition of another Network Systems / Communication Analyst will provide the coverage we need to ensure that we can provide a more timely response to issues that might otherwise negatively impact the teaching and learning process.

Describe the broader impacts and benefits of this proposal

There are currently three significant videoconference “networks” and a few “one-endpoint” systems operating at MSU. The three large systems are operated by the College of Nursing, the College of Agriculture, and the Burns Technology Center. Last spring, the College of Nursing’s IT Coordinator accepted a position outside of MSU. Fortunately, he was able to stay with us through the majority of the spring semester and provided some cross training to an administrative associate that allowed us to limp through until we were able to get a replacement in place mid-summer. Both the videoconference managers from the College of Agriculture and BTC were gracious enough to offer their assistance had we encountered significant issues, but realistically could not make themselves available to resolve more mundane issues at a moment’s notice.

We believe that the (fortunately only inconveniencing) personnel shortage described above reasonably struck a chord of concern and that there is a need for greater depth of support to effectively manage the institution’s videoconference assets. While we are requesting that this position be funded for the College of Nursing, our intent and hope would be that this position would cross unit “borders” and provide backup and support when necessary to ensure that opportunities across the university are not lost due to dropped or degraded video/teleconference connections.

Implementation Plan

Upon receipt of the funding approval, we will begin developing the Role Description for the position for approval by HR (approximately two-three weeks). Upon approval of the Role Description, we will prepare the vacancy announcement and submit the Recruitment Authorization Form (one week). The minimum advertising required for a classified position is two weeks, however, based on experience, we expect that it will take at least a month to develop a minimal pool of potential (and appropriate) applicants. Screening applications, arranging for and interviewing finalists will take approximately three weeks. Hopefully the applicant offered the position will accept and be available two weeks after that. So, we anticipate that it would take two and a half to three months after notification of funding to have a person available to being training. In any event, we would hope to start the new employee at the start of the fiscal year, July 1, and have some time over the remainder of the summer to orient and train that individual before the inevitable increase in operational tempo that comes in mid August.

Assessment Plan

Within the College of Nursing, we have some metrics available regarding system outages, but those don't necessarily correspond with classroom downtime in that user error or user unfamiliarity with the system sometimes results in "lost time". In any event, should this proposal be funded, we will develop a system for more empirical tracking of classtime lost due to video/teleconference issues (both technical and user), as well as collect "time to resolution" metrics. We will also work with the College of Agriculture and the other videoconference system owners at MSU to see if any processes can be shared/distributed (such as use of the College's videoconference scheduling server) that can reduce connection or downtime issues or increase video/teleconference system use.

We hope and expect that the additional FTE will reduce the class/confernce/advising/meeting time lost due to the various issues that users encounter with these systems. We would also expect that the additional FTE might increase the use of the videoconference resources on campus by providing some support to those units with one our two systems that have limited or no people prepared or available to make connections, provide training, etc. We do have data regarding the number of connections that have been and currently are being made, and should be able to see if there is increased use of our own and/or other campus video/teleconference resources.

If assessed objectives are not met in the timeframe outlined what is the plan to sunset this proposal?

As with any position, we would expect that if we are unable to associate reductions in unproductive time, or increased use of the resource with the proposed FTE, either the postion will be eliminated due to lack of need, or converted for use elswhere in the system (ITC network, or helpdesk support, for example). We would like to have at least two fiscal years with the position to determine the impact it may or not have on the effective use of our (and others) video/teleconference use at MSU.

Dean/Director: Helen Melland (
Executive/VP: Martha Potvin (