Technologies and Trends

Academic Technologies - Community Forum

Cameron Alexson, University of Saskatchewan
Dean Crawford, BCNET
Birds of a Feather

An open forum for Academic Technology community members to explore  leading trends and issues in the area of teaching and learning technologies and related systems.  This birds of a feather discussion would explore one or more topics selected within the timeframe provided.

Topics for discussion may include:

Learning Management Systems: – on-premise to cloud transition, policy and practice considerations for third party service integrations

“Student-owned Spaces” – What do we mean by?, How are we addressing requests?

Plagiarism text checking tools – Solutions, Intellectual Property, hosting, mandatory vs. opt-out

Academic Video- recording and distribution of instructional video including learning spaces, podcasts, micro-lectures and student assignments

Policy, practice, and technology challenges addressing textbook publisher’s online learning resources

Artificial Intelligence and Education - possibilities and practicalities

Brian Stewart, University of Alberta

AI has been increasing in its use in our everyday lives spanning across a broad swath of uses ranging from personal assistants, purchase reference and prediction, smart homes and cars, fraud detection, online customer support, even assisting personal relationships. This increasing use is fueled by the use of machine learning, computer modelling and algorithmic creation enabled by ever bigger data sets combined with ever more capable technological capabilities driven by  Moore’s Law and MetCalfe’s Law.

The upward and accelerating trajectory of AI, encapsulated in the concept of the singularity, has drawn both excitement and concern from scientists, economists and business leaders. The largest fear is that AI will outsmart its creators allowing the machines to turn the tables and become the masters, using our psychology to program our behaviour. While the long-term outcome remains unclear, the near-term impacts are more discernible, in particular the intention here is to review how AI is and will influence Education. AI has begun to be used in educational institutions, chat bots are being used to provide student services as well as providing learning supports. Automated paper grading has started to be used, while academic advising and assessment are being trialed.

The presentation will outline the potential for AI to positively impact student success. This will be approached from a student life-cycle perspective, taking an integrated view of the student experience and identifying where AI can be most beneficial. Current usages of AI in education, will be considered in addition to those being experimented with and those still being considered. The presentation will view the adoption of AI in Education from a comprehensive perspective, considering technological, social, political, economic, cultural and ethical factors.

The intention of the presentation is to provide attendees with an initial understanding of the benefits and constraints of AI in the educational realm, which will facilitate their own learning journeys in this most intelligent of all Infomation technologies.

Automation and Orchestration: The key to delivering agile infrastructure and application services.

Jean Soares, Simon Fraser University

Future client experience and the expedient delivery of IT infrastructure and services rely more and more on automation as the cornerstone for consistency, agility, and institutional productivity.

Over the years, we have gone from physical to virtual in many areas. We have virtualized servers, networks, and any number of business processes.  However, most institutions have not been able to break existing departmental silos and their agility is limited by the complexities of their departments, teams and business units.

At SFU, we have been able to break silos where necessary, remove road blocks, and replace tickets, individual e-mails, and bureaucracy with automation, orchestration and cloud technologies implemented in our state of the art Software Defined Data Centre.

Automation has empowered our teams at SFU to reduce the turnaround time for the delivery of virtualized servers and services, ensure consistency, eliminate the opportunity for human error, and provide a better experience for our internal and external clients.

This presentation aims to discuss and demonstrate the technologies and the platforms leveraged in the construction of SFU cloud services, as well as the lessons learned and challenges encountered along the journey.

Cloud Enabled Endpoint Management and Information Management

Ivan Sestak, University of Toronto

A low cost, stress-free, get back to innovation endpoint solution

Managing today’s “desktop” or “endpoint” environments and planning for future needs requires a wide range of skills and capabilities to troubleshoot, resolve and plan. Over-burdened IT staff and unreliable workstations can seriously impact your University’s bottom line.

Leveraging Cloud Based storage solutions through existing vendor relationships, integrating existing Systems Management suites, supporting legacy or abandoned applications, provisioning virtual machines in the cloud, enabling remote usage and managing mobile devices through the minimal number of interfaces poses challenges and opportunities for any organization.

UofT’s Managed Desktop Services has provided traditional workstation management and has re-envisioned endpoint management and has begun re-engineering our environment to

  • allow agility
  • reliable and repeatable support
  • improved service levels
  • simplified user experience
  • predictable and scalable cost models
  • hardware neutral (almost)
  • high availability services
  • secure environments, flexible patching
  • a view to minimize business disruptions
  • decentralized access management and support of file access, deployment and insight

Our goals have been standardized solutions, repeatable implementations, low cost, ease of use and value delivery.

We will walk through already accomplished steps and the 12 month roadmap and pros & cons of our choices.

Improving network virtualization in Openstack: SRIOV and DPDK

Mohamed Elsakhawy, SHARCNET

Network virtualization is the heart of VMs’ communication in a cloud environment where virtual routers, switches, firewalls and functions exist. Performance of the virtual network directly impacts the efficiency of VMs’ communications. Openstack has rapidly become a very popular cloud platform for both academic teaching and research use cases. The presentation looks into Neutron as the network virtualization enabler for Openstack and what performance enhancements does SRIOV and DPDK bring into the throughput and latency of the virtual network.

The presentation starts by briefly describing the role of Neutron as the network virtualization component of Openstack and then illustrates the traditional layout of a virtual network in Openstack. It then illustrates how the layout will differ with the use of SRIOV and DPDK, and points to where the performance improvements will be achieved. The presentation ends by discussing the use-cases for using SRIOV or DPDK in an Openstack environment and where each technology provides a better fit.

Innovating in the Trenches: Enhancing AD FS and Azure for R&E

Chris Phillips, CANARIE Inc.

As early adopters, NREN partners like CANARIE have, and continue to invest considerably in evaluating and evolving technologies and standards in order to deliver enhanced federated identity solutions. In a commercial cloud dominated environment, vendors like Microsoft have had to radically reinvent themselves to stay competitive but not necessarily with the same guiding principles as our community. As part of this evolution and adoption of federation for the enterprise, their identity related offerings and tools have matured over time yet still have some shortcomings in key areas that R&E federations require.

CANARIE and the Swedish federation SWAMID have been working together on ways to bridge these gaps in a sustainable fashion. Not to replace existing solutions, but to augment and enable those who are operating AD FS as an IdP component in their federated identity solution. Rather than see this as a barrier, we saw it as an opportunity to capitalize on this tool’s capability and expand the circle of trust among federated identities via the integration of broadly used technology like AD FS. 

Together CANARIE and SWAMID have assembled a solution set of native Windows tools and practices resulting in the ADFS Toolkit. The ADFS Toolkit helps AD FS administrators enhance their identity provider to more fully participate in a multi-lateral identity federation. Having another option to leverage pre-developed tools lowers the barrier significantly for sites normally not able to participate in identity federations, increasing the reach for our researchers tapping into existing infrastructure and growing our community.

This presentation will provide a walk-through of the ADFS Toolkit solution set and share our experiences operating in our production federations with participating AD FS sites. We will also provide insight to our experience in porting the ADFS Toolkit to the AzureAD ecosystem.

Jupyter: spearheading interactive computing in Canada

Félix-Antoine Fortin, Calcul Québec – Université Laval
Ian Allison, Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences

Jupyter is an open source web application for collaboratively writing, sharing and executing code, equations and text. It is being used worldwide to educate, analyze and visualize data, develop new artificial intelligence algorithms, and share research. By its nature, Jupyter has become the most recent contender in the never-ending challenge of simplifying Canadian researchers access to advanced research computing.

Compute Canada and the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (PIMS) are collaborating to bring Jupyter notebooks to researchers, educators and innovators across Canada.

During this talk, we will introduce what is Jupyter and where the project is heading. We will present how PIMS and Compute Canada support institutions and their researchers with Jupyter. The talk will highlight successful usages of the services offered, illustrating the importance of the collaboration between the organizations. We will conclude by with a live demonstration of current and future Jupyter services offered by PIMS and Compute Canada.

LDAP as a key tool in campus integration

Pete St. Onge, University of Toronto
Birds of a Feather

As a BOF, this session would really be participant driven, but typical questions around Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) services tend to include:

  • How LDAP directories work, how they are organized
  • How applications can leverage LDAP
  • How non-LDAP aware applications can leverage LDAP
  • How to think about directories as part of an overall campus integration and role management strategy in a highly heterogeneous IT environment

Navigating Classroom Technology – the GUId way

Adrian Bisek, Simon Fraser University
John Yang, Simon Fraser University
Tyler Nilsson, Simon Fraser University
Eugene Lin, University of British Columbia
Octavian Jurca, University of British Columbia

Audio Visual control systems at higher education campuses across North America have been steadily growing in complexity and ubiquity for the last decade. Increased capabilities of AV systems, more sophisticated requirements from educators, and ever evolving pedagogies have resulted in a need for simple intuitive Graphical User Interfaces that are consistent in every teaching and learning space at every location. Recognizing this challenge, both Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia have undertaken projects to develop highly intuitive GUIs for their users.

Until recently, SFU and UBC classroom technologies have been installed and programmed solely by outside vendors which created a patchwork of varied control systems and graphical user interfaces. The lack of consistency of GUIs for controlling teaching and learning spaces was most acutely felt by users as they were forced to learn and use very different GUIs from room to room.

In this session, you’ll learn about creating a standardized audio-visual GUI for the higher education environment from two Vancouver universities. With different paths to the same goal, hear the stories, ideas, experiences and best practices in their journeys to creating effective interfaces.

Our Journey to the Cloud - Office 365 full suite migration and deployment

Rose Orlando, York University
Bruce Fisher, York University
Robert Jefferson, York University

In early 2017, York embarked on a mission to deploy Office 365 to our end user community. As we started down that path, we had to get consensus on how much of the product suite to deploy, as well as to whom and when.

By the 4th quarter of 2017, we began enabling Office 365 for all staff, students and faculty.  The journey to get to this stage involved significant investigative work, analysis, patience, persuasion and tears of pain and joy!

The first stage was to introduce the Office 365 product suite campus wide while enabling mail and calendaring in phases.  The biggest challenge involves(d) migrating mail from multiple email systems including Lotus Notes, Microsoft Exchange and a central IMAP/Courier based system.

By the time we do this presentation we hopefully will have successfully completed most of our migrations and will still be strong enough to stand and share our lessons learned along with some eye opening experiences that we hope to share with you all and in return get insight on your experiences as we all venture into the Cloud!

Our Watson experience at the University of Manitoba

Terry Bunio, University of Manitoba

University of Manitoba recently worked with IBM and their Cognitive Campus program to learn about Watson and the applications for Watson in one of the many advisor functions in higher education. This experience started with the engagement with IBM in a Design workshop to collaboratively analyze the opportunities and Use Cases for Watson to assist in advising. This was followed by the Learn workshop where the University of Manitoba had an opportunity to work with the Watson development tools to gain familiarity and experience.

Finally, the University of Manitoba undertook a small project with multiple iterations to create a chatbot both on Web and Mobile platforms that students and faculty could ask real-world questions and have Watson answer them.

This presentation will review what went well and what were the challenges that had to be overcome. Some of the questions that had to be answered were what type of questions or advising would/should Watson answer? How would Watson work side-by-side with other advisers? How do we ensure Watson always gives correct answers? When should we override a Watson answer?

We will also talk about our team structure which crossed many departments and discuss what worked, what we would do differently, and what you need to absolutely have in your team.

R&S Entity Category: Collaboration Made Easy

Tom Vitez, CANARIE Inc.

CANARIE continues to invest in evaluating, adopting and promoting technologies and standards to deliver enhanced federated identity solutions to community members. A growth area for federated identity is supporting collaboration among researchers for project work, which can involve researchers from multiple institutions sharing applications, data and documents online, using tools offered by one or more service providers. Service providers (SPs) are interested in making it easy for users to access their service without requiring heavy integration between the schools and themselves. SPs don’t want to force users to create and maintain accounts in order to access their service if federated sign-on is available. Likewise, students are looking for seamless access to such services using their home institution’s user identity and credentials.

The Research and Scholarship (R&S) Entity Category defined by REFEDS (the Research and Education FEDerations group) is designed to solve this problem.

This presentation introduces the value proposition for adopting the R&S Entity Category within the Canadian Access Federation. It also highlights the requirements and business processes for adoption, and offers recommendations on ensuring that current attribute policies align with your institution’s privacy policy.

Tackling identity and access management for SaaS applications

Corey Scholefield, University of Victoria
Zdenek Nejedly, University of Guelph
Sebastian Conzalez, University of British Columbia
Chris Phillips, CANARIE Inc.
Panel Discussion

This interactive talk with gather a collection of panelists that can speak to the challenges, lessons-learned, or best-practice approaches to onboarding cloud-apps into the higher-Ed enterprise space, from an identity & access management point of view.

The facilitator will engage the audience through real-time polling technologies that should invite audience input into the direction of this talk.

The Last Frontier: Our Journey Into the World of Software Defined Networking

Randy Raine, Simon Fraser University
Michael Gregory, Simon Fraser University
Glenn Davies, Simon Fraser University
Sergey Kosmachev, Simon Fraser University

Server virtualization, the abstracting of server software away from the physical machine has become the de facto standard for most organizations.  Storage virtualization,  the abstraction of logical storage services and capabilities from the underlying physical storage systems, is less prevalent but has been making inroads in data centres over the past few years.  But network virtualization aka Software Defined Networking (SDN), separating the networks control logic from the underlying routers and switches, is the last data centre arena to undergo this paradigm shift of virtualization.

This presentation will describe Simon Fraser University’s journey from a traditional networking based data centre with a multi-tiered architecture into that of a data centre based on software defined networking for advanced server virtualization or private cloud deployment.

We will describe the technology we used for our implementation, the design process we went through resulting in our final design, the implementation path and challenges faced turning the design into reality, and lessons learned along the odyssey.

The Lifecycle of Systems Infrastructure

Curtis Ireland, Queen’s University

Server and storage infrastructure is an ever evolving organism. Every device has a lifecycle, every technology has a trend. Every time the lifecycle of equipment comes due, it is up to us to look at technological trends to decide what the next generation of our infrastructure will look like. Five years ago, Queen’s University applied a major infrastructure renewal. We not only replacing our core compute and storage devices, but also how services were hosted for our customers – University departments and Faculties, as well as other work groups within ITS. The lifecycle of this equipment is starting to come due. What originally started as a project to increase our storage capacity, became a full analysis of our server and storage infrastructure. A renewal of this magnitude raises a lot of questions. Do we look at new technologies such as hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), or do we keep with the technologies we are using now? What are the cost implications between the choices? Can we grow (or shrink) with our environment as the compute requirements change and move? How can we accurately judge these new technologies? The journey of this project and solving these questions can be long, but provides a lot of interesting results.

CANHEIT-TECC 2018 : June 18-21