FAQs: SJSU’s Tech Upgrade

Two years ago, San Jose State University launched a five-year, $28 million technology initiative. A detailed progress report is summarized in this quick reference guide.

What is the “Next Generation Technology” initiative?

A five-year plan, launched in 2012, to upgrade SJSU’s technology infrastructure to a level necessary to meet the basic needs of students, faculty and staff members, and the campus community.

Why is it needed?

SJSU’s technology infrastructure had become outdated, inadequate and inefficient. This was not a sudden revelation; numerous campus committees had studied the issue for years. While there was a general understanding that the campus’s technology assets were inadequate, there was no strategy or plan to address this deficiency.

Define “inadequate.”

Students, faculty and staff complained about the lack of basic technology for classrooms, meeting spaces and computer labs. The campus relied on five telephone systems, two nearing obsolescence. WiFi access was slow, unreliable and unavailable in many parts of campus.

NEW! What are the educational benefits of the new technology?

  • Fourteen classrooms have been upgraded, including six classrooms featuring video lecture-capture and video conferencing technology. These tools allow faculty to record lectures for students and to bring guest lecturers and other experts “into” the classroom. More than 30 faculty members and their students are now using these rooms.
  • Additional equipment has been purchased and is on site, ready to upgrade more classrooms.  Academic Affairs is working with faculty members to identify needs for specific rooms.
  • TelePresence helps instructors bring the world to their students by connecting the class to industry experts. WebEx helps faculty members and students collaborate. Both of these collaboration tools help instructors to record teachable moments for students, moments students can revisit later online. These tools also expand our notion of what it means to be in class to include a classroom on campus, a virtual classroom, or a hybrid of the two.
  • See what SJSU professors are saying about the new technology.

UPDATED! What is the status of the 51 new classrooms?

  • SJSU set the goal of 51 new classrooms based on the number of codec devices (video streaming devices) the network could support for video conferences and lecture-capture recordings. Fifty-one codec devices were purchased and are on site at SJSU, installed or ready for installation. The codec devices can be used in classrooms and meeting rooms. New software means SJSU’s network can now support more than 51 codec devices simultaneously, if the need arises.
  • Codecs have been installed in 14 classrooms and 11 conference rooms and offices. More will be installed after Academic Affairs surveys learning spaces and creates priorities. Three mobile units are available for short-term use on campus. To request a conference room update, classroom update, or mobile unit, contact the IT Help Desk (408-924-1530, ithelpdesk@sjsu.edu).
  • Faculty members are using classrooms and conference rooms outfitted with the new tech tools. Based on their experiences, these instructors will provide critical input that will be incorporated into plans for additional rooms over the next three years.
  • In the end, more than 51 classrooms may well be enhanced with varying degrees of technology. Plans will evolve to meet needs and available solutions.

NEW! What are the benefits of the new telephone system?

  • The new telephone system replaces five independent, aging systems with an Internet-based (so-called voice-over-IP, or VoIP) unified communication system.
  • The new system integrates with mobile devices and desktop computers.
  • “Reach-me-anywhere” features give each faculty and staff member the freedom to select the device that best meets his or her needs.
  • Faculty and staff members have three choices: a telephone handset with video; a telephone handset without video, and/or telephone software (Jabber).
  • No one is required to have a video telephone. Everyone has the option of skipping the telephone handset altogether and using software instead to access a work telephone line through a cell phone, desktop or laptop computer.
  • The IT Help Desk (408-924-1530, ithelpdesk@sjsu.edu) offers telephone system training and helps employees switch handsets.
  • The new telephone system will allow SJSU to integrate emergency communications through all campus, classroom and office telephones as well as digital signage.
  • It should be noted that many SJSU departments now have lower telephone bills. You’ll find more information on this below.

NEW! How do students, faculty and staff tap into all these resources?

  • The Division of Academic Affairs offers faculty members many opportunities to learn about technology and technology-enhanced pedagogy through the Academic Technology office, the Center for Faculty Development, and college-level initiatives. Faculty members can also access a variety of online resources through Academic Technology, the Center for Faculty Development, and IT Services. King Library supplements these activities.
  • Web conferencing (WebEx) services via most devices is available to all faculty, staff and students anywhere the Internet is accessible, including all classrooms, meeting rooms and offices.
  • IT Services hosts annual expos. This year, planning began in March. The expo was held in October. The event showcased technology solutions designed to help the entire university community. Faculty members learned about opportunities to enhance the instructional environment. Staff members and students learned about collaboration technologies that can raise productivity and help students better manage the learning process.
  • Everyone can check this ITS website for a list of rooms equipped with Next Generation technology for classes and meetings. These spaces offer current, reliable infrastructure, including state-of-the-art video conferencing (TelePresence) as well as audio, visual and lecture-capture technology to enhance collaboration and communication between students and instructors. Recorded sessions are available for review almost immediately.

What more has been accomplished?

  • In the past two years, the campus network capacity has tripled. During the first week of fall term 2014, the number of devices connecting to SJSU’s network was more than double that of the previous year. Total wireless traffic the same week nearly tripled from 1,239 GB to 3,400 GB. The average daily number of concurrent computing devices connected to WiFi at SJSU increased from 4,626 devices in 2013 to 14,500 devices in 2014.
  • Even with over 14,000 devices connected simultaneously to WiFi, the SJSU network is not at maximum capacity. SJSU believes the concurrent connectivity for any other CSU campus is 12,000 devices. In addition, SJSU is expanding the network to cover outdoor common areas.
  • After years of complaints, students, faculty, staff, and visitors are now able to access the Internet wirelessly from almost anywhere on campus.  This is especially significant in SJSU’s residence halls, home to 3,600 people who previously had very limited Internet access. WiFi is now available in all University Housing student rooms. Students report seeing Internet speeds over 100 megabits.
  • Since fall 2012, over 100 computer labs on campus have been refreshed with 1,600 new computers and laptops as well as 1,500 new monitors. IT Services is now replacing outdated faculty and staff computers.
  • Data security and support services have been enhanced. This is less noticeable to the naked eye, but critically important in an age of increased data security threats.

UPDATED! How was the Next Generation technology strategy developed?  Did faculty members play a role in developing this strategy?

Representatives from Academic Affairs were involved in the decision-making process from the start. However, this method did not result in consultation with the full faculty. Academic Affairs is now surveying all classrooms to determine all needs including technology.

SJSU is collecting information on how the Next Generation classrooms are being used. Examples of pedagogy, student testimonials and assessment will be shared with the entire campus community at the end of fall term.

Here is how SJSU developed the Next Generation initiative:

In fall 2011, SJSU held 49 town hall meetings to discuss its future. Technology was a recurring theme. Input from these sessions became the basis for a five-year campus strategic plan. One of its five priorities was “agility through technology.”

The town hall meetings were widely publicized and open to anyone. Faculty members participated. Faculty members were also involved in the development of SJSU’s Academic Plan, which further refined our thinking about technology needs.

From 2012 to 2014, a series of meetings provided participants with the opportunity to discuss the Next Generation strategy and technologies:

  • The Academic Affairs leadership team participated in 10 planning meetings in 2012.
  • The provost hosted three open forums that included tech updates and Q&A sessions.
  • Academic Affairs representatives participated in six meetings of the Vision 2017 Agility Through Technology Committee.
  • IT staff participated in more than 20 planning meetings in 2012 and 2013.

IT open forums, college meetings and faculty committee meetings continue to offer updates and Q&A sessions as well as opportunities to provide input.

UPDATED! Why was Cisco chosen?

In 2012, all CSU campuses, including SJSU were using Cisco networking products including routers and switches.

Shortly after President Qayoumi’s arrival in summer 2011, the SJSU IT Governing Board identified its top 10 IT priorities to enable improved teaching, learning and process efficiencies for SJSU within three to five years. The campus then began to identify possible approaches to deliver effective solutions.

SJSU began by studying options available through the Chancellor’s Office. At meetings on and off-campus, chancellor’s representatives worked closely with San Jose State officials to explore conditions at SJSU, review options available through the Chancellor’s Office, and discover other ways to meet the needs of SJSU students, faculty and staff. SJSU determined options offered by the Chancellor’s Office would not meet its needs within the prescribed time frame.

SJSU then looked at the feasibility of utilizing external vendors. The feasibility of a single-vendor approach and a best-of-breed (putting together our own system by choosing components from different vendors) approach were evaluated.

Single-vendor approach

  • integrated technology solutions proven at many organizations
  • coordinated deployment and upgrade paths established by the vendor
  • single point of escalation for technology support problems
  • reduced risk in terms of depending on available SJSU staff knowledge for support
  • may not deliver latest technology features in every infrastructure area

Best-of-breed approach

  • optimized technology solutions for each infrastructure area
  • reduced risk in terms of single vendor going out of business
  • required campus integration between different vendor solutions
  • multiple points of escalation for problem resolution
  • higher reliance on SJSU staff to resolve configuration and compatibility issues
  • typically, more time needed to deploy technology solutions

SJSU selected a single-vendor approach providing Cisco products and services for the following reasons: Cisco was a recognized leader in the wired and wireless networking space; Cisco offered an integrated solution; the single-vendor approach meshed well with available campus staffing and skill sets; and the single-vendor approach met SJSU’s delivery timeline.

To move the campus forward deliberately and quickly, SJSU formed the Next Generation Technology Project, with the goal of creating a pathway to a robust and vibrant IT environment that aligned with the “agility through technology” goal in SJSU’s Strategic Plan and the infrastructure technology needs outlined in the university’s Academic Plan.

It is worth noting that products and services for this project are not purchased directly from Cisco. Cisco sells its products and services through authorized distributors. The CSU had contracted with AT&T to buy Cisco products and services for many years, including products installed at SJSU. SJSU has contracted with Nexus to buy Cisco products and services.  Most, but not all, of the components of SJSU’s network infrastructure are from Cisco.

Did Cisco make donations to SJSU?

Cisco made donations totaling $839,951 from 2006 to 2013.  The majority of these gifts went to the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering, supporting the MESA Engineering Program, student scholarships, peer advisors and many student organizations including the Society of Latino Engineers and Scientists, the Black Alliance of Scientists and Engineers, and the Society of Women Engineers.

In addition, Cisco made a $2,000 gift to SJSU to sponsor a table at the Inauguration Banquet for President Qayoumi. Cisco was one of six entities that sponsored tables at the event.

On a related note, Cisco invited President Qayoumi to speak at a technology conference in Australia and therefore paid for the president’s airfare. This was not a vacation; it was a three-day business trip.

Why wasn’t there a competitive bidding process?

Cisco was chosen through an approved no-bid process because extensive research showed SJSU was entering into a contract for pricing that was 60 percent below market rates and because SJSU wanted to move quickly given the campus was in dire need, particularly with respect to WiFi, computer labs, and data security.

State law permits public agencies to work with single vendors as long as the agencies demonstrate good-faith efforts to secure a fair price. SJSU negotiated deeper discounts for Cisco products and services than other public agencies that had used competitive bidding for similar services. This was well documented in project plans.

The Chancellor’s Office reviewed and approved SJSU’s solicitation plan, in compliance with state law and CSU policy. With these safeguards in place, and given the many years SJSU’s technology needs had been neglected, it made sense to proceed.

UPDATED! Why isn’t SJSU working with the CSU’s networking provider, Alcatel-Lucent?

There was no CSU agreement in place with Alcatel-Lucent when SJSU’s tech project commenced. In a December 2013 memorandum from the Chancellor’s Office to all CSU campuses, Executive Vice Chancellor Quillian wrote “San Jose State is exempted from adopting [Alcatel-Lucent as its network provider]. The campus’ significant, recent investment with a different provider took place prior to the agreement with Alcatel-Lucent.”

The chancellor’s Common Network Initiative (CNI) is focused on the replacement of end-of-life routers, switches, and firewalls. SJSU required far more than replacement parts. The network needed to be expanded, wireless access improved and expanded, the phone system replaced, and academic technology modernized.

If SJSU waited for the Chancellor’s Office’s CNI solution, SJSU would have been required to purchase these items separately (including significant costs to expand the campus wireless network), would not have had the benefit of network upgrades for an additional year, and would not have received the benefits of a unified technology network. SJSU was also concerned about timing. As of fall 2014, it appears CNI has assisted with replacements at just five campuses.

UPDATED! How much has SJSU spent on this? What is SJSU getting for such a big investment?

As of Oct. 1, 2014, SJSU has spent $25.2 million. The project has many concurrent initiatives:

  • security, $1,222,111
  • telephone systems, $3,329,405
  • network, $11,570,862 (This is greater than the original estimate of $9.5 million. The difference covered the replacement of a large number of autonomous networks discovered later on campus.)
  • classroom and video technology, $6,883,230 (This includes both classroom hardware and software licenses for services such as WebEx, Jabber and TelePresence. These tools are available to all students, faculty and staff.)
  • laptop and desktop computers, $346,240
  • servers, web, and professional development, $1,804,209
  • total, $25,156,058

It should be noted that many SJSU departments now have lower telephone bills. Prior to July 2013, SJSU’s IT unit recovered costs for telecommunications by charging campus units a monthly telephone line fee and actual toll charges (local and long distance).

In addition, campus units were charged for moves, adds, and changes to existing services. All telephone lines bore fees, regardless of fund source. General Fund units paid a $5 per month line fee and self-support/auxiliary units paid a $25 per month line fee.

The university funded the differential line fees. Network fees were determined on a case-by-case basis. With the new phone system, state-support campus units will no longer be billed for telecom or network services that are identified as baseline services.

How was the tech upgrade funded?

Through equal contributions from three sources: the Continuing Education Reserve Fund (CERF); the lease and eventual sale of campus broadband capacity; and campus operating funds.

What about student fees?

A portion of the Student Success, Excellence and Technology Fee (SSETF) is set aside for ongoing technology investments.

There are rumors of missing technology equipment. Is that true?

On Oct. 1, the University Police Department arrested Jose Javier Farias on suspicion of burglary and embezzlement of university property. Farias, a university employee, was booked into Santa Clara County jail. He later posted bail and was released.  The police investigation that began in March is continuing. University police encourages anyone with potentially relevant information to contact UPD at 408-924-2222. The university is pursuing recovery of the missing equipment.