Category Archives: Technology

The future is now: an update on the csu data lake

Presenter

  • Brendan Aldrich, Chief Data Officer, CSU Office of the Chancellor

Gartner on Analytics & BI Strategy Key Findings

  • Use only a fraction of their data
  • Modern analytic tech do little to ensure deployment and use
  • Vis and interest have been transformed by AI, but QC has been under the radar for most orgs. Eventual impact may be equally significant

What is Dx (Digital Transformation)? Series of deep and coordinated culture, workforce, and tech shifts that enable new educational and operating models that transform an institution’s ops, strategic directions and value proposition.

Most folk are using the same tools, with small refinements over the last 30+ years.

Traditional Data Issues

  • Create a stable data history from source systems
  • We can answer questions that haven’t yet been asked
  • All our in-use data
  • It’s easy and fast to add new data
  • Focus on cleaning data in sources
  • Do the interesting easy stuff and curate the useful
  • Every team at every campus can iterate independently while maintaining order

Drop ALL data into the data lake > do transformations

CSU Data Lake: A Retrospective

  • June 2017: data lake prototype (data provided to CO collected and housed in SQL Server tables.
  • January 2018: CSU is 1st CA higher ed to appoint a Chief Data Officer

New BI/DW Sub-teams

  • Discover team: data lake architecture & functionality
  • Tomorrow Team: ETL & Modeling
  • FED Team: front end design
  • InfoSec: data privacy, protection and security

Data & Analytics Strategies Driving the Future: CSU Challenge: data is highly distributed across the system and not easily accessible/usable

Architectural Deep Dive

  • Shifting data from on-premise to cloud: Delphix. Data virtualization = secure, lightweight & portable data. Unique block mapping, block aware filtering, efficient compression, secure transfer.
  • Flashed through many complex slides with “enterprise-y looking” architectural diagrams, so I couldn’t effectively capture this info.
  • AWS – DMS: migrate DBs to AWS quickly & securely: homogenous & heterogeneous DB migrations, continuously replicate with HA, Streaming data to Amazon Redshift & S3, AWS schema conversion tool, fast and easy to set-up, supports widely used DBs.

Discovery Team: architectural issue: Oracle vs. Amazon DDL. Oracle does NOT go Redshift. We created a “teleporter” process that does conversion of the DDLs and stores it in RedShift with the data.

Cost optimization: $405/day, moved down $100/day

AWS is providing us with custom patches to improve DMS acceleration results.

We’re talking about creating reserved instances of DMS from Amazon to save costs.

Curated Student Collections

  • Students: student info
  • Students by Term: by terms they attended
  • by class: by enrolled classes
  • By degree: by degree(s) attained
  • by section: by class section offered
  • apps by applicant: by application submitted

Prototyping Tech

  • AWS: crawlers, data catalogs, glue
  • Airflow + Python: hand-crafted ETL platform
  • Alteryx, Matillion, Others: Visual ETL (new prototypes)

What do YOU Get When you Start Using All This?

Curated Data Sets

  • In the next 30 days: work with CIOs and heads of IR to ID participants
  • Data validation: no statewide normalization, does this look like what’s in your SIS?
  • The Goal: access to a set of curated data sets refreshed on a daily basis; once validated, we’ll give you the ETL code; we will assist and advise in implementing a campus environment, if desired

Data validation with Pentaho (shared a view of this tool)

Direct Data Lake Access

  • In the next 60 days: work with CIOs to ID initial participants
  • Looking for pilot campuses: 3-5 pilot campuses with rollout to all other campuses to follow
  • The Goal: direct access to stored copies of all source tables via data lake; campus teleporter: to help campuses spin up RedShift tables from files; we will assist and advise in connection and best practices

We’re about ready to get all you involved!

Data Governance Orchestration

  • Cross functional data governance teams: 17 of our 23 campuses
  • Over the next 6 months we will start coordinating with those teams to actively help to share data gov practices and data dictionary definitions across campuses
  • Introducing our new Student Analytics PM: Angela Williams

data visualization of progress towards degree and financial aid awareness

Presenters

  • Marc Fox, Senior Director, Enterprise Systems, CSUS
  • Shiva Pillai, Strategic Data Analyst, CSUS

CSU Grad Initiative 2010: Sac State’s “Challenge”

  • Increase grad rates
  • Systemwide grad rate: just over 50% of students graduate in 6 years
  • Sac State grad rate: just over 43% of students graduate in 6 years
  • Goal: increase 6 year FT from 43% – 51%
  • Goal: increase transfer rate from 63% – 68%

Theme Group & Directives

  • ID students who are making progress
  • Develop new ways to assign registration appts in supporting this goal
  • Find ways to recognize and report a student’s progress toward degree

Approach

  • How to measure?
  • Develop a points system based on student’s progress towards their degree – measuring completion of acad reqs in their academic program?
  • Keep it simple, fair, and easy to explain

Points system for measuring progress to degree (points do NOT equal to units/credit hours)

  • GE reqs: 40 points (lower division GE: A=7.5, B=7.5, C=7.5, D=7.5, E=3.0) Upper division GE: 7.0 (total GE points)
  • Major reqs: 50 points (Declare a major=8, Major=42 points; pre-majors/impacted majors 14, associated majors = 28)
  • Additional reqs: 10 points (<150 units/credits=5, academic good standing=5)

Q: did academic senate need to approve? Yes, they did weigh in.

Registrar’s Math

  • Degree audit driven by requirements group (RG)
  • Partial completion of RG deserves partial points
  • Keep it fair

And then..why not

  • Meters are visible to students, advisors, administrators
  • Real time in self service: progress meters calculated in real time
  • Snapshot for registration appointments: snapshot of the progress meters is taken the weekend prior to assigning registration appointments.

Keys to Degree Toolbox icons/links are located on a static web page that make access to these tools easy.

Self Service – Real Time Meters

  • Only 1 CAAR report value in the SAA_ADB_RESULTS table
  • Meters are calculated real time with SAA_ADB_RESULTS table
  • TCe/Substitutions/Grade changes effective immediately
  • CAAR reports are batch updated at key points in time during term for all undergrads

Registration

  • Priority Groups: vets, students with disabilities, athletes, honors program
  • Grad Seniors: current semester, subsequent semester
  • Total # of units earned: seniors, Grads Juniors, Sophomores, Freshman
  • 2014 seniors were allotted registration appointments based on progress to degree reports

Overall: we’re getting our most efficient and productive students out quicker.

Student Response

  • Easy to understand the progress meters
  • Real time data
  • Accurate
  • Early turning in substitution and waivers
  • Prompt submission of e-transcripts or late transcripts
  • Impact of multiple major changes

Batch Advisement Processes

  • ADMIN – CAAR Batch
  • Last weekend of each month
  • Freshman, Sophomores, and Juniors
  • Seniors run separately
  • Run time @ 36 hours
  • Refresh tables for accurate reporting

Reporting – Query/Data Warehouse

  • Student progress by dept/plan/class level
  • Combine progress to degree data with any other tables

Other stuff we did

  • We created Financial Aid FA Meters for Pell Grant, State Grand, and Federal Load
  • We also added a what-if progress to degree comparison tool within
  • Future development: cloud, mods & bolt-ons, new technology?
  • FluidUI
  • iPaaS
  • Tableau/EAB/Civitas/Salesforce

Demo

Developing Digital Citizens and technology ambassadors

Presenters

  • Peter Mosinskis (PS), Director of IT Strategy, CSUCI
  • Dawn Canfield (DC), Manager of User Services, CSUCI
  • Tara Hughes (TH), Interim Manager Administrative Services, CSUCI
  • Michael Mcgarry (MM), Instructional Technologist (lead), CSUCI
  • Wendy Olsen (WO), Learning & Development Specialist, CSUCI

We started with some PollEverywhere questions, who’s here, what is digital citizenship. This gauged the sentiment of the room before we got rolling.

Wendy Olsen: my role is kind of as an ambassador, training people on how to use our applications, what it means to be a responsible digital citizen, etc. so that our colleagues get what they need.

Dawn Canfield: I used to work at UCLA in a highly decentralized environment. In that kind of environment it’s easy to experience friction. At UCLA we called our group “BruinTech”

Michael Mcgarry: I train our faculty on our LMS, but that scales beyond faculty. I’m big on knocking down silos and making tech less intimidating.

Tara Hughes, I manage our campus help center and function as a liaison between many areas. Our help desk is 90% students, so I start with the student perspective.

What do you feel are the primary components in building digital citizenship?

DC: we marketed our efforts as “tech talks,” focused around a particular product, i.e. Zoom. We’d use a “speed dating” approach to teaching attendees how to use the tools, like tips, shortcuts, basic features, and so on.

WO: we made it fun and engaging. They always asked for more of these sessions, and that they’d be longer. They wanted “right away” jolts of info they could take back to work with them.

MM: we started with SMEs, but we were able to bring in previous attendees to allow THEM to talk about how they’ve been using the product(s). They often become the ambassadors for learning how to use the tools.

TH: having people who are not “technology leaders” provide feedback as ambassadors has been wonderful. We developed our training in our LMS using student feedback, which provided highly useful feedback that’s more friendly.

What are the attributes that make a great tech ambassador and how do we engage with them?

WO: reach out to your HR and development folk, academic and staff trainers first. It comes naturally to them to brainstorm on a variety of areas. Folk who do the work and use the tools on a regular basis are great candidates…especially students! Getting them to talk about tech in a fun way is effective.

Lots of questions from the audience:

  • Did you have a sponsor for the program?
  • Did you apply for an innovation grant?
  • Was this a collaboration effort across departments?
  • Are these TED talks open to students too?
  • What kind of duties/responsibilities do your student assistants have?
  • Are there any in leadership or supervisor roles (student team leads etc)?

DC: Peter and I are the only IT folk on this panel. We couldn’t do the work we do without colleagues like we have on the stage here with us.

MM: the collaborative work we do has to be done together. We have a strong culture of sharing and that’s the way it has to work, in my opinion.

TH: our re-org split areas out of IT and put them into different areas like HR and academic affairs. This is not a bad thing though…it’s allowed IT to be invited to the table in contexts that they may not have been involved in before.

We use our students as our first line of support. A lot of what we do isn’t necessarily scripted, so we really work to develop critical thinking skills. I have a majority female student staff, and this has helped to develop them into careers that they might not have considered previously.

MM: students are the ones we can count on to provide brutal feedback (laughter at this). Our SAs work with faculty all day, and their diverse backgrounds keeps us grounded as we work with faculty.

DC: anyone can come to our talks! We allow folk to do product reviews like new computers, printers, mobile devices, and so on.

MM: we also developed “EchoTech,” a self-paced course in the LMS on how to use the different products we use. We did ones on DropBox and Zoom, Google Docs, with more on the way.

TH: when Dawn came, we developed the EchoTech newsletter, which we send out monthly, including updates, outages, training, and more.

How do we ID technologies to include in this?

DC: free or freely available tools are the ones I wanted to focus on.

MM: the tools that are focused on the widest number of people, like the LMS. We prefer to over-communicate.

TH: for Zoom, our academic advising has opened up scheduling.

WO: online/on-demand needs to be backed up by in-person training.

If you were interested in starting up a digital citizenship program, what’s the one thing you’d do?

DC: you’re already doing it, so keep doing it!

MM: take a look at the people you have on campus and the champions you can leverage to push further across campus beyond your core team.

TH: most of us have SAs, even if we don’t directly oversee them. Look for students from a range of different majors, and create a pathway for diversifying your team.

WO: keep up on training opportunities, consider what digital citizenship means. Say it out loud: “you can be a tech ambassador yourself!”

Q: How did you go about marketing the tech talks?

DC & WO: we have campus-wide staff development communications; we’ve also done flyers and web marketing. Pictures were helpful in getting the message out. We’ve also had some vendor sponsorship.

AVAILABILITY ON THE SPOT: THE USE OF AWS SPOT INSTANCES TO ACHIEVE COST EFFECTIVE AVAILABILITY

Presenters

  • Lisa Smith, Infrastructure Engineer, CSUN
  • Steven Fitzgerald, Professor & Director of META+LAB, CSUN
  • Jorge Ruiz, Infrastructure Engineer, CSUN

META-LAB experience: provide real-world experience to CSUN students

New project = new problem

  • Create a new environment that is highly available and highly scalable for the lowest cost possible
  • When hosting a new app an IT team needs to determine the best solution for hosting the app
  • We considered: upfront cost, scalability, end-user satisfaction

Cloud Computing

Practice of using a network of remote servicers hosted on the internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server

On-demand delivery of IT resources

Deployment Models

  • On-premise: physical in-house infrastructure
  • Al-in-cloud all virtualized cloud infra
  • Hybrid: on-premise and all-in-cloud

Pricing Models

  • On-demand: pay-as-you-go
  • Reserved: pay in advance and save the most (nothing up-front, partial up-front, all up-front)
  • Spot: savings up to 90%, dedicated (VERY CHEAP)

To Amazon, spot instances are unused “spare machines” nobody is using, and therefore wasting money from Amazon’s perspective.

AWS Terminology and Services

  • Region is a geographical area
  • Each region is made of 2 or more availability zones (achieves fault tolerance and stability, regions are isolated from one another)
  • You enable and control data replication across regions: when you distribute apps across multiple AZs, be aware of location-dependent privacy and compliance requirements.
  • EZ AZ is made up of 1 or more data centers
  • VPC: Networking component; same functionalities of an on-premise network (subnets, route tables, NAC lists, etc.)
  • EC2 and ELB: virtual servers and elastic load balancing (distribute incoming traffic, adjust to rapid changes in network traffic by distributing across multiple EC2 instances in the cloud w/out manual intervention.
  • Lambda: fully managed serverless compute, zero-admin compute platform, lets you run code w/out provisioning or managing servers, pay only for the compute time you consume.
  • Amazon Databases: RDS (MySQL, MSSQL Server, Postgresql, MariaDB, Oracle. High durability and highly available (multiple deployment types).

Availability on the Spot

  • https://calstatepays.org
  • How do we use cloud services to improve our infra and decrease costs for the client?
  • Make sure the infra was highly available and fault tolerant

Challenges of Spot Instances

  • Spot price fluctuates
  • Hourly prices is based on demand
  • 2 minute interruption warning(!)
  • Typically used if you can afford interruptions

Forming Solutions

For calstatepays.org: EC2 Spot Instances, Cloudwatch (triggering a Lambda function if the alarm is triggered), ELB to control traffic. An infrastructure diagram was shared.

Cloudwatch constantly watches our instances, when someone is willing to pay more for our spot instances, it tells us about the 2-minute warning so we can be proactive and do something about it. We call a Lambda function which spins up an additional spot instance for us, and it is configured so that it is registered with and works with our ELB. We use AMIs (pre-built images) that are configured for our application.

Final Thoughts

This solution allowed us to build an inexpensive and fault-tolerant infrastructure for CalStatePays.org.

Q: how often have spot instances gone done for you? I don’t think we’ve changed our spot instance price for three months.

Q: Is there the possibility that both instances could go down? Yes, that can happen but it’s very rare. The 2-minute window is enough notice in our experience. We have an 18-month history of costs, and over 6 months it didn’t actually go up at all.

Q: can you do this for RDS as well? Yes.

Q: where are user sessions stored? Our application was an SPA (single page application); we never wrote to the local disk, it was always retrieved from the RDS instance. Load balancer will help to handle this.

Q: in Lambda, does your rule account for cost increases? YES! It queries current prices and selects the lowest cost one based on a bidding rule that we set, i.e. the least amount of money.

Q: you have used spot instances exclusively for this app, or is anything in “on-demand” instances? Only our RDS is on an on-demand instance. And we monitor that with a separate Lambda function. You’ve found that there’s always a spot instance available? Yes. In our experience, it’s worked well. Prices are pretty steady, but you can monitor that.

Q: how long have you been running the app in this scenario: Feb/Mar.

Accessibility compliance and sustainable business processes for web, instructional materials, and procurement

Presenters

  • Cheryl Pruitt (CP), Director, Accessible Technology, CSU Office of the Chancellor
  • Sue Cullen (SC), Assistant Director, CSU Office off the Chancellor
  • Leslie Kennedy (LK), Director, Academic Technology Solutions, CSU Office of the Chancellor

When you think of Accessibility Compliance and Sustainable Business Processes, What comes to Mind?

  • It’s difficult!
  • Voting
  • Reading lunch menu
  • Viewing sports events
  • Frankly anything!

Does this affect many people? YES

  • 2010 census report, about 56.7 million people – 19 percent of the population – had a disability
  • % of undergrads who reported having a disability was 19.4 percent in 15/16
  • 26 percent of undergrads who were vets reported having a disability
  • CSU students with disabilities self identified and validated: 2016 16,429 verified disability!

Accessibility is a Civil Right

  • Rehabilitation Act of 1973, section 504 and 508
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 1990
  • Campus violations can result in charges of discriminatory practices by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR)
  • Get buy-in from faculty, staff, and administration on the importance of accessibility as a civil right

Neglecting Accessibility…A Closer Look

  • OCR complaints: student and outsider complaints
  • Lawsuits: National Federation of the Blind, National Association of the Deaf

Sustainable Business Processes to Support

  • Civil rights
  • Students academic pursuits (curriculum, extracurricular)
  • Faculty, staff, administrators and the public
  • Universal Design approach to support goals of inclusion and Civil Rights

ATI Supporting Civil Rights

  • Policy: collaborative development, report development, assessment data – ATI Annual reports, training ATI maturity model
  • Generic sustainable business process development: 3 COPs, Working groups, accessible technology network, proof of concepts, campus exemplar examples shared in COP groups, Sharepoint website.
  • Governed through EO 1111. “It is CSU policy to ensure that individuals with disabilities shall have ewqual access to and the opportunity to participate in CSU programs, activities and services.”

CSU ATI Framework: Policy, 3 priority areas, Strategies

  • CMM: 25 goals and 150+ success indicators
  • Continuous business process improvement with strong executive support
  • Make a campus plan > Work the campus plan > Measure Progress
  • 3 high level priority areas: Procurement, Instructional Materials, Web

ATI Steering Committee

  • Provides support, resources, guides implementation, approves plan and ATI reports.
  • ATI steering committee chair, PM, VPs, Academic Senate, DSS, ADA compliance officer

Determine Impact: ATI Prioritization Framework 5-Step Approach

  1. Assess risk factors (impact, likelihood of significant barriers, probability: likelihood of consequences)
  2. Assign risk level (High, Medium, Low)
  3. Determine campus capacity (What resources needed?)
  4. Set priority level (to determine course of action consider the risk level to campus)
  5. Take action (document decisions, acquire resources needed)

Q: where do success indicators come from? Who created them? CP: no blueprint existed when we started out. We adopted a capability maturity model because of the scale/depth/breadth of scope. Our success criteria ended up appearing in some of our OCR complaints.

Q: is there any data showing student success based on any of this? CP: users are not self-identifying, so it’s tough. We DO have data on students served with accommodations.

Generic sustainable business process development

  • Goals and success indicators provide a roadmap for moving ATI forward: applying status levels, creating generic business processes
  • ATI Prioritization Framework: impact and probability – risk assessment
  • Roles & responsibilities: president appoint ATI sponsor; steering committee

Generic 4 Step Process

  1. Procurement: templates, roles & responsibilities, vendor requirements
  2. VPAT review process and training
  3. Estimated effort to implement process; individual campus: procurement process training and VPAT training
  4. CO procurement product reviews RFPs, MEAs, etc.: Vendor and RFP requirements, document reviews, vendor consultation, vendor demo

ATI Services Network

  • Processes design and template development
  • Library database accessibility documentation critical review
  • Web support for systemwide automated evaluation tool: systemwide shared checkpoints; training

Web

  • Automated and manual systemwide web training: video training & participation assessment
  • For all members of the campus community: intro to accessibility
  • Web Developers: HTML5 accessibility; JS accessibility; Compliance Sheriff Product training
  • Web content creators and web developers
  • Manual evaluation worksheet template and training resource

Instructional Materials

  • AIMHub services
  • Captioning roles & responsibilities 3rd party contract (CaptionSync): training, prioritization, custom video training webinars
  • CommonLook Pilot: tools & remediation services contract
  • Library database reviews
  • Faculty Information Home: navigation of online materials, how-to materials, administrative and planning considerations, shared student work, resources

Cheryl reviewed the procurement working group’s 4-step process development.

CSU Addressing Accessibility Requirements Project (CAARP)

  • Formed to follow-up on the letter to Presidents from Dr. Blanchard
  • Designed to augment/complement and should support the strong foundation of your ongoing ATI projects, ATI staff, and annual ATI self-eval processes that campuses have been conducting for over 10 years
  • Plans should be submitted for review and approval to Chancellor White by September 6, 2019

Who handles issues around CSU compliance?

  • ATI
  • Office of Chancellor, general counsel
  • Audit