Category Archives: Uncategorized

Moving to the Cloud with Amazon Web Services


  • Ron Kraemer, VP and CIO, University of Notre Dame
  • Ryan Frazier, Director, System Engineering & Operations, Harvard Business School
  • Sarah Christen, Director of Community Platforms and CIO, Cornell University
  • Mike Chapple, Senior Director, IT Service Delivery, University of Notre Dame
  • Blake Chism, IT Transformation Sr., Amazon Web Services


Session Introduction

RC: we want to accomplish 1 major goal: roadmap and framework to take back to campus and “deal with the cloud in your culture and your world.”

It’s not perfect, and it’s a lot of work. BUT, it’s better service to our universities if we do it well.

SC: we’re a cloud-first institution. Lots of leadership change since that initiative started. We have 62 accounts under our master contract (master contract signed 18 months ago). Lots of accounts outside our contract. About $300K annual spend outside the IT org…we have a very distributed IT model.

We call the transformation “cloudification.” It’s a partnership with campus IT units. We refactor for most effective use of cloud technologies and containerization vs. “lift and shift.” Central IT must be the expert that campus wants to come to for help. We want to enable, not enforce (we do have SOME requirements to move to the master contract). We understand that if IaaS isn’t better with us, campus will make the move without us. We allow campus technologists to focus on unit differentiators central IT can help with the utilities.

Reqs for Cornell Master Contract

  • Onboarding discussion
  • Attestation
  • Shibboleth for authentication
  • DUO for multi-factor authentication for AWS Console access
  • Lock down root account, escrow with security office
  • Activation of AWS config
  • Activation of CloudTrail
  • CloudTrail logs sent to Security office
  • Activation of Cloudcheckr

What About Researcher AWS Accounts?

  • Easy onboarding without a lot of steps or complication
  • No interference with their research. No overhead (cost or performance)
  • Solutions for export control data and other compliance reqs.
  • Standard network config not always a good fit. “I am an island, not part of Cornell campus.”
  • Technical consultation options: docker, data storage, training, devops support


  • All centrally hosted apps are being moved if possible
  • Infrastructure services are a large part of our on prem inventory
  • Campus units are moving more quickly than our central IT org

Biggest Challenge to Cloud Transformation: RESISTANCE TO CHANGE

RF: I’m director of Infrastructure Customer and Project Services. Initiated cloud strategy and planning when I was in the central IT division.

Cloud @Harvard

  • <2013: Exploration. Very early adopters at Harvard Medical School (research lab), pockets of uncoordinated use, little use within central and school-level IT departments.
  • 2013-2016: Alignment. We got enterprise agreement, direct billing and enterprise support services, laid technical foundations, brought on early adopters, developed cloud strategy.
  • 2016-?: Implementation. Accelerating adoption at all levels, i.e. labs, initiatives, schools, and central IT; shared service roadmaps; early adopters beginning to focus on optimization.

The Case for Cloud

  • Quality, cost, reliability, speed.
  • Our goal was to have 75% of our infrastructure at AWS by 2017. We’re currently at 31%.

HBX: Can We Deliver the Rich Interactive Experience of the Business School Online?

  • Move fast – 90 days to build, implement and launch application and registration system, < 1 year for complete course platform
  • Run independent of HBS IT – minimize impact on eisting services, enable new approaches to new needs
  • Be able to scale up or down rapidly – prepare for success or failure of the experiment

AWS Service Mix

  • 17 VPCs, 23 ELBs, 135 EC2 instances, 345 EBS volumes, 18TB instance storage, 4 Redshift Clusters, 18 RDS DBs, 30+ TB loaded via snowball, 78 TB object storage
  • Storage is a very small part of our spend (data transfer is 1%)
  • EC2 is about 58% of our spend

Notre Dame’s Journey to the Cloud

Why move at all? For us, we were sitting on an aging data center infrastructure. A capital investment – particularly cooling – had to happen if were going to continue. Tech demands from students, faculty and administrators outpaced our time and budget. In 2012, emergency communications were a critical concern.


Originally we moved the web site as part of an emergency mitigation effort – “can we move the site in the event of an emergency?”

  • 3 web servers
  • load-driven autoscaling
  • Geographic diversity
  • It was really an easy move for us


  • 435 web sites
  • 4 million monthly views
  • db as a service
  • ElastiCache

Cloud First

  • In 2013, we began having conversations about “why don’t we move everything over?”
  • We wanted to take advantage of what the cloud offers: 80% by the end of 2017; we’re at 59% today.
  • SaaS first, then PaaS, then IaaS, then on-prem.
  • Setting a goal created “a line in the sand,” that made it real for our people.

What We Learned

  • Rethink technical roles. NOBODY IS GOING TO LOSE THEIR JOB! However, you might not be doing the same job three years from now…
  • We were a very siloed organization prior to the cloud move. As a result of our move, those silos are breaking down.
  • Rethink security processes and tools (this was hard for us). We’re not mapping THINGS 1-to-1, we’re mapping OBJECTIVES.
  • Leverage automation – we’ve used ansible
  • Practical financial engineering. Our data center manager is now the guy who is our financial expert, who gives us insight into our costs. We’ve standardized on regions, instances (T2 class – about 3/4 of all our instances), use of reserve instances, etc.
  • Make a few choices and just go with them!

Cloud Transformation Maturity Model

  • Project Stage: limited knowledge, executive support, inability to purchase, limited confidence, no clear ownership or direction.
  • Foundation Stage
  • Migration Stage
  • Optimization Stage

Blake Chism from AWS: we developed this model to help you figure out where you are in the process. We’ve found that for most of our customers, procurement conversations are getting easier, but they’re still a challenge. If the central IT team helps take ownership, it can help organizations move forward more effectively, i.e. central IT not perceived as “being in the way.”

If your team has good processes now, your move will be much easier.

Project Stage

No matter what, you need to have a business case, a reason why you’re doing it. The roadmap helps describe how you’re doing it. Governance models evolve, and you get better at understanding them. Services change, and you need to have a plan about how you’ll integrate them (or not).

POC are much easier because if it doesn’t work, you can simply shut it off and you’re only out a few bucks. Try things out!

During the Project Stage, establish a “Cloud Center of Excellence” or “Cloud Competency Center” to get the organization moving in the right direction.

Foundation Stage

Lack of a detailed organizational transformation plan can be a challenge. Do a staff skills gap analysis to help you here.

Migration Stage

Should be as short as possible to get over the hump of hybrid and duplicate hosting. All-in will allow you to BEGIN doing new and exciting things. Imagine a space where the default state of, say, development environments, is OFF. All in is just the end of the adoption journey.

Were your enterprise systems like LMS, SIS, HR, Financials and the portal viewed as special and treated differently from smaller apps? Have you moved them yet?

  • Cornell: our KFS (Kuali) finance moved first (we dockerize ours) high availability on file shares was an early challenge (EFS – Elastic File Services are out now)
  • Harvard: IdM was first, we do Peoplesoft now, Oracle e-business is happening now
  • ND: ERP and LMS  – do not separate db servers and application servers!

AWS Cloud Adoption Journey

ALL: we use our AWS solutions architects extensively, and we’ve relied on AWS consulting almost exclusively for our migrations. These interactions have helped to accelerate our staff learning, because our staff are the ones who will need to maintain it long-term.

The professional services unit can help you figure out the high-level ecosystem you need for your particular situation. Enterprise support services is a bit pricey, but it’s useful in many cases.

SC: at Cornell, we created a 100 day training program that includes getting Amazon Solutions Architect certification. This is a good way to assure a certain level of competency. Some schools are using our model for training up their people, and they’re also using it as a way to network and learn new things, i.e. get names of people at other institutions that are going through the same problems.

Building the Roadmap – “Cloud Adoption Framework”

More details here:

Organizes and describes the perspectives in planning, creating, managing, and supporting a modern IT service. Provides practical guidance and comprehensive guidelines for establishing, developing and running AWS cloud-enabled environments.

Don’t try to use all the components at once! Have your Cloud Center of Excellence (or whatever you choose to call it) do it in sprints by taking five or six of the elements and working through them.

In the private sector, the push to move to the cloud typically comes from the top. In higher ed IT, the push to move to the cloud typically comes from below. What we’ve often done is break off a small part of our budget, and use it to fund an “engineering SkunkWorks” where we can do the POCs and get staff buy-in. If the “where you do computing versus how you do computing” equation doesn’t click in your leadership’s minds, you’re going to have a hard time going anywhere.

Student Affairs and Social Media

Warning:  I’m about to sound like a curmudgeon.  I’ve held my tongue (so to speak) on this topic for several years now, but Eric Stoller’s post today in Inside Higher Ed was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  And to be clear, this has nothing to do with this specific post, or with Eric personally.  I’ve never met Eric, and I find many of his posts thought-provoking and entertaining.  I just had to put what I’ve been thinking about into words.

Maybe I need to broaden my online reading horizons, but whenever I see posts about technology in student affairs, nine times out of ten it’s about social media.  Social media and leadership.  Social media and identity.  Social media and the admissions process.  Social media and emergency notification systems.  Social media and campus climate.  Social media and why you’re missing the boat if you’re not on the latest platform.  Enough already!  Without a doubt, social media is important, and there are interesting ramifications for students with this new “permanent record” that we older folks haven’t come to grips with yet.

Many rising stars in the student affairs profession are brilliant at using social media as a platform for self-promotion.  An irrepressibly upbeat attitude coupled with a positive message goes a long way in this field.  If you have an EdD, you’re probably also an unstoppable force of nature and you don’t give a damn what I think.  Popularity contests don’t bother me.  What bothers me is the implicit connection being made that somehow social media IS technology.

That’s wrong, and it really grinds my gears.  Mastery of social media is not the same thing as mastery of technology.

Legions of IT pros in student affairs support an incredibly diverse range of systems, services and infrastructure.  Most of them work behind the scenes and don’t draw any attention to themselves.  It just so happens that the things they work on aren’t perceived as being as sexy as “SoMe.”  But the systems they manage are an integral part of what makes a university run.  And if any of those systems fail, boy howdy.

What makes social media interesting as a technology (at least to me) is that they’re platforms designed from the ground up AS PLATFORMS.  They’re easy to integrate with and can “talk to” virtually any system you can shake a stick at.  But this isn’t what student affairs social media evangelists talk about.  They instead use it as a fulcrum to leverage against current hot topics in the field.

I usually don’t complain without bringing some sort of solution to the table, but in this case I’m annoyed and need to vent a bit.  Maybe the quiet techies need to speak up more and participate in standards-making bodies.  Maybe they should be more active in (gasp) social media.  The only thing I can say for sure is that I’d really like to see the student affairs social media evangelists slow their roll a smidge.

Frankly, I doubt this post will resonate with anyone.  Hardly a surprise, given my massive double-digit readership.  Maybe I should take the hint and use social media more effectively << sighs >>

If You Build It: The Power of Design to Change the World


Emily Pilloton, Founder and Executive Director, Project H Design


Project H Design was created out of a sense of frustration.  Emily began as an architect and after 3 years, was “totally over it.”  She was designing doorknobs and lighting fixtures and found it extremely dull.  It was disconnected from what the things that made her fall in love with architecture in the first place:  getting dirty and solving interesting projects with other people.  Project H is in it’s 8th year.  MacGyver was Emily’s first crush, not just because he’s cute, but because he solves problems in unconventional ways.  Her two grandmothers were very strong and creative women (and librarians!), who invested a lot into their professional practices.

Experience More Important Than Content

We have a responsibility to create learning experiences for our young people that are meaningful.

My partner and I were invited to a failing school district to use design “by any means” to help it succeed.  The results of this was Studio H, a class that takes place during the school day for which students earn credit.  Students create something that is architectural that has a public benefit.  The first project was to build a farmer’s market, which in Windsor, North Carolina was a revolutionary idea.  Now, a big part of architecture is to sell your idea to stakeholders.  This brought people together that would normally not speak with each other…a big win.


  • $50,000 construction budget
  • Construction crew of teenagers
  • Hurricane zone
  • Flood zone


Construction began on the first day of summer.  When everyone else was going out on Jet Skis, my students showed up every day in extreme heat and humidity.  Labor law in South Carolina says that children under 17 cannot operate power machinery on a construction site.  As a result, we had only one student who could operate the chop saw.

RESULT:  this project created 4 new businesses and 17 full-time positions!

STUDENT QUOTE:  “I want to come back here with my kids someday and tell them that I built this”

Seeking is More Important Than Knowing

A constant state of inquiry is important to moving forward.  Our next project was done in Berkeley, California…pretty much at the opposite end of the spectrum from our first project.  Students here come from pretty much everywhere and span the range of experience.  These children wanted to build a library as their class gift back to their school.

The students wanted their library to be a space for discovery, not reference.  How to build a library that is meaningful to all 108 students in the 8th grade?  We use building blocks built by a CNC Router to build modular shelving, tables, etc.  While the project feels unfinished and uncomfortable to Emily, because it doesn’t feel finished.  However, it’s exactly what the students wanted.

Student quote to Emily about her unease:  “In algebra, X is the unknown.  The X-Space is where we go tot discover the things we don’t know.”

We is Greater Than I

I’m super-introverted and don’t like to work with other people.  However, I know that collaboration is important to creativity.  I’ve found that collaboration is less about democracy and more about trust.  The next project we worked on was to build two “tiny homes.”

I had my students build about 100 different models.  We did precedent studies that made students think through all the different reasons why they should include different design elements into a project, like space, lighting, flow through, etc.

We purchased trailers and reinforced them.  The day that we raised the walls was my favorite day.  25 teenagers had to work together to get it set up and squared together.  The students really wanted to use pallets, which I can tell you was NOT easy to work with.  The homes turned out beautiful!  One was auctioned, and one was given to a an organization that supports the homeless.

STUDENT QUOTE:  “I gave someone a place to live.  Oh, and I got an A in this class and know how to build a house.”

Curiosity is More Important Than Passion

Passion is big, often difficult to quantify, and hard to access for some.  Curiosity, on the other hand, is incremental, approachable and generates more creativity.

  • Learn to use a set of tools
  • How do you use this to express your own ideas
  • How do you use this to apply yourself to build something bigger with other people

STUDENT QUOTE:  “I’m a 10 year old girl and I know how to weld.  What can’t I do?”

How to Use the EDUCAUSE CDS to Support Student Success


  • Susan Grajek, Vice President, Data, Research, and Analytics, EDUCAUSE
  • Laurie Heacock, National Director of Data, Technology and Analytics, Achieving the Dream, Inc.
  • Louis Kompare, Director, Information Systems and Services, Lorain County Community College
  • Celeste M. Schwartz, VP for IT & IR, Montgomery County Community College

Susan kicked off this session by describing what the CDS is.  It’s been around for over 10 years, includes data from over 800 institutions and allows members to use it to:

  • Study their IT org
  • To benchmark against past performance
  • To look at trends over time
  • To start gathering and using metrics
  • To have data available “just in case”


Improve Student Outcomes Through an Institutional Approach that Strategically Leverages Technology. Data shared today come from module 3 of the CDS

Student Success Technologies Maturity Index

These 6 measurements are set by subject matter experts, and are measured against a 5 point radar scale

  1. Leadership and governance
  2. Collaboration and involvement
  3. Advising and student support
  4. Process and policy
  5. Information systems
  6. Student Success analytics

Maturity Index

  1. Weak
  2. Emerging
  3. Developing
  4. Strong
  5. Excellent

Deployment Index

  1. No deployment
  2. Expected deployment
  3. Initial deployment
  4. targeted deployment
  5. institution-wide deployment


Provide higher ed institutions with a reliable, affordable, and useful set of tools to benchmark and improve the cost and quality of IT services, improving the value and efficiency of IT’s contribution to higher education.


Complete Core Data > order and configure reports > receive and use reports.  It takes between 40 and 70 hours to complete, but data is saved for auto-filling the following year.  This speeds the re-entry process considerably.

You can also use the reports for benchmarking against other institutions.  You can create your own, and some peer groups are pre-provided for you.

Achieving the Dream’s Institutional Capacity Framework

Montgomery County Community College (near Philadelphia), about 13,000 students, participating in CDS for about 13 years.  Celeste then went on…In the past, we used CDS more on the justification of new staff.  We used to look at numbers of computers for students, but we tend to look at those numbers less today.  What’s really helped us recently are in how we ask questions about technology.  While you only HAVE to complete module 1, I recommend you dip your toes in some of the other modules.  I’ve used SurveyMonkey to extend my reach and gather additional information from other folks, and then moved it into CDS.  The CDS is really helping to drive our own IT strategic plan.

Lorain Community College (near Cleveland), about 12,000 students, participating in CDS for 2 years.  Our enrollment is highly tied to local industry; local business cycles make make our completion rates look terrible!  CDS is the most valuable way I have to find out the various elements of IT in the higher ed world.  It really helps to discover the things that change from year-to-year.

Top 10 IT Issues Sneak Peek

Coming out in January in EDUCAUSE Review.  IT security is the #1 issue.  Three dimensions that will be discussed in the upcoming report:

  • Divest:  change the way you design, deliver and manage IT services.  Eliminate old processes and silos!
  • Reinvest:  to run state-of-the-art technology services, you need to double down on some things, like information security.  Hiring and retaining good talent, along with restructuring that talent to meet the changing needs of delivering IT services.  The ability to change funding models to meet those needs is also important.
  • Differentiate: institutions are now able to apply technology to strategically meet their goals and differentiate themselves from other institutions.  Ability to apply analytics against strategic objectives is hugely valuable to help provide feedback on where we are and what we need to do to improve.

Opening Up Learning Analytics: Addressing a Strategic Imperative


  • Josh Baron, Assistant Vice President, Information Technology for Digital Education, Marist College
  • Lou Harrison, Director of Educational Technology Services, NC State University
  • Donna Petherbridge, Associate Vice Provost, DELTA, NC State University
  • Kenny Wilson, Division Chair-Health Occupation Programs, Jefferson College

This is actually a follow-up to one of my recent posts about a webinar I attended by Unicon on learning analytics.  We have representatives from three different LMSes:  Moodle, Sakai, and Blackboard.  Looks like Lou and Josh from that webinar are here…I’m looking forward to learning more about this effort!  Word of warning:  they moved fast, so I missed some detail, particularly around the workflow and data-heavy slides.  My Student Affairs colleagues will want to tune into the question I asked at the end…

Open Learning Analytics:  Context & Background

OAI, or the Open Academic Analytics Initiative:  EDUCAUSE Next Generation learning Challenges (NGLC).  Funded by Bill & Melinda Gates foundations, $250,000 over a 15 month period.  Goal:  leverage big data concepts to create an open-source academic early alert system and research “scaling factors”

LMS & SIS data is fed into a predictive scoring model, which is then fed into an academic alert report.  From there, an intervention is deployed (“awareness” or Online Academic Support Environment – OASE)

Research design:  rolled out to 2,200 students in 4 institutions:  2 community colleges, and 2 historically black colleges and universities.  More detail on the approach and results here.

Strategic Lessons Learned

Openness will play a critical role in the future of learning analytics.

  • Used all open source tools:  Weka, Kettle, Pentaho, R, Python, etc.
  • Open standards and APIs:  Experience API (xAPI), IMS Caliper/Sensor API
  • Open Models:  predictive models, knowledge maps, PMML, etc.
  • Open Content/Access:  journals, whitepapers, policy documents
  • Openness or Transparency with regard to ethics/privacy
  • NOT anti-commercial, commercial ecosystems help sustain OSS

Software silos limit usefulness

  • Platform approach makes everything more useful

NC State Project

  • Getting everyone moving in the same direction is a challenge.
  • The number one priority we have at NC is student success, and we know that data is going to help us get there.  However, we have different vendors approaching us independently, each with their own selling points on what they could do to help us.
  • Lunch and learn sessions, bring people up to speed on what questions to ask, and start thinking about who can generate answers.  It took us 10 months to get everyone together
  • Division of Academic & Student Affairs has purchased EAB; concurrently, we’re working on LAP.  Continued conversations with campus partners will have to happen.

From Proof to Production:  Toward Learning Analytics for the Enterprise

  • Initial steps:  small sample sizes, predictions at 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 points in course, multi-step manual process
  • Goal 1: make it more enterprise-y.  Use large sample sizes (all student enrollments), frequent early runs (maybe daily), automatic no more than 1 click
  • Currently in progress:  rebuild infrastructure for scale; daily snapshots of fall semester data; after fall semester ends look for the sweet spot.
  • Future goals:  refine model even more; segment model by population; balance between models and accuracy; refine and improve models over time; explore ways to track efficacy over time; once we intervene we can never go back to virgin state

Jefferson Project

  • Why is JC seeking LAP implementation?  First time pass rate of Anatomy and Physiology is 54%.  Only 27% re-take.  37% non-persistence rate (DFW).  Need to find ways to help students succeed.
  • How is it going?  We have a 4 year grant.  Compliance letter came in May of 2015.  Implement PREP program in October 2015, LAP roll-out in 10/1/2016, with one year to test.  We use Student Participation System data and feed it into the system.
  • Why use SPS data?  It’s readily available; part of HLC Quality Initiative; less politically charged; shown to correlate with student success; clear map of data schema; data is very robust, more data there than we are presently using; data is “complete” (better than Bb data; less complete than original LAP design).
  • Each instructor will receive an Academic Alert Report.

My question:  have you considered integration of co-curricular data into your models?  YES!  We’re very interested in integration of co-curricular data, because it’s often a better indicator for student success than LMS data.  Vincent Tinto’s research clearly indicates this, but our implementation of this is probably a phase 3 or phase 4 thing.