SPSS—Now Free for all Wayne State Students!!


We now have a license for all WSU students to download a copy of SPSS, the best-known commercial statistical software package. Any registered student is entitled to download a copy to their personal computer for free. Because of the way SPSS is licensed, it is only valid until the end of June of this year, but students can update the license starting in July 2015.

Because access is online students can do the download 24/7. They just need to visit


and log in with their WSU AccessID and password. Click ‘Student Software’, then choose SPSS from the column on the left, then select the product wanted. Detailed instructions can be found here.

Availability is restricted to students enrolled in a degree program. It must be installed on a personally-owned computer, and cannot be used for work-related purposes by those who are also employees (and, alas, it’s not available for free for those who are ‘just’ employees). Contact clearinghouse@wayne.edu if there are problems getting to the SPSS link.

How to read a ‘popular’ science article

Occasionally I read boingboing.net, hosted by Cory Doctorow, who’s written extensively on the future of technology. Although not directly related to the central topic of this blog, I found this very interesting, and very valuable. Especially speaking as (wearing my other hat) a scientist in a field whose research is often misunderstood and misreported:


Boingboing article

Have You Tried Turning It Off And On Again?

Those of you familiar with British sitcoms might be aware of the show The IT Crowd, about an IT support office for a huge but mysterious company. Their catchphrase is the title of this blog. The reason I’m bringing this up is that C&IT is going to do just that this coming Sunday. Everything you know and love will go away from midnight Saturday night till 10 AM Sunday morning, and this blog is intended to provide a sense of why this is being done and what effects it will have.

As you might imagine, C&IT has hundreds of servers, running Pipeline, Blackboard, Banner and even each other. The last bit is because much of the C&IT infrastructure runs on virtual machines rather than having one operating system per machine, and there is also complex load balancing going on. When there are thousands of people visiting Blackboard at the same time a ‘traffic cop’ assigns them to different routes to the basic Blackboard files.
Consequently, the electrical power demands of these hundreds of units are very large, and require  a very elaborate system to assure continuous power. The system includes an enormous battery back-up system, and beyond that, a natural gas-powered generator to power the entire building independently when power problems occur. All this is necessary to deal with the vagaries of electrical supply in the city of Detroit, especially during the peak-demand summer months.

The electricity comes into the primary room to the un-interruptable power supply (UPS) system and is then routed to power distribution units (PDU’s) where the power is transformed from 480 volts to 208 volts before being distributed through panels that are similar to the circuit breaker panels in your basement. Over the years the number of servers has increased, and it’s time to rewire the PDU’s  in order to make sure that servers are connected redundantly to the PDU’s and subsequently the breakers. But, as you know if you’ve ever thought about doing this at home, you need to shut off the entire power supply before you touch anything. So, early on Sunday morning (specifically 12:01 AM) we’ll start shutting down all the computers. Because they are all interconnected, this is a complex and slow process. Then the electrical guys will do the rewiring, and finally we’ll turn it all back on again, which is again, a very slow and careful process. This is why we’re allocating ten hours for the complete change. It’s possible it will take less time, but just to be sure, we’re being very cautious.

So, everything you normally use (Blackboard, Pipeline, Banner, Wayne Connect email…) will be turned off between midnight and 10 AM Sunday morning. We’re hoping, because the university is closed Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Day, that this will not be too disruptive.

Combatting Plagiarism–an In-depth and very interesting Chronicle Article

It’s worth plowing through not only this long article, but also many of the comments. All of the issues relating to plagiarism detection software such as SafeAssign are discussed, and there are some very interesting ideas also.

The article is only available for a limited time:

Software Catches (and Also Helps) Young Plagiarists

Bonus: article on where students most frequently copy:

THE Journal


Join your colleagues for presentations, discussions, and conversation about the role and use of IT in higher education. Select sessions from the annual Educause Conference in Philadelphia will be streamed live October 19-21 at the Technology Resource Center inside the Purdy/Kresge Library.

There is a list of topics at the bottom of this posting, along with the abstract for each presentation.

All sessions are free of charge but seating is limited, so reserve your place by registering through Pipeline. Go to the Faculty tab then click on Click on Educause Online Conference. Peruse the various sessions and choose which ones you want to see and sign up. Come to as many or as few as you’d like.

One lucky conference-goer will win a BlackBerry® PlayBook® tablet from Sprint®—the more sessions you attend, the better your chances!

Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

Come, and learn about the state of the art and the possible state of the future for IT in teaching, learning and research.

Topics and Times

Invisible or Remarkable? Wed. 8 AM-9:45

The most precious commodity available today is attention. Best-selling author Seth Godin will describe the realities of our postindustrial world. It turns out that ideas that spread win, that stories rule, not facts, and that remarkable products and services are the most profitable and most likely to succeed. He will discuss how to avoid serving the meatball sundae, mismatching the new marketing with the old, and maintaining the status quo. He will also address how to ship products that make a difference, leadership as the most effective form of marketing for a new generation and a new economy, the privilege of becoming a linchpin, and the obligation to “poke the box.”

ECAR Student and IT Study Wed. 10:30-11:20

The ECAR Study of Student Technology, 2011  surveyed a nationally representative sample of 3,000 undergraduates. The findings offer insights into which technologies students use most often, which they find of most value to their academic success, and how well students believe their institutions are supporting technologies. Come hear insights about what students want from technology, how they are using it, and how they feel about it.

The Remixed University, Wed. 11:30-12:20

Open educational resources can be central to how universities pursue their mission of education and research through infrastructure. Initiatives like open courseware and open institutional repositories harness the power of the Internet to support scholarly values through open dissemination of scholarly products. The flip side is to transcend campus boundaries in supporting university functions with developments like hosted services and mobile platforms, crowdsourcing of instructional functions, and educational offerings where remote students can participate in on-campus courses. These possibilities are reshaping the idea of the university from an isolated city on a hill to an open gathering place where ideas and experiences mix and remix.

DIY U: Edupunks and the Future of Higher Education Wed. 2:30-3:20

Open content, blended learning, prior learning assessment, and personal learning networks and paths are all shaping the future of higher education. The common threads are technology, social media, unbundling of services, and increased personalization. In this time of disruptive innovation, hear success stories of institutions that are collaborating to respond positively to the challenges of securing funding, providing access, and ensuring quality teaching and learning.

Are Labs Still Necessary? Three Perspectives on Changing Trends in Student Computing Services, Wed. 3:30-4:20

With increasing computer ownership by students, accompanied by tightening budgets and the availability of new virtual delivery tools, many administrators are asking whether campus computer labs are still necessary. George Mason University, Temple University, and the University of Virginia will discuss approaches and challenges in the provision of student computing services.

E-Portfolios in Online Learning: Student and Faculty Perspectives, Wed. 4:50-5:40

Built on 15 core competencies of the profession (our MLIS program learning outcomes), the SJSU SLIS e-Portfolio is a culminating project that has been a transformative experience for both our students and our program. We will share our curricular, technical, and administrative successes and challenges in this interactive panel discussion.

Online Learning: What College Presidents and the Public Think About Its Future Thu. 8:00 AM-8:50

Students are plugging in, online courses are filling up, and walls are coming down. Online learning is going mainstream, but the debate over quality shows no signs of dying down, according to two major surveys of college presidents and Americans by the Pew Research Center and  The Chronicle of Higher Education . The public, in particular, questions whether students engage as effectively online as in a brick-and-mortar classroom. Among presidents, leaders of two-year colleges are the most bullish on the future of online education; presidents of four-year private colleges are the most skeptical.

Next Generation Learning Challenges: New Models for Learning, Thu. 9:00-9:50

Next Generation Learning Challenges launched in October 2010 to help identify barriers to college readiness and completion to which technology may be effectively applied and for which promising information technology solutions have emerged. This fall, NGLC will focus on educational models that reorganize the learning process and redefine students’ experience of “college” to serve as testing grounds, proof points, and as a source of competitive pressure to generate improved outcomes through the entire system. In this panel session, learn more about the ways that organizations are redefining next generation learning and learning outcomes.

Privacy in an Era of Social Media, Thu., 10:30-11:20

There is a widespread myth that young people don’t care about privacy. Embedded in this myth is an assumption that participation in public social media services indicates a rejection of privacy. Yet, just because people want to participate in public life doesn’t mean that they want everything they do to go down on their permanent record or to be publicized for the whole world to see. This talk will examine the strategies that young people take to secure their privacy in highly public environments like Facebook and Twitter and why those in higher ed should care.

Mobile Learning: Applications That Change Distraction to Discussion, Thu., 1:30-2:20

Purdue University offers students and faculty a series of mobile applications designed for use both in and out of the classroom. Learn how a collection of focused mobile tools can be broadly implemented by a variety of courses to enable student collaboration and assessment.

Data Security: It’s All About the Desktop, Thu 2:30-3:20

Data is only as secure as the weakest link. After experiencing our share of computer thefts, viruses, and simple carelessness at Vassar, we are implementing a broad spectrum of desktop technologies and policies to tighten security and increase awareness. This session will describe the best-practice and new-practice solutions that we are implementing.

As Learning Goes Mobile, Thu., 4:00-4:50

In this session, we’ll discuss the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project’s latest findings about how people (especially young adults) use mobile devices, including smartphones and tablet computers (iPads). We’ll explore how the mobile revolution has combined with the social networking revolution to produce new kinds of learning and knowledge-sharing environments and the challenges and opportunities this presents to colleges and teachers. Technology has enabled students to become different kinds of learners. We’ll explore what this means.

Chronicle Tech Trends: Challenges for the Future “Unbundled” University, Thu., 5:00-5:50

Technology is “unbundling” the university. In five years, students will mix online and in-person courses, professors will rely on new course formats and modules from multiple colleges, and the library will be dispersed. These trends present serious challenges.  The Chronicle of Higher Education  technology reporters will describe emerging best practices at several institutions.

Essential Attributes of Faculty Professional Development: The Excellence in Online Education Initiative, Fri. 8:30 AM-9:20

Professional development in best practices for online teaching is essential to ensuring the success of new online instructors. In this session, learn the 12 essential attributes of faculty professional development programs informed by adult learning theory. Hear how they were implemented through an action research process and see them illustrated through Bay Path College’s unique three-tiered approach to online faculty development that includes a comprehensive orientation, mentoring, and ongoing support. Session attendees will be able to share their programs’ components that fit these attributes and discover new ways to implement them.

What Does It Take to Make Innovation Work?–Measure and Understand the Impact, Fri., 9:30-10:20

In the Netherlands, higher education institutions are jointly seeking to optimize the preconditions to facilitate promising IT initiatives by determining successful approaches through measurable improvements. We have invested in building an infrastructure for collaboration, knowledge sharing, and professionalization. Shared evaluation adds a new aspect to this innovation community. Like reverse engineering, innovators can define-at the start of a project or program-the relevant qualitative and quantitative factors to measure during and after. Together they will articulate what the impact of innovation involves and identify and evaluate the various forms that it takes. As a result, innovators and funding bodies can plan, identify, and measure the potential impact much more effectively.

IT from Both Sides of the Executive Table, Fri., 10:45-11:45

Information technology plays a fundamental and growing role in enabling education and research, yet the CIO’s role in leading that evolution for colleges and universities is far from clear. As a former CIO, vice president for research, and provost and current university president, Michael McRobbie will share his insights on the leadership opportunities and responsibilities for CIOs and their critical role in reshaping institutions.

Follow-up on FOIA’s

You may recall a blog post from last winter about FOIA requests for email. There’s considerable disagreement about whether faculty email is ‘FOIA-ble’. There’s a nice post on the AAUP website summarizing all the issues and court cases on the topic. It’s long but worth reading. And thinking about. I found it through Inside Higher Ed, a daily university-oriented news site.

How Private is your Wayne State Email?

This week’s blog is ‘ripped from the headlines’ (well, last week’s headlines, anyway). Most of you must have heard about recent FOIA requests from conservative/libertarian organizations to the University of Wisconsin, and, more recently, Wayne State. The requests were for email messages sent and/or received by faculty members at this university.
The Mackinac Center explained that

we thought a FOIA investigating professors’ emails on these subjects might demonstrate whether state officials should ask questions about this use of tax dollars for public universities. In the worst-case scenario, we knew these emails might suggest that the faculty had acted illegally, because certain political uses of university resources are prohibited by Michigan law.  http://www.mackinac.org/14863

Whatever one might feel about the motivations of the Mackinac Center, you may have been surprised to learn that your email is subject to FOIA requests. But, in fact, according to Michigan law, if you work at Wayne State, you are:

A state officer, employee, agency, department, division, bureau, board, commission, council, authority, or other body in the executive branch of the state government
Freedom Of Information Act, Act 442 of 1976, Section 2(d)(i)

Your email messages are a ‘public record’:

“Public record” means a writing prepared, owned, used, in the possession of, or retained by a public body in the performance of an official function, from the time it is created. Section 2(e)

And consequently

a person has a right to inspect, copy, or receive copies of the requested public record of the public body.  Section 3(1)

Now, those of us who have been using email for a long time (I have some email records saved in files going back to the late nineteen eighties) have long said that emails are not private. In fact, there used to be a an aphorism that you shouldn’t put anything in an email you didn’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times. Or that you wouldn’t put on a postcard. The recent events simply illustrate this fact. Email is not secure, and it’s not private. If you want to communicate with someone privately, don’t use email.The technology is not secure, and, if you work for Wayne State, and use a Wayne State email account, you are not legally entitled to keep the messages private. (I should add that there are, in the FOIA law, exemptions for things that actually are private, such as personal communications, communications with your doctor and so on.)
Interestingly, in the case that started this debate, at the University of Wisconsin, the General Counsel of UW argued that political discussion with peers by faculty constituted privileged communications:

For an insightful discussion of all the issues, you can read my friend Tracy Mitrano’s blog on Inside Higher Ed:




Because it is quite irrelevant, I have not commented on any of the political issues touched on in this blog (for obvious reasons), but the facts are quite clear–your email belongs to the world.

It’s Ten PM, Researcher. Do you know where your data is?

In a very scary story covered in the Chronicle of Higher Education last week a world-renowned cancer researcher was demoted from Full to Associate Professor by UNC Chapel Hill for failing to keep her servers patched.

Yes, you read that right.
I’ll summarize briefly here, but the full story can be found in these links:

Herald-Sun Article

Chronicle Article

Professor Yankaskas was running a large, NIH-funded research project on breast cancer, part of a national consortium. Apparently the server on which her data was stored was not properly patched (meaning the operating system hadn’t been kept up to date) and, as a result, it was hacked (electronically broken into). It’s not clear whether the data (which included names, addresses and social security numbers) was actually taken, but the University notified all the subjects in any case.
The exact details of what happened are a little unclear, but it seems that her techie assistant had not been doing his/her job properly, and the Provost held her responsible and tried to fire her. A faculty committee recommended a lesser punishment, which ended up being this demotion (with accompanying reduction in pay). She is fighting the decision.
Discussion on the web of whether she is being treated fairly is inconclusive, and we don’t know enough of the details to be able to tell exactly what happened when. But this should be a wake-up notice to everyone at Wayne (or anywhere else) who keeps sensitive research data on a computer. Do you know whether the machine is appropriately protected? Is its operating system up to date? Does it have a firewall enabled? Does it have Symantec Endpoint Protection installed (if it’s a Mac or Windows PC–see previous post)?
The take-away here is not that that administrators can be mean-spirited bullies (although some commenters seem to think so), or that faculty are goofy airheads who can’t be trusted to maintain their own machines (although different commenters are saying that). The main point is that we all need to take responsibility for ensuring the data we are collecting is properly secured, especially if it is sensitive data that we have promised HIC we will be careful with it.