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Supporting Non-standard Micro Hardware and Software at Bowling Green Copyright 1990 CAUSE From _CAUSE/EFFECT_ Volume 13,

Number 3, Fall 1990. Permission to copy or disseminate all or part of this material is granted provided that the copies are not made or distributed for commercial advantage, the CAUSE copyright and its dateappear, and notice is given that copying is by permission of CAUSE, the association for managing and using information resources in higher education. To disseminate otherwise, or to republish, requires written permission. For further information, contact CAUSE, 4840 Pearl East Circle, Suite 302E, Boulder, CO 80301, 303-449-4430, e-mail SUPPORTING NON-STANDARD MICRO HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE AT BOWLING GREEN by Duane E. Whitmire ************************************************************************ Duane E. Whitmire is the Administrative User Services Analyst for University Computer Services at Bowling Green State University. He also is a lecturer in the computer science department. He holds B.S. and M.A. degrees from Bowling Green and a Ph.D. from the University of Toledo. ************************************************************************ ABSTRACT: Many college and university computer centers can support only a fraction of the microcomputer hardware and software products used across campus. That problem has been alleviated at Bowling Green State University (BGSU), thanks to the development of the Microcomputer Resource Handbook, a comprehensive listing of 156 campus employees who have unique micro expertise they are willing to share. The wealth and diversity of microcomputer knowledge throughout BGSU can now be "tapped" by users needing assistance. The Challenge The department of University Computer Services' primary goal in publishing the BGSU Microcomputer Resource Handbook was to develop a comprehensive listing of all classified staff, administrative staff, and faculty, along with their areas of microcomputer hardware and software expertise. Our secondary objectives included a desire to maximize limited human microcomputer resources in a university environment and to promote the decentralized concept of users helping users. This was the first attempt to establish a directory of users' microcomputer knowledge at Bowling Green, and the entire project revolved around the user community's willingness to be listed as microcomputer resource persons in an inaugural publication. We had no way of projecting whether 1 or 100 people would respond to our survey of campus microcomputer users. The Survey As Administrative User Services Analyst Center, I undertook creating the survey a new project, a good deal of guesswork scope and specificity of the questions, in the University Computing questionnaire. Because this was had to go into determining the but after many revisions a final

survey was developed. The dual-purpose survey was designed to capture users' knowledge of products that were centrally supported by University Computer Services as well as non-supported products. A checklist of supported products comprised the front page of the survey so users could easily check those hardware and software products for which they would be willing to be identified as microcomputer resource persons. The back page of the survey contained samples of potential areas of microcomputer expertise for non-supported products, along with ample space for filling in the type of micro expertise and a description of it. The survey also requested the user's name, department, and campus phone number. Since the goal of this project was to develop a comprehensive listing of all Bowling Green personnel and their areas of microcomputer expertise, the survey was sent to all classified staff, administrative staff, and faculty. From the diversity of responses, it became apparent that microcomputer expertise resides in all segments of the University community. A cover memo accompanying the survey emphasized the voluntary nature of the project, the goal of the Handbook, and the fact that the finished product would be distributed to all academic and administrative offices on campus. Implementation With 156 survey forms returned to University Computer Services, the task of getting all the data into a user-friendly format had to be tackled. After phone calls to users to determine appropriate categorization of certain products, each respondent's survey was entered on a product-by-product basis into a two-column format that evolved into the body of the Handbook. Thanks to the user community's willingness to share its microcomputer hardware and software knowledge, the Handbook has evolved into a 23-page document representing feedback from 156 individuals with 985 individual entries for 233 hardware and software products. Since twenty-three of those products were already supported by the Computing Center, that means an additional 210 non-supported products are now "supported" by users who have volunteered to be resource persons for these products. To make the Handbook easy to use, both a table of contents and an index were included. If an individual wants to identify a resource person who has worked with certain types of printers or specific kinds of spreadsheets, the table of contents provides an easy reference. The index is an alphabetical listing of product names contained in the document. If one is seeking a resource person for a particular hardware or software product, the index serves as a quick reference. In an attempt to minimize costs, the Handbook was published and printed in-house, and an inexpensive plastic backbone was used as a binding. University Computer Services created an attractive cover using an image scanner, a desktop publishing package, and a laser printer. Such cost-cutting measures kept total costs of the book to 30 cents a copy. Once the publication was finalized, distribution became the next task. The intent was to provide wide enough distribution to promote the use of the publication without sending duplicate copies to individuals or areas. A database including University officers and employees in all

academic departments and administrative and support offices was created. Each person in the database received a cover letter from the Director of University Computer Services and Telecommunication Services, along with a complimentary copy of the Handbook. A total of 408 books were distributed throughout the University. Since the ultimate value of the Handbook would be determined by its use, a small publicity campaign was developed to promote it. A feature article on the goals of the publication was run in the Monitor, the campus faculty and staff weekly newspaper. The University Computer Services Bulletin also included an article on the development of the Handbook. In addition, it was promoted to such campus groups as the Administrative Microcomputer Roundtables, University Computing Council, Faculty Senate, Administrative Computing Council, Administrative Staff Council, and Classified Staff Council. Evaluation and Plans The reaction to the inaugural publication of the BGSU Microcomputer Resources Handbook has been quite positive. Numerous requests for additional copies have been received, and users have characterized the Handbook as extremely helpful. The publicity campaign not only enhanced the use of the Handbook in the user community but also fostered a service-oriented image of University Computer Services. As an information systems project, creation of the Handbook went very smoothly, taking only eight months from the time I first presented the idea to Computer Services to the time the published handbooks were in users' hands. In the future, the Handbook will be updated annually, based on new user surveys. In future surveys, we will try to get product information that is more specific so that users will know, for example, which releases of given software applications resource people are expert in. Because this was a new project, we were unable to define for prospective microcomputer resource people precisely what their responsibilities would be. Next year, based on feedback from current resource people, the volunteer "job description" will be more specific. In coming years we may even survey Handbook users for a quantitative analysis of its success, and use the results to further refine the publication. The decentralized, proactive approach we took at Bowling Green State University to provide grass-roots support for unsupported microcomputer hardware and software will work at any site where personnel are willing to share their knowledge and skills. As Carole Barone said in the Fall 1988 issue of CAUSE/EFFECT:1 Balance of central versus distributed functions with access to centrally provided support will furnish the most responsive computing environment when it is founded on carefully considered, articulated, and understood policy, goals, and procedures. ************************************************************************