Media Technology Services (MTS)

Media Technology Services (MTS) is a service department at Desert View Community College. Desert View is one of the largest community colleges in the Southwest, with several different campuses spread over a 60-mile range. Last year, the college served more than 25,000 students. One of Desert View's goals is to be a leader in the use of instructional media to support education. The MTS department was created to help the college achieve that goal. MTS provides support to faculty and staff in the acquisition and distribution of instructional media, in the distribution and maintenance of audio-visual equipment, and in the design of instructional material. MTS served more than 1500 faculty and staff last year. They currently offer more than 7,500 media titles. They service equipment in 300 classrooms and run a closed-circuit television (CCTV) system that broadcasts across 26 channels.

MTS has experienced quite a bit of staff turnover in the past few years, the most noticeable being the retirement of its long-time director. As a result, the current management staff has been in place only six months. Figure 4-1 shows a high-level organization chart. Marianne Buchanan was hired from an East Coast university. Her management style is very different from that of her predecessor, Dr. Johnson. Dr. Johnson was a very easy-going boss, more of a friend to the MTS employees. He had been with Desert View for 35 years, serving as MTS director for the last 20 years. His retirement, coupled with university budget reallocations, has raised staff insecurity.

MTS is organized into three main units: Production, Instructional Development, and Distribution. Production works primarily with faculty and staff in creating educational media such as videos and movies. Mike Guerrero has been the production manager for one year. Prior to his promotion, he worked as the production assistant for four years.

Instructional Development provides support in creating educational materials. This unit manages a faculty computer lab where faculty and staff have access to a variety of multimedia computers, scanners, and so forth. Additionally, this unit assists faculty in developing course materials. Karen Flatley managers this division. she has been with MTS for only three months.

Distribution is responsible for counter services, closed-circuit television scheduling (CCTV), and media and equipment acquisitions. Counter services provides support in the selection and use of instructional materials and the distribution and maintenance of audio-visual equipment. Counter services staff also check out media and equipment for classroom use. CCTV provides support for in-class projection or transmission of films and videos over the campus closed-circuit system. Media and equipment acquisitions provides support in acquiring new videotapes and films related to teaching, new equipment such as computers and projection equipment, and the maintenance of the on-line libraries. Jay Finnel has been the distribution manager for the past two years.

MTS operates on an academic year calendar, July 1 through June 30. MTS funding is based on the amount of service it provides to the campus. MTS, therefore, needs to keep data for each academic year. These data are used to produce a number of year-end reports and periodic usage records including frequency of material usage, usage by department, and CCTV usage. With the projections for continued budget reductions, it is critical that MTS has access to accurate and timely information. Usage records can be archived at the end of each year. However, customer information and inventory information should be carried forward.

The distribution unit accounts for more than 70 percent of the workload in MTS. The maintenance of the paper-based information in the distribution unit has become problematic. As a result, MTS decided to automate the distribution unit operations three years ago. This automation has resulted in its own set of problems, and MTS has asked that you help them determine some alternatives.

DISTRIBUTION UNIT CURRENT OPERATIONS

Distribution is presently using an unreliable information system called Media-Net. Media-Net started as the pet project of Dr. Johnson. He thought it would be useful to automate some of the paper flows in distribution. The development effort started with a distribution unit employee, Richard Daily, although he only knew a little about databases and programming on Macintosh computers. Richard left MTS about a year after the development started. Since that point, most of the development has been done with student workers tasked with isolated portions of the project. Occasionally MTS was able to get a programmer on short-term loan from another division on campus. As a result of this inconsistency in programmers, and lack of overall direction, Media-Net has been in development for several years.

Media-Net is centered around an Oracle 6.07 database, stored on the campus VAX6300. The user interface is HyperCard, running on Macintosh computers. The Macintosh computers are networked using Appletalk. The system is unreliable and error-prone. Examples of problems include not being able to add data, deletion of all of a customer's entries when logging an item return, and inconsistent data such as having the same customer entered with different customer Ids. Because of these problems, MTS staff currently process all transactions in both the paper-intensive manual system and the automated system. Usage of the automated system continues because of hopes that it can be fixed, and because a tremendous amount of data is already in the system.

BACKGROUND PROBLEMS

When Marianne Buchanan took over, she recognized that there were many problems with the current operations in the distribution unit. She also identified several background problems that existed in the MTS organization. She believed that these problems contributed to the current state of operations and to the staff turnover the unit was experiencing. The problems are summarized below, along with the current management approach to handling the problems.

Current Problems:

  1. Lack of an overall systems development plan. MTS did not understand the need for systems planning and consequently developed the current system in pieces to fill immediate needs. Ms. Buchanan brings with her many years of experience in successful planning for technology use. Recognizing the lack of significant funding for new technology, she has planned on continuing usage of the VAX 6300. The VAX is maintained by the Campus Computing Center (CCC). CCC will support both Oracle 6.07 and 7.0. The VAX is connected to the campus Ethernet backbone. In the long run, Ms. Buchanan would like faculty and staff to have on-line access to the reservation system. However, the computing infrastructure will not support this campus-wide at this time.
  2. Lack of any permanent IS staff in the department. All developed was done by temporary IS staff and students. This turnover, coupled with poor documentation, slowed development. While consultants will be used to develop the new system, ongoing maintenance will be performed initially by the Campus Computing Center. Ideally, MTS will be able to hire a full-time IS developer in the next two years. however, until that occurs, expertise will have to be developed within the organization.
  3. Insufficient usage of systems development methodologies. A thorough systems analysis was never conducted, resulting in incomplete systems specifications. Development was haphazard. Additionally, sufficient time was not allocated to test and document software. As soon as one piece was completed, it was released to the users. Time for documentation was never built into the development effort; as a result it is woefully inadequate. Current managers are hopeful that this new development effort will result in the creation of a workable system. Ms. Buchanan believes that a new system can be operational within one year, and has approximately $70,000 to complete the system.

 

PRELIMINARY ANALYSIS

When Ms. Buchanan took over, she hired a consultant to review the situation. The consultant conducted a preliminary analysis to investigate the options MTS should pursue. Additionally, he led a JAD-like session that identified specific problems with the current system. The results of the preliminary analysis are presented in the consultant's memo, shown below.

Date: November 10, 1995

To: Marianne Buchanan, MTS Director

From: Ken Griggs, DataSys Consulting

Re: Preliminary Analysis of MTS Media-Net System

During the past month I have investigated the current Media-Net system in use at MTS> I have attached a context-level data flow diagram of your operations, analyzed the file structures of your current database, and worked with your users to identify their needs in an improved system. Overall, the users are satisfied with the intended design and functionality of the Media-Net system; however, they are not satisfied with the current operating status. This dissatisfaction is having a negative impact on employee morale and is resulting in high turnover. Additionally, the staff is concerned about job stability given the recent turnover in management staff. Based on the results of my preliminary analysis, I have identified the following issues that need to be addressed:

  1. Response times are unacceptable. Simple queries take as long as five minutes, with reports running an average of 20 minutes. College staff have not been able to accurately identify whether the performance problems are related to the campus network, Hypercard, or the Macintosh computers and Appletalk network.
  2. Results are inconsistent. Outputs from queries, report generation, and updates do not give the same results. Additionally, the system crashes frequently.
  3. Existing documentation on how to use the system, as well as document on the system design, is lacking.
  4. The current database is not normalized. Redundancy of data fields and records is widespread, and there are fields that are not used and/or their meaning or intended us is not known.
  5. The existing data contains many inconsistencies. With the exception of the online media catalog, the remaining data contain too many errors to be salvageable. The amount of time estimated to clean up the data would not be a productive use of time.
  6. Hypercard interface is limited. The current system has pushed the capabilities of Hypercard. It is not likely that Hypercard can continue to serve as an interface to the system.

Recommendations:

  1. Abandon usage and further consideration of the current Media-Net system.
  2. Conduct a complete analysis of your distribution unit.
  3. Develop a new system that will allow for efficient operation of the distribution unit.

 

 Context-Flow Diagram

A close-up examination of the distribution unit follows.

DISTRIBUTION UNIT PROCESSES

A customer (faculty or staff) may have several different transactions that are handled through Distribution: 1. equipment/media reserveration; 2. equipment/media checkout; 3. equipment/media return; 4. CCTV scheduling; 5. event cancellations. The steps involved in these transactions are detailed below.

Reservations and Checkout

When a request for either an equipment/media reservation or checkout occurs (options 1 or 2), MTS staff will both check the inventory book and do an actual physical inventory check. If the items is available, an order card (Figure 4-4) is completed and the inventory book is updated to reflect that the item has been reserved or checked out. (Reservations are not required for an item checkout, as long as the item is available.) The inventory book contains a listing of all items. Each item contains spaces where reservations/checkout information can be recorded. For reservations, the customer can either schedule the item for delivery to his/her department office or pick up the item.

Items that may be checked out include VCRs, portable computers, video cameras, and VHS cassettes. In the case of a VHS checkout, a cross-check with the CCTV schedule must be performed to ensure that the tape is not scheduled to be played on CCTV during the time the user would like to check it out. Most items are identified by either a call number for videos or an ID number for equipment. However, there are some equipment items that do not have ID numbers, yet are still recorded on the order form. These include items like carrying bags, video patch cords, and extension cords.

 

Sample Order Card:

Name:

ID #:

Dept:

User Phone

 

Dept. Phone

 

Course Number:

 

Building/ Room

 

Class Time

 

Checkout Date

Use Date

Return Date

call number

title

accessories

equipment item number

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Returns

When items are returned, the order card is pulled from the file and the return information is completed. The inventory book is updated to reflect the availability of the item. If a user is late three times returning an item, his/her borrowing privileges are suspended for the remainder of the semester. This is recorded on a borrower suspension sheet at the front desk. The sheet is handwritten and contains the name, department, and customer ID for all customers whose privileges have been suspended. At the beginning of each semester, a new borrower suspension sheet is started.

CCTV Scheduling

CCTV requests must be made prior to 1:00pm the day before the playback date. Customers may either send in a completed CCTV Playback Request form or phone in the information.

 

 

Desert View Community College

Media Technology Services

CCTV PLAYBACK REQUEST

Requests for playbacks must be received no later than 1:00pm one business day prior to date of playback. Complete and mail this form to Media Technology Services, CCTV scheduling, or place your order by phone at extension 34455.

______________ Day of Week: Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri __________________

Date of Playback Time of playback

AM or PM

Department:____________________________________ Course Number:___________

Instructor: _____________________________ Building & Room Number:___________

Social Security Number:________________ Office Phone:____________

__________________ _____________________ ________________________

TV or MP Number Title of Program Length

__________________ _____________________ ________________________

TV or MP Number Title of Program Length

__________________ _____________________ ________________________

TV or MP Number Title of Program Length

__________________ _____________________ ________________________

TV or MP Number Title of Program Length

Special Instructions: ______________________________________________________


Complete the following only if requesting classroom reassignment:

Class Start Time: _________ Class Stop Time: ________ No. of Students:__________


For MTS Use:

Date Received: _____ Taken by:______ Data Entered:____ Entered by:______ Channel:__________

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 4.1 Transaction Information:

Transaction Type

Number per Day

Average Number of Minutes

Checkout

25

5

Reservation

12

4

Return

22

3

CCTV Reservation

13

4

Cancellation

5

2

*Note: Transactions do not add up to 85 since some reservations are delivered instead of picked up during a checkout.

REPORT REQUIREMENTS

The system should produce five standard reports, as well as be able to respond to a variety of ad-hoc queries. The first three reports are produced annually, while the last two are produced on a daily basis. Samples of the reports are included in the following figures. All reports are currently generated manually. Estimates of the time required to produce the reports are provided in Table 4.2

Table 4.2 Time Estimates for Reports

Report Type

Average Time

Equipment Usage

30 hours

Distribution Activity

20 hours

Transactions by Department

50 hours

Overdue Returns

1 hour

Inventory Activity

1 hour

Equipment Usage: Produced annually, this report shows the total number of checkouts by item category, by month. Category descriptions include TV, VCR, and OHP (overhead projector).

Distribution Activity: Produced annually, this report tracks the total activity by distribution function by month. Distribution functions include counter picket, delivery, and CCTV event.

Transactions by Department: Produced annually, this report tracks the total items checked out by each department by month. Departments include mechanical engineering, music, and history.

Overdue Return Report: Produced daily, this report displays all overdue items. This information is used by the student workers to produce a late tally sheet. The late tally sheet is a handwritten record of all customers who have a late return. when a customer has his/her first late return, his/her name and ID are written on the list. When a customer gets a second late, a check is added next to his/her name. After a third late, another check is placed on the list and the customer's information is transferred to the borrower suspension sheet. If the person has more than one item overdue for the same date, MTS only counts it as one late.

Daily Inventory Activity: Produced daily, this report is used to indicate all equipment currently checked out. The data is grouped by equipment category and includes the following fields:

Category description (e.g., TV, VCR, etc.)

Equipment number

User ID Number (social security number)

User Name (last name only)

User Phone (555-1212)

Date Due In (dd-mmm-yy)

Status (overdue or blank)