At UW-Eau Claire, we have developed a system to manage the increasing demand for storage space needed to produce multimedia projects. These projects include video production, digital storytelling, and photo projects. American Indian Studies, Marketing, Communication/Journalism, English, Art, and Kinesiology are just a few of the departments asking students to complete multimedia projects. We refer people who have massive storage needs to our Management Assisted Storage System (MASS). This system provides an automated process of file management that ensures there is always sufficient space available for projects. This year, the system supported 380 project folders during peak production time, and we may have to increase our drive space beyond 7 TB in the next year or two.
About six years ago video editing assignments became a significant part of the support provided by Building Information Technology Skills (BITS), the Learning and Technology Services unit that supports technology training for campus instructors, staff, and students. We started by using external drives and soon moved to a network space. But we needed to analyze usage and contact users when space was becoming scarce. As video editing became more popular, the task of monitoring the drive, sending emails, and deleting files became far too time consuming. Something had to be done.
Characteristics of MASS:
Today, MASS provides the IT unit with a worry free, hands-off system, and supports instructors and students with many features that address some of the unique issues with multimedia projects. MASS has an easy to use web interface for personal folder or group folder setup, automated quota management, generated email warnings, and a user defined expiration date which triggers automated deletion of project files.
A web interface provides the campus community a means to request and set up a folder for a personal or class project. If an instructor wishes to set up a class project, he or she is presented with her class list. After selecting the class, the instructor then indicates whether individual student folders or group folders are desired. If group folders are needed, the instructor is given an interface for selecting students from a list of class members and assigning them to a group folder. When a class project folder is created the individual or group folders, along with an assignment resource folder, are established beneath the class folder. Every individual folder created is assigned a 60GB quota. Group folders have 120 GB quota. The server is over subscribed but the actual usage works very well.
The expiration date of the project is the other “automated management” feature that drives the system. When a person sets up a personal folder, she must indicate when the project is complete. This triggers emails notifying the folder owner of the impending deletion date. Class folders have an automatic deletion date set 60 days after the end of the semester. This gives instructors time to archive any assignments they would like to keep. We provide 50 GB of archive space at no charge to instructors. Additional storage space is available per department for an annual fee.
The third key feature is automated emails. After a personal or group folder is created, the owner or group member is sent an email indicating the path and folder name. Instructors are sent a confirmation email listing all group folders and group members. All members of a group receive an email informing them of the location of their group folder. As quotas approach, warning emails are sent and when a folder reaches 100%, the user currently using the folder is notified. Warning emails are also sent each week for the four weeks preceding the scheduled deletion of the folder. These emails contain information on how to extend the date or increase a quota. Extending the date currently requires assistance, while one 60 GB quota increase is supported through a web interface.
A Plus for Teaching and Learning
Multimedia assignments involve the learner beyond the traditional x-page term paper. The multimodal characteristics of these projects incorporate many sensory aspects not tapped with just the written word on paper or digital file. It is this building of 21st century skills that both grabs and also challenges the learner. Not having to worry about storage of these massive files helps to alleviate one of the issues that can make a project like these a stumbling block and a learner-nightmare; freeing the learner to concentrate on the content and process and not the storage. A benefit from the educator point of view is they have total access to these folders and can see the learner working files and folder contents. Also, the ease with which the educator can setup class folders and the extraordinary amount of storage space they have for these projects is easy to obtain and therefore helps to encourage the use of these multimedia assignments and MASS.
Judy Hull, Software Trainer & Gene Leisz, Graphic Artist (LTDC Rep/Chair)
Learning and Technology Services