College of Micronesia – FSM (COM-FSM). ICT Present and Future By: Gordon Segal, COM-FSM IT Director. Brief Introduction to College of Micronesia-FSM (COM-FSM). COM-FSM is the sole accredited institution of higher learning in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).
Present and Future
By: Gordon Segal, COM-FSM IT Director
COM-FSM is the sole accredited institution of higher learning in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).
The COM-FSM is a non-profit organization.
Works closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), and the FSM federal government to provide education and community enrichment to the citizens of the FSM.
Composed of 6 campuses on the four main islands in the FSM, 1 national campus, 4 state campuses, and 1 maritime academy.
The COM-FSM’s six campuses are spread across four islands that cover an oceanic territory equivalent to that of the Australian continent. Given the difficulties of coordinating activities and programs across such vast distances, the dual authority structure of the COM-FSM is requisite in order to effectively administer each of the campuses. While the heart of administration, information technology services, the academic divisions, and the functional departments is located at the National Campus, each of these subgroups is represented among the four State Campuses by State Campus Directors, Instructional Coordinators, local information technology staff, as well as local faculty members as appropriate for their individual program offerings. As such, activities at each of the State Campuses falls under the aegis of both the State Campus Directors tasked with running that State Campus, and the departmental heads or divisional chairs to which both staff and faculty report to at the National Campus. The Fisheries Maritime Institute (FMI) operates under its own organizational structure while reporting directly to the Vice Presidents at the National Campus.
Organization ChartAs a result of the geographically diverse campuses that the college maintains, the top half of the organizational chart represents the personnel structure at the National Campus, while the bottom half of the organizational chart represents the personnel structure at the State Campuses. This necessarily leads to two parallel paths of authority.
Both the National Campus and the Pohnpei State Campus are located on the island of Pohnpei in the State of Pohnpei. Likewise, both the Yap State Campus and the FMI are located on the island of Yap in the State of Yap. The Kosrae State Campus is located on the island of Kosrae in the State of Kosrae, and the Chuuk State Campus is located on the island of Weno in the State Chuuk. Most of the students at each of the four State Campuses originate from the State in which the State Campus is located. Students at both the FMI and the National Campus are drawn from a far wider selection of students from each of the four State Campuses. In terms of teaching facilities, it is often the case that the National Campus has the most to offer both as a result of proximity to the National Capital at Palikir, and the fact that the National Campus houses the majority of the departmental heads and divisional chairs, teaching more students per campus than any of the four State Campuses or FMI.In terms of the National Campus, the COM-FSM is a fully operational college with classrooms, a recently constructed gymnasium and recreational facility, dining halls, administration, a library, a number of buildings to house such functions as maintenance, security, and information technology, office space for the academic faculty, parking facilities, a school bookstore, nurses office, space for counseling and student programs, and outside recreational facilities such as basketball courts. This plethora of facilities and capability is mirrored to a lesser extent at each of the four State Campuses.
In terms of information technology, each of the six campuses is fully wired with multiple computer laboratories in addition to computing resources in the Learning Resources Center (LRC), within the student dormitories, and inside the administration facilities and faculty offices. Many academic divisions house smaller computer laboratories, such as the English Laboratory, the Mathematics and Science Laboratory, and the Agriculture Laboratory. In general every faculty members has their own computer and access to a printer, while every student has ready access to computing facilities. Some of the students own their own laptops or desktop computers, but not very many. Access to systems at each of the campuses is generally open to public use, though strictly speaking, really intended for employees and students associated with the COM-FSM.
The COM-FSM uses a Red Hat Enterprise Linux server as a gateway to the Internet; this provides email, an Apache web server, the Squid caching web proxy, and a variety of other critical network services.
The COM-FSM leases a fractional T1 from FSM Telecom, the sole telecommunications company in the nation. This T1 is fed out to each of the four State Campuses as either 128kbps or 256kbps connections based upon geographic proximity. These are secured as an intranet by deploying the entire apparatus across a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
All of the telecommunications in the nation is based upon satellite communication, so the latency is some-times an issue. Moreover, due to loose user restrictions on website access and network usage, the network is frequently oversaturated, especially during regular working hours.
Computers at the COM-FSM are a mixture of Microsoft Windows XP, Microsoft Windows 98, and Microsoft Windows 95, though predominantly Microsoft Windows XP. A few of the laboratories operate under Linux Fedora Core 5 on a trial basis. Main network servers are linux.
Frequent difficulty stems from relative network speed from the COM-FSM to the outside world, especially during working hours. Recently, smart switches and network deployable anti-virus software have been employed for the COM-FSM network, before this point, it has been quite difficult to effectively monitor and regulate traffic with a very fine degree of control. Similar to any other college, both policy and systems implementation are beginning to account for these problems. However, until more improvements are implemented, it is difficult to work efficiently on information technology issues due to the speed at which information and demo software can be downloaded and subsequently learned or setup for later demonstration.
Unfortunately, other than the relatively slow and arduous process of redeploying system configurations and patching systems as now needed, it is difficult to block student access to popular websites responsible for much of the bandwidth difficulties due to the Occidental perception of academic freedom and the fact that the Internet represents an invaluable tool for research if left unhindered.
Information technology is directly managed by the Director of Information Technology with assistance from a full time staff of 10 individuals.
The Director is ultimately in charge of all information technology for the entirety of the COM-FSM.
A Technology Advisory Committee advises and controls technology policy and is composed of high level administrators as well as the IT Director.
All of the information technology staff at each campus report to the IT Director and the State Campus Director for their State Campus.
Training of Information Technology staff occurs at the National Campus or through outside programs and seminars. When one of the States Campuses needs more assistance, since they each only have one staff member, a member of the National Campus staff is sent to assist them.
All technology planning, purchasing and budgeting is centrally handled through the main IT office at the National Campus.
All COM-FSM faculty, staff, and students have COM-FSM email addresses for communication purposes within the COM-FSM. Email is often the easiest way for students, faculty, and staff to communicate and coordinate with one another in terms of internal communication.
Due to the relatively small size of the COM-FSM, the dual authority structure imposed by the organizational chart and geographic distribution of the college does not hinder or impede operations. Most of the administrative departments are small enough to make decisions quickly, visiting within office or simply leaving a voice mail if someone is not at their desk. This situation is impossible between the National Campus and the State Campuses, which gives rise to miscommunication issues therein.
As already stated, the organizational peculiarities of a dual authority structure do not adversely impact the COM-FSM as a result of its relatively small size. However, due to the expense of using telephone for conferences and the time delay in relying upon mail delivery, email is an inadequate tool for involving administrators at the State Campuses in committee, departmental, and divisional decisions undertaken by the National Campus. This is a frequent source of friction between the National Campus and the State Campuses, which the Department of Information Technology has attempted to alleviate by installing VoIP telephones through the COM-FSM. However, so far the lingering bandwidth concerns make the new VoIP solution less than ideal.
IT Division is funded by COM-FSM’s regular budget at approximately $300,000 (U.S.) annually.
Funding for all student related technology is provided thru the IT division by a fee charged to all enrolled individuals at the COM-FSM.
Under the terms of its current T1 connectivity for global and domestic connections lease line connections, the COM-FSM currently pays approximately $180,000 annually.
Future plans are to expand on this level of bandwidth as the demand for more bandwidth intensive services and activities are being requested.
The COM-FSM has contingency plans in place to move forward with video conferencing capabilities and greatly increase courses offered thru distance education methods. Testing in this area has taken place and additional planning has begun.
Infrastructure and programming developments to allow for an integrated student information services (SIS) system accessible thru a web interface is currently being developed, this system is using a L.A.M.P. approach. (Linux, Apache, MysQl, PhP).
VOIP capabilities using open source software (asterisk) are currently in the works. Additional dedicated bandwidth as well as compression technology will be necessary for this project to succeed.
Wireless options are currently employed in the form of 802.11x access points and bridges. Advancement in WiFi, WiMax and other wireless capabilities are being observed for usage in the near future.
COM-FSM I.T. Director