February 2011


PolyU Has its Own Private Cloud
Document Library for Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
Joint Universities Information Security Conference 2011
March Staff IT Training Programmes

Blackboard - University's New Learning Management System


Back in 1999, the University had adopted WebCT as its common e-Learning Platform to support web-based teaching and learning activities. During the past 10 years, WebCT has become the most popular learning tool among students. There are over 30,000 login users each working day and the number will be over 60,000 during peak seasons. The daily hit on the WebCT server is around 1.5 million, reaching 3 million during peak seasons.

The current version of WebCT, however, is close to end of product life and the support from vendor will terminate by September 2012. After comprehensive review and evaluation, the University has, as announced earlier by VP(AD), Prof. Walter Yuen, decided to adopt Blackboard as the new Learning Management System (LMS) to replace WebCT. Blackboard 9.1, the latest version of Blackboard, will be implemented campus-wide in 2011/12.

 About Blackboard

Blackboard is the LMS with the largest market share and is used by thousands of universities worldwide.  In Hong Kong, most UGC-funded institutions are using various versions of Blackboard as their institutional LMS. Famous universities overseas using Blackboard include:




  • Princeton University
  • Purdue University
  • Brown University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • George Washington University


  • Imperial College and Queen Mary College of University of London
  • Manchester University
  • University of Reading 
  • University of the Arts London


  • Deakin University
  • Monash University
  • University of Melbourne
  • University of Sydney


  • Peking University (北京大學)
  • Renmin University of China (中國人民大學)
  • Sun Yat-Sen University (中山大學)
  • Beijing Normal University (北京師範大學)

Since 2003, Blackboard has collaborated with the China Education and Research Network (CERNET) funded by the Chinese government to provide the network infrastructure for connecting all the academic institutions and schools in China. Through their joint venture, Cerbibo, the Blackboard LMS is serving hundreds of institutions in the Mainland.


What’s New in Blackboard 9.1

Blackboard 9.1 is a ‘Next Generation’ learning management system incorporating Web 2.0 technologies to enhance teaching and learning activities. You will be interested to find below a list of its new features:

  • Integration with Facebook
  • Built-in anti-plagiarism service ‘Safe Assign’ which is similar to the ‘Turnitin’ system currently used by the University
  • Social bookmarking tool ‘Blackboard Scholar’
  • Integrated chatroom feature for real time text messaging and voice communication
  • Synchronized web co-browsing function
  • Automatic student performance monitoring system ‘The Blackboard Performance Dashboard’
  • Flexibility for individual end users to select English, Traditional Chinese or Simplified Chinese interface for different courses
  • Grading rubrics for student assessment
  • Blog, wiki and journal tool
  • Grading option for discussion forum
  • ePortfolio
  • Outcome assessment system
  • Content sharing with external parties

In addition to the built-in features, there are enhancement modules that the University may acquire in future, such as the Blackboard Mobile module which supports mobile learning activities via popular mobile devices including iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and other devices running the Android OS.

You may visit the Blackboard on Demand Learning Centre for some short video clips demonstrating the various features of Blackboard 9.1.


Migration Plan

To facilitate the smooth transition, the old and new systems will be in parallel run until September 2012. Training workshops on Blackboard 9.1 for academic staff as well as for departmental support staff will be offered in the coming few months, and pilot users will be invited to try out Blackboard for real teaching and learning activities in the third semester of 2010/11.

Details on the migration schedule and plan will be conveyed to users in due course.




PolyU Has its Own Private Cloud

The University is moving into the Cloud! Over the past few months, PolyU has been developing a capability to reduce the number of physical servers by moving them into the Cloud.

Servers delivered from the Cloud function exactly the same as physical servers but they use less space and power and can be managed more efficiently. Over 20 physical servers have already been moved to PolyU’s Cloud environment and all are running effectively.

What is a Private Cloud and how does it work?

Most physical servers consume space and power constantly but are operating at very low levels, sometimes only at 3 or 4% of their capacity. Clearly, if you could share the hardware, power and space, a number of different server activities could run on the same equipment. Moving to a shared environment is often referred to as Cloud Computing.

In the past few months, ITS has been establishing a Virtual Machine (VM) environment to support a private cloud infrastructure at the University. 

Moving physical servers to the Cloud has to be done with careful planning, configuration and monitoring. Some applications require a lot of computing power for short periods of time and while they may be operating at very low levels most of the time, you have to be very careful about how you organize the sharing.

To use the Cloud you have to be able to understand the workloads of the machines and make sure that there is always plenty of capacity to support the ‘virtual machines’.

The ITS Systems Infrastructure team is now running over 20 virtual machines in the Cloud and this number will go up batch by batch as the Cloud infrastructure is expanded.

ITS is planning to provide the Cloud Infrastructure to the rest of the University and is investing in software that will allow Departments to order a ‘virtual machine’ of any size and for any length of time. It will be possible to order a server online and retain that server for exactly as long as you need it. No need for server rooms, special power arrangements, air-conditioning or lengthy delays.  You will be able to get a dedicated server within days rather than months!

It will operate like as a rental service – you will be able to rent a server of the right size at a cost which is much lower than buying your own!  Keep your eyes open for PolyU’s private cloud service – it is on its way!!




Update on the Identity and Access Management (IAM) Implementation Project


As conveyed in our July 2010 issue, the University had completed Phase 1 of the IAM Implementation Project in late July 2010. We had also completed a review in September 2010, which concluded that the design of the Identity Management (IM) user management framework would need to be revamped in order to address the University’s new business requirements.

Where are We?

In view of the new business requirements and to enable the University to enjoy the benefits of the implementation at an earlier time, the original project plan has been duly revised and is now composed of 6 phases. 

Phase 2 of the project, which had been completed as scheduled in January 2011, focused on fine tuning the IAM infrastructure (PUsecure) built in Phase 1 and implementing associated identity data synchronization to prepare for the implementation of the revamped IM user management framework in Phase 3. 

The design of the new IM user management framework had also been completed, followed by the kick-off of Phase 3 in February 2011 which is targeted for completion before the start of the 2011/12 Academic Year.


Highlights of Changes in Phase 3

The major changes that will be implemented in Phase 3 are summarized below:

1. User Class Framework 



  • Every user identity record is grouped under a user class.
  • Each user class has its own identity data source, user management processes and associated approval workflow.
  • The identity data source of a user class may be authoritative (i.e. a trusted external source) or non-authoritative (i.e. locally registered by authorized administrators).
  • Most identity data sources are authoritative, including those for staff and students.
  • Existing Functional NetIDs will be re-registered and grouped under the new user classes by departments.
  • Enhance security and audit on user management practices.
  • Enhance the agility and flexibility of the IM user management framework in adapting to organizational changes and serving new categories of users.


 2 User Matching and Identity Consolidation



  • A user may have multiple user identity records under different user classes (e.g. a full-time staff member may also be enrolled in a part-time post-graduate programme).
  • User identity records under different user classes with authoritative data sources will be compared against one another to identify matches of identities of individual users.
  • Matched identity records of an individual will be consolidated under a single user record in PUsecure Central User Repository.
  • The unmatched identity records will be stored as individual user records in the PUsecure Central User Repository.
  • Enhance customer relationship management.
  • Enhance security and audit on user management practices.
  • Enhance portability of user e-mail names and addresses during the change of user class (e.g. an ex-staff becoming a Visitor).


3. Role-based Resource Provisioning



  • One or more roles will be assigned on each identity profile (identity record) of individual users.
  • Role-based resource provisioning will be implemented.
  • Each role has its own resource entitlement.
  • The resource entitlements of all roles of individual users are summed up to work out resultant resource entitlements for provisioning.
  • Enhance the agility and flexibility in provisioning different sets of resources to different classes of users according to the ever-changing business requirements.
  • Enhance security on user management practice.
  • Save licensing cost by reducing duplication of resource provisioning to the same person.


4. New NetID and E-mail Address Naming Standards



  • The standards applied to NetIDs, E-mail Aliases and Display Names will be changed.
  • Each user class has its own standards.
  • The department of the users will no longer be referenced in the standards.
  • The standards will only be applied to new users.
  • Existing users will not be affected by the new standards.
  • Names do not need to be changed when the organizational structure changes.
  • Names become more intuitive and easier to predict accurately.
  • The standards promote institutional identity and unity, and present a consistent image of institutional accessibility.



5.Part-time Staff User Activation



  • The user activation process for part-time staff members no longer requires the endorsement of full-time staff members (excluding student helpers).
  • Streamline the user activation process for part-time staff. 


6.Vacated NetID Holding Period Policy



  • NetID and associated e-mail alias and display name vacated by a leaver under a user class will not be made available to another user. Instead, it will be reserved for the leaver for a specific period depending on the user class.
  • Different user classes have different holding periods.
  • Address the security issues arising from the confusion over the actual ownership of related NetIDs.



7.End User Experience


  • The functions and facilities of the NetID Management System and Departmental IT Account Management System will be migrated to the new IM Framework. The UI will be changed while the functionalities will remain very much the same.
  • The new PUsecure Password Policy will be enforced. Users have to change their NetPassword at least once every 6 months.  Otherwise, they will not be able to access related systems and services.

 We will keep you posted on the progress of the project in future issues.



Document Library for Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)


As announced earlier to all staff members by our Executive Vice President, Mr Nicholas Yang, the Document Library for Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is now ready for use by all colleagues.

Two new GroupWise Document Libraries, namely, 'PolyU-MOU Templates' and PolyU-MOUs,  have been setup to store the MOU templates and all signed MOUs of the University. Currently, 14 MOU templates and around 430 signed MOUs are available for access.   

The aim of setting up the Document Library for MOU is to enable better management of the MOUs to ensure that they are properly reviewed, approved and archived, and to facilitate the convenient searching and retrieval of MOUs.

Please refer to the Quick Guideline for details of using the Document Library. If you have any enquiries or need assistance, please contact the ITS Help Centre at Ext. 5900, or Mr Kwok Wai-kwong at Ext. 5886.




Joint Universities Information Security Conference 2011



As communicated in our last issue, the Joint Universities Computer Centre (JUCC) will organize the 2nd Joint Universities Information Security Conference on 19 - 20 May 2011 on the PolyU campus.

The theme of this year’s Conference is 'Implementing Information Security in the Higher Education Community’. A number of prominent information security experts from the government and tertiary sector, as well as the information security industry, have been invited to share practical tips and solutions in implementing information security in the Higher Education sector.

The 2-day Conference is divided into 2 streams: the Management Stream (Day 1 - 19 May 2011) and the Technical Stream (Day 2 – 20 May 2011). Topics covered include implementation of data classification and data handling security policy, effectiveness measures for information security, data loss protection, security incident handling, security in outsourced environment, identity management, web application security, etc.  Please visit the Information Security Conference Website for the detailed programme.

Invitation for registration has been sent to all Heads of Departments/Offices/Centres/Units and departmental CLOs. Information Security is of utmost importance to the University and all departments and offices, and can only be sustained and safeguarded through the concerted efforts of every individual and in particular those who are managing and  supporting information security at the  department / office. Don’t miss this valuable opportunity to meet and benefit from the knowledge and experience of prominent information security experts from various sectors.


Last Reminder - Resolve Any Unclassified Software Items in Your SAM Record


With the full support and cooperation of departmental SAM (Software Asset Management) Managers and staff users, the SAM exercise commenced in November has been running smoothly.

Over 11,000 university PCs / notebooks have been scanned and a substantial number of departments have already resolved all the unclassified software items identified on their departmental computers.

As the SAM exercise has come to the final phase, please resolve any remaining unclassified software items found on the departmental PCs / notebooks AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. SAM Managers please also review and re-classify the latest results to ensure that all computers within the department are scanned and sufficient software licences are acquired.



March Staff IT Training Programmes


Training Workshops

You may view the full list of workshops offered in March and make online enrolment via the Staff IT Training Workshop Enrolment System. You will be notified instantly of the enrolment results.


Online Courses

  March Online Courses


Access 2007: Level 1, 2, 3 & 4

  Access 2007: New Features


Acrobat 9.0 Pro: Level 1 & 2


Excel 2007: Level 1, 2, 3 & 4


Excel 2007: New Features

  Excel 2007: VBA


GroupWise 7.0 Level 1-1: Using GroupWise E-mail


GroupWise 7.0 Level 1-2: Organizing E-mails and Address Book in GroupWise

  GroupWise 7.0 Level 1-3: Using GroupWise Calendar and Resources
  GroupWise 7.0 Level 2-1: Exploring Advanced Mail and Message Features


GroupWise 7.0 Level 2-2: Exploring WebAccess, Rules and Access Rights


PowerPoint 2007: Level 1 & 2


PowerPoint 2007: New Features


Project 2007: Level 1 & 2


Publisher 2007


Security Awareness (Part 1): Protecting Information and Countering Social Engineering


Security Awareness (Part 2) : Maintaining Computer and File Security


Security Awareness (Part 3): Promoting E-mail Security and Proper Responses to Security Incidents


SharePoint Designer 2007: Level 1 & 2


What's New in Visio 2007


Windows Vista : New Features


Word 2007: Level 1, 2 & 3


Word 2007: New Features


Please click here for the detailed description of each course. To enrol, please complete and return the web-based proforma reply and you will be informed of the enrolment results in early March via e-mail.

Enquiries: 4566