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California Community Colleges Technology CenterThis is the first in a series of informational messages about Project Glue, a statewide IT project of the California Community Colleges Technology Center. Additional information will be posted as it is developed.

The goal of Project Glue (CCC Glue) is to create a common, secure, easily deployable method of accessing and updating data across collaborative applications such as ERP/SIS and Learning Management, among others.

The California Community Colleges currently uses three different vendor developed Student Information Systems (SIS): Ellucian Colleague, Ellucian Banner and Oracle PeopleSoft. Three others are under development: Ellucian Cloud, Oracle Cloud and Workday. There are also at least three custom SIS systems in use. To allow for software systems that need to interact with data across the college system, Project Glue will use an adaptor approach.

An adaptor will be deployed close to the college’s existing software infrastructure and will expose RESTful interfaces that are accessible in a secure fashion (https, oauth, etc) via the Internet.

Below is a set of frequently asked questions (FAQ) regarding CCC Glue compiled from messages received from the CCC community.

Q: What is the decision process for the processes that are being implemented for the CCC Technology Center (Tech Center) projects, including CCC Glue? For instance, how was the decision made to use a Linux server? Who was involved in that decision?

A: The decisions on these items are driven by the Tech Center initiative steering committees as well as pilot colleges in the course of our interactions with them. In answer to how we came to ask for a Linux virtual machine (VM) and not a Windows VM, this was driven by the current state of support for Windows in Docker. Docker has fast become a superior choice for deployment of software to the use of script-based deployments such as Salt, Chef and Puppet. Currently, Docker is only supporting Windows hosts as beta. We chose to not deploy beta software into production. Note that the VM host machine can in fact be a Windows server; only the VM need be Linux. The decision to not ship beta code was made by the Tech Center Chief Technology Officer, Louis Delzompo.

The Tech Center also has offered to provide technicians that are able to deploy and configure a Linux VM should that be required.

There have been some concerns raised about who will cover the cost of the VM. Some colleges are charged around $500 per month for a single VM. This is outrageous pricing, but may be the reality for some colleges. Since the Tech Center is asking for the VM, there are discussions around how schools might be compensated for that cost. This is TBD.

Q: Have the colleges’ technology departments been consulted regarding these processes before the pilots? If so, which ones and when?

A: No major decisions are made without steering committee involvement. Our process is to discuss requirements with the appropriate steering committee and then the product owners create Jira tickets to track those requirements. In the case of Project Glue and the Online Education Initiative, Butte College has been part of those discussions and has driven many of the implementation details along with Foothill (Banner) and MiraCosta (Peoplesoft). Due to some staff resourcing issues, State Center (Fresno City College) has emerged as a leader for Colleague while Ventura College has become a leader for Banner. Every attempt has been made to engage with all OEI pilot colleges in this respect, however, including Lake Tahoe, Shasta, etc.

Q: Have the SIS companies (Ellucian, PeopleSoft) been consulted regarding these integration plans?

A: Yes. From the beginning work on OEI Course Exchange, the Tech Center approached Ellucian as well as PeopleSoft to engage on how to best approach integration and Project Glue. The Tech Center CTO has personally had several meetings with Ellucian CTO John Kopcke on this topic. The Tech Center is on the executive steering committee for Ellucian’s integration strategy, branded Ethos, and participates in bi-weekly meetings. Tim Calhoon, Executive Director; Jeff Holden, Chief Information Security Officer; and Lou Delzompo, Chief Technology Officer for the Tech Center have visited Oracle headquarters in the Bay Area to discuss the integration plans. The Tech Center is on Oracle’s list to review its upcoming Cloud SIS, which is intended to replace PeopleSoft.

Q: Have database safeguards been planned to ensure database integrity? What happens when there are errors? For Colleague, at least, we have a pretty good idea about how the information is going to be moved into Colleague, and how they plan on reporting out “known” errors.

A: Yes. In every case for the Online Education Initiative, the Tech Center leveraged published APIs from the SIS vendors to ensure we are not making database-level changes, and are honoring any custom business logic employed by colleges. In the case of the Common Assessment Initiative, it has been suggested that creating a staging (or temporary) table and writing the data to that table is the best initial approach to allowing the colleges to make their own decisions about how the data should be consumed. While this violates one of the goals of Project Glue, which is to lessen the burden on college staff, it seems the most expedient way to proceed for now.

Q: How are you defining success for all of the pilots and what adjustments have been made to the processes as a result?

A: The answer to this depends on the project. The goals are set by the steering committee and not the Tech Center. Then the Tech Center is evaluated by independent evaluators (the RP Group in many cases) on how we govern the projects and align with the goals.

Q: Are there detailed project plans for these projects that delineate the steps and include site testing for these projects? If so, where can they be accessed?

A: Yes. For the initiative projects, we use a combination of Jira by Atlasssian and a product called RainforestQA for this purpose. These can be accessed by project staff members and steering committee members, and are normally both shared during our Agile process sprint reviews/demos and sprint planning meetings. For pilot colleges, it is normally not the case that they participate in either meeting.

For implementation projects involving Project Glue, we have been leveraging our pilot schools to develop the detailed project plans. There are weekly meetings with all colleges, led by our partner Experis, Inc., where the plans and schedules are shared out.

Q: How has the impact to the college resources been evaluated and accounted for in the implementation?

A: In our conversations with colleges around the implementation of the Hobson’s education planning solution through the Education Planning Initiative, the Tech Center has been empathetic to the demands that implementing an enterprise class application like Education Planning and Degree Audit places on college staff. Whenever possible the Tech Center provides resource support to these colleges.

In the case of Project Glue, the Online Education Initiative and Common Assessment Initiative, the Tech Center has endeavored to build a model where the Tech Center is fully staffed and ready to do ALL tasks necessary to integrate with the college’s SIS. This, of course, is a major goal of Project Glue. While we fully expect that in the beginning there will be impact to early adopter schools such as Butte, Foothill and MiraCosta, we have seen with other OEI pilots that the model works well so far.

More to the point, when initiatives roll out, there are sometimes monies set aside in the form of mini-grants that are intended to compensate colleges for staff time as well as allow them to employ third parties. This has been the model from the beginning, with eTranscript California and OpenCCCApply being examples. The Common Assessment Initiative has a mini-grant available to help colleges transition their assessments to CCCAssess, however, this is not targeted at IT staff as yet. We do know that these monies do not allow for increased staffing levels that would ease the burden on most colleges. We recommend that colleges with this issue be conservative about taking on a pilot role on any initiative until this issue is more fully addressed.

The Tech Center has posted these questions at CCCTechnology.info and invites faculty and staff to join the conversation there.


 Sandoval Chagoya is Director of Public Relations & Marketing for
the California Community Colleges Technology Center