Moving IT forward: Centre for Environment’s information technology initiatives

Friday, January 11, 2008 11:52:28 AM

Centre News

By Imran Hasan

The Centre for Environment has several key active Information Technology (IT) projects recently completed and several aimed for completion in the spring 2008 term or in 2008-09. The majority of these activities are implemented and managed by Imran Hasan, IT Manager at the Centre, with assistance from a small staff of work-study students and summer students. Recent projects that are completed or near completion include:

  • Ecolink – Environmental Research Portal ( an online tool to bring together U of T faculty and undergraduate students interested in research opportunities in the area of the environment
  • Environmental Research Database ( an online repository of environmentally related research activity across all three U of T campuses, searchable in a simple keyword format.
  • The adoption of BlackBoard as a Learning Portal: some faculty and teaching staff are now using Blackboard as the primary method for distributing course materials and collaboration of students online. The Centre’s Distance Education Program also uses BlackBoard as its primary online course delivery tool.
  • Green PC Initiative: this includes energy saving settings on Centre faculty and staff computers to reduce energy consumption and the replacement of older computers with PCB-free, energy saving computers and all CRT monitors to energy-saving LCD monitors (expected completion: January 2008).

The following IT projects are aimed for completion in spring 2008 or in 2008-09:

  • New and improved Centre for Environment website: allowing easier access to information for all audiences and providing a central portal for environmental activities across the U of T campuses (Spring 2008)
  • Expansion of registration system for the Centre’s Environmental Distance Education Program (Spring 2008 - Fall 2008): a newly expanded student information system is being developed which will allow students to register and pay for courses and certificate programs online. An intuitive reporting system will also provide lecturers and staff with expanded student information.
  • Expansion of email service for the Centre for Environment (Spring 2008): building on the security of the UTORmail system, the Centre for Environment is currently expanding email services for its faculty and staff to be implemented by the spring of 2008. It is hoped that will also be implemented for the Centre’s graduate students by the fall of 2008. This will include expanded inbox storage limits, enhanced webmail services, improved scheduling capabilities with room and resource bookings, and document sharing capabilities. All faculty, staff and graduate students will be able to keep their email account while using the expanded email services.

The increased environmental awareness and consciousness impacts the choices we make, including our technology choices. Environmental awareness has increased to such extent that the environment itself has become a key stakeholder in technology decisions (PCB free PCs, Green Servers, etc). The technology choices made at the Centre for Environment are starting to include this paradigm shift as it seeks ways to include a bit of “green” thinking in its IT going towards the future.

Imran Hasan is the Information Technology Manager at the Centre for Environment.