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Lab Staff

Computer Services lab staff consists of approximately 120 student workers who work in the labs, monitor equipment and provide first level user support to the student users.

Lab Monitors (also called Lab Attendants) are our entry level employees. The skill level of these workers varies greatly with the individual. Some may have no computer knowledge at all while others may be very familiar with all or at least some of the application software provided.

The next level of employee is the Lab Manager. These students have demonstrated competence with all or most of the software provided in the student labs. In addition, they can also perform some simple network management functions such as clearing print queues (both on the network system and the queues for CMS) and re-starting print servers. There is usually only one lab manager on duty to monitor ALL of our labs.

Lab Monitors may refer users to the Lab Manager should the Lab Monitor be unable to help the user. Lab Managers are also responsible for primary training of newly hired Lab Monitors. Workers must be employed in the labs for at least one year to be eligible for a Lab Manager position and must demonstrate reliability and reasonable technical proficiency.

Computer Services also employs four graduate assistants. One of these people is responsible for being available at night and on weekends to tend to any emergencies that might arise that are beyond the Lab Manager's abilities to deal with. This person also offers regular workshops for students who wish more detailed information on how to apply computers to their class projects and papers. These workshops are available to any student free of charge. Students may enroll in one or all of the workshops by contacting the lab manager on duty in D.P. Culp (x8211). Other graduate assistants work in areas of technical research, equipment maintenance, and user support.

In terms of full time university staff, the Assistant Manager of User Services directly manages both the staff and equipment in the labs, schedules and hires workers, administers the lab network system etc. Questions or problems with lab equipment, software etc. should be routed directly to that person (x4492).

General Lab Operating Procedures

For instructors who will deal with labs on a regular basis it is often helpful to have an idea of the basic operating procedures used to manage the various facilities. With 120 workers, multiple locations, shifts that include working most nights until 2am and staying open weekends and most holiday breaks the task of managing workers is a formidable one. Add to this the technical problems of keeping complex hardware functioning in an extremely harsh environment and the need for centralized management becomes clear.

Workers are normally scheduled at the beginning of each term. Scheduling their work hours must take into account their individual class schedules as well as other jobs and commuting problems for some students. It is usually not possible to have a complete staff the first day of a term, so it is unavoidable that there will be limited lab hours the first few weeks.

Scheduling Problems

Once a student is scheduled he or she will usually keep those shifts for the entire term. There are times, however, where a student will change classes or even drop out of school. In these cases, rescheduling is done. The task of trying to shuffle schedules on a moment's notice can at times be impossible. There are times (albeit few) when it is not possible to maintain regular open hours for a lab because of a lack of student workers. In these cases, students should contact our Lab Manager in D.P. Culp (x8211) and ask what other labs are available for use.

Holidays and Breaks

During breaks (i.e. Thanksgiving, Spring Break etc.) special schedules are done because so many students are out of town during those times and are not available to work their regular shifts. Computer Services makes every effort to have as much lab access available during those times as possible. It is an excellent opportunity for students to catch up on work or get ahead on current projects.

It is usually not possible to keep every lab open during these periods or to stay open until the normal 2am time. Hours for the breaks are posted on the doors and inside each lab. Normally these are also posted on the lab network itself and are displayed when each machine is booted. Posting is done about a week in advance.

Advertising on the Lab Network

From time to time other things may be advertised on the network system. Such things as Computer Services workshops, special schedules or events and regular lab open hours are normally advertised in this manner. Please contact User Services if you have an item you would like advertised. Items should be computer related and will not be posted for more than one week.

Electronic Lab Worker System

Due to the hours workers work and the number of locations involved an electronic management system has been created to aid both Computer Services and its workers in the common tasks associated with the labs. This system gives student workers access to open hours, class schedules for labs, worker schedules and other information. This system is also used to record hours worked by each student for payroll purposes.

Integration with the campus PC maintenance system is available to student lab workers through this system. Out of order machines are reported electronically in this manner. Student workers can also look up the status of any lab machine submitted for repair. All out of order equipment discovered in the labs should be reported to the Lab Monitor on duty.

Part of the electronic system workers use contains an internal electronic mail package which is used to keep workers and managers in touch. Special events or instructions can be communicated to all lab workers through this system. The system is also used to post substitute work shifts, special schedules etc. Much interest in this system has been expressed from other schools around the world. The software is available to any school free of charge on our ftp site.

First Line of Defense

On an average day, our labs will see 10-15 classes, 20-30 shift changes and anywhere from 50-2000 lab users spread across all our facilities. With this much usage, problems are bound to arise. Our Lab Managers posted in the D.P. Culp lab are equipped to deal with common occurrences such as print queues backing up, workers who are delayed or fail to show up for a shift, basic software questions and simple hardware problems. In the event they cannot solve the problem, they are instructed to turn the problem over to Computer Services staff or the student's instructor.

Computer Services employs one worker who is responsible for stocking paper, ribbons and common supplies in the labs and for keeping screens and keyboards clean.

Breaks Between Semesters

During the short periods between terms the labs are usually closed. Even though most of the student body is gone during those periods we still get requests and complaints from students who demand lab access at their discretion regardless of whether school is in session or not. These short breaks are the ONLY time available for Computer Services to perform in-depth maintenance, system upgrades and troubleshooting on lab equipment without having to shut the labs down during a term. For that reason we see the fact that the labs are closed during these gaps to be necessary.

Instructors should remind students who are turning in projects late (past the end of the term) that our facilities will not be available during those times. Again, this will be posted along with our re-open date on the lab doors.

Weather Policy

Computer Services labs have the same weather policy as the rest of the university. We understand that all of our workers may not be able to make it in for their shifts, but we request those who can should do so. Every effort is made to keep as many labs open as possible, but smaller labs may have to be closed in order to staff larger ones. On those rare occasions when classes are cancelled or the entire university shuts down due to weather our labs are also closed. During severe weather, you may call the D. P. Culp lab at 975-8211 for information concerning any closing of the labs.

Catastrophic System Failures

In any complex high-tech environment equipment can and does break down. On such occasions (especially at night or on weekends) there may not be any Computer Services staff available to correct serious problems. The student workers and even the Lab Managers are only equipped to handle so much and so there are occasions where any or all of our labs will be shut down due to malfunctions. This is usually some sort of networking problem which has the capacity to shut down either of our file servers or the entire campus network.

Some of these problems are self-correcting due to the manner in which the equipment is configured. Other types of failures require personal attention from highly trained specialists. Regular system backups and maintenance help insure that most failures are of short duration. Students should be instructed to save work frequently especially during storms or other circumstances where power outages are likely.
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