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BCC IT Department prepares for 2021
Flash software retirement is Dec. 31
Michelle Kaiser
Michelle Kaiser

The retirement of Adobe’s Flash Player software on Dec. 31 will render millions of websites at least partially inoperable at the end of the year, according to Fortunately, Barton Community College has known about the looming death of Flash for five years, the college’s chief information officer, Michelle Kaiser, told BCC trustees on Tuesday.

Kaiser was reporting on Information Technology projects that are underway. Some of them use federal COVID-19 response funding and must be used by the end of the year. The IT projects plan involves other departments and many staff at Barton.

Flash was once used by almost every major tech company to create computer content, including audio and video. It is being replaced, for the most part, with HTML5 software, Kaiser noted.

“It never worked on Apple,” which saw it as vulnerable to hacking, she said. “This will impact instruction with online learning labs and websites,” she said. And even though the college has been preparing for the retirement of Flash, “I’m pretty sure we’ll have some people after the first of the year (with issues).”

The new Barton website was running Flash, Kaiser said. 

“The look and feel of it is not going to change,” she said. “It will continue to look like it does now; at this time not much is changing other than the technology in the background.” That technology makes the website mobile friendly and allows content to be refreshed with ease.

The new MyBarton Portal is the central location where students and employees log in for just about anything, from payroll to online learning to email and getting grades. Another web-based program, Degree Works, was also recently upgraded. “It was also using Flash Technology,” Kaiser said. This site helps with degree tracking, personalized advising and student planning.

The VDI Virtual Desktop is one project underwritten by COVID funding. It provides a Windows desktop for students who need one on their device. It works on Apple products or Chromebooks.

The AdmitHub Chatbot will allow viewers on a Barton website to find resources 24/7. When a “chat” box appears, a visitor can ask a question such as “Where do I fill out an enrollment application?” and the chatbot, can often answer the question immediately. Using Artificial Intelligence, it will learn the answer to more questions specific to Barton as the knowledge base grows. Because students and prospective students will be able to have their questions answered more quickly, the chatbot should help with retention and recruiting, Kaiser said. AdmitHub is the Number One chatbot used in higher education, she added.

Other COVID-funded implementations:

• 20 Ladibug document cameras to install

Kaiser said the Ladibugs will be dispersed next week. These cameras can show documents, and the close-up detail means they can also be used in nursing classes, for example, to show how to administer an injection.

• 8 TVs to install and mount in classes to allow zoom students to be present

• Network and switches to upgrade

• Live Streaming equipment – Sling Studio

• Indoor/Outdoor audio equipment

• Respondus Monitor unlimited licensing

This monitor can be used for giving tests. Among other things, it locks down the browser on a user’s device, Kaiser explained.

• Hardware equipment to assist with employee remote work

• Improved WiFi coverage in dorms

• Zoom Cloud recording storage increase

“We’ve got to get all of that completed by Dec. 31, 2020, and this campus goes on break Dec. 19,” Kaiser said. For COVID-funded projects, it is not enough to have purchased the hardware. “It has to be installed and up and going — along with the projects we have to get done for the Flash retirement.”

Not every Kansas community college has been able to meet the deadlines, she said. “We at Barton were able to get things figured out quickly.”

Kaiser also noted that the college plans to offer a technology fair during the Spring 2021 semester.

Meeting at a glance

Here’s a quick look at Tuesday’s Barton Community College Board of Trustees meeting:

• Charles Perkins, dean of Institutional Effectiveness, gave the Strategic Planning report.

• Michelle Kaiser, chief information officer, talked about Information Services project goals.

• Staff members on the “Cougar Driven” team provided an update on the college’s COVID-19 response.

• The following new personnel were approved: Samuel Kline-Martin, math & science specialist, Bridgette Griffin, assistant women’s basketball coach; and Eric Foley, director of choral activities, all at the Barton County campus; Carla Alford, customer service representative at Ft. Leavenworth; and Juna Brice Harvell, administrative assistant at the Grandview Plaza campus.