WVNET Accomplishments for 2019

2019 was another year of restructuring, staff retiring and some employees moving on to the next adventure in their lives.  But we still came out on top with 10 new employees to joining the WVNET team. Also, WVNET will be celebrating 45 years of service in 2020. Check out our blog for some history on WVNET throughout the years.

WV Statewide
Technology Conference:
After a brief hiatus, WVNET is bringing back the West
Virginia Statewide Technology Conference (WVSTC). The conference will be held
at the Charleston Conference Center from July 14 -16, 2020. We are working with
the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) and the West Virginia Office
of Technology (WVOT) to put together a diverse program that should appeal to
K-12, Higher Education and Government users. Check out the website wvstc.com for more details.

Marketing WVNET: The new Marketing Committee developed two professional brochures for WVNET.  One is an executive summary of WVNET, our programs, our services, and our customers.  The other, designed for State Delegates and Senators, details our impressive list of customers by political district.  Combined, these documents convey the importance of WVNET to the growth and vitality of West Virginia.

Banner, Blackboard, and other Academic Applications

Banner 9 Implementation: WVNET has been working with our college
and university customers over the past year to ensure the adoption of the
newest version of Banner. All our schools are now using Banner 9 for
administrative processes and are on their way to moving toward full adoption
for faculty and students. WVNET has provided each school with regular
communications regarding the continual releases of Banner 9, ensuring that
these releases are applied and underlying technologies are updated to ensure
optimum performance.

Pierpont Banner Separation: WVNET has worked with
Pierpont Community and Technical College to perform an extensive separation of
Pierpont data from the shared systems environment it was previously using.
WVNET has worked with to resolve inconsistencies in the data, worked with third
party vendors for integration, and provided hundreds of hours of support to the
Pierpont staff. These efforts were primarily on their Banner system, but also
included work on Argos and Blackboard. 
This was all completed at a cost that was more economical than that
charged by other vendors.

DegreeWorks: Ellucian DegreeWorks is a
comprehensive academic advising, transfer articulation, and degree audit
solution.  The

Transfer Equivalency Self-Service module offers
institutions an easy-to-use administrative tool for mapping courses and
processing transcripts. It also includes a self-service tool for transfer
students that clearly shows them where they stand in meeting course and degree
requirements. Testing of this module wrapped up in 2019, making 2020 the year
many institutions go-live with this student-focused application.

Learning System

  • We conducted Blackboard Admin
    Chats every other Tuesday for our customers.
  • We conducted 12 Blackboard
    training sessions at 7 institutions and managed over 170 Blackboard support
  • The WV Supreme Court of
    Appeals was added as a customer. They are using the Blackboard-based PEAK
    system for professional advancement and training.
  • Blackboard admin training
    sessions were conducted at Eastern CTC and Mountwest CTC.

Education Services

Department of Education: WVNET is proud to work with the WV Department
of Education (WVDE). WVNET hosts the WVDE primary site and works with WVDE
staff to ensure that all services are operational. This was crucial this past
year when strike announcements were announced and user demand on the server
increased to levels that rendered the website inaccessible. WVNET staff worked
to allocate additional resources to the server so that the website remained
available during this peak demand.

WVNET also worked with
WVDE on to their Microsoft Office 365 deployment. WVNET worked with WVDE staff
to upgrade the system to ensure that all 500,000+ accounts would continue to be

Finally, WVNET continues to host websites for many
of the K-12 school districts.  Just look
for the tagline “Powered by WVNET” tagline on their home page.

WV Virtual
Learning Network:
In October 2019, WVNET revived
the dormant WV Virtual Learning Network (WVVLN) with a multi-day conference in
Roanoke.  WVVLN is a consortium of WV
institutions that are doing distance learning classes.  The program went stagnant a few years ago due
to retirements and staff departures.  It
has now resumed its previous status as a respected program for distance
learning enthusiasts.

Other Software Applications

OZ Problem Tracking System: In
2019, we released the latest version of WVNET’s problem tracking system called
OZ.  OZ 5.0 include many security
improvements, a complete re-write of all database code, new table management to
improve how lists of tickets are displayed, a new email system that extends the
capabilities to communicate with OZ, and many code improvements and

We also created a
Progressive Web Application for OZ. This mobile application provides a user-friendly
interface to the OZ system for mobile devices. While the PWA is currently
limited to basic ticket processing (view, create, update, close), it is
extremely useful for people who are working at multiple locations and need to
stay on top of problems and tasks.

WV Instructional Resource Center: We created a new version of the West Virginia Instructional Resource Center (WVIRC) application.  It is used to manage orders and inventory for students of the West Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind. The new version is implemented using updated framework software on a new server and includes numerous optimizations that improve performance and minimize errors.

Service Training application, PSTACHIO, is used by public service providers throughout
West Virginia. In 2019, we added new features such as copying enrollments
between classes, sorting certificates by department, new on-demand reports, and
an easier way to export data for reporting and certificates.

Professional Learning
and Development:
WVNET’s Professional Learning and Development application (PLAD)
gives administrators all the tools needed to manage, plan track and approve
professional development for all educators, bus drivers and staff members.  In 2019, it was updated with a completely new
user interface, making it more responsive for smaller screens and less
confusing for users. We also conducted a security audit of the PLAD system and
corrected potential access restriction issues.

Blinks: To improve our
support for Ellucian Banner products, we created a tool called Blinks.  This tool reconciles important information
about our numerous Banner instances. The program makes it easy to track
versions and update software levels across all institutions in both production
and test environments.

Pygenwar: As part of our support for many instances of Banner, there are some tasks that can be time-consuming and complicated. For example, student self-service applications must be configured and deployed for each institution. To save a large amount of time and effort, we developed a program called Pygenwar that automatically performs these tasks. This program reduces errors caused by manual configuration while greatly optimizing the process.

Honu: Our Nursing application, called Honu, coordinates nursing student experiences in medical institutions around the state. This year we added some security improvements to the program which will provide a better user experience.

SoftChalk and
Medial Close Captioning:
These are two new
products we have made available to our customers.  SoftChalk is a distance learning authoring
tool.  Medial is a video streaming system
that includes closed captioning.

Data Center Systems

F5 Web Application Firewall (WAF): WVNET has upgraded its
F5 load balancer service and added a Web Application Firewall (WAF) module.
This has increased our web-hosted customer’s protection from web attacks. F5’s
WAF is designed to proactively detect and mitigate bots, secure credentials and
sensitive data, and defend against application-based denial-of-service (DoS)

New IBM p-Series S922: WVNET replaced its IBM p770 server with a
new IBM p-Series S922. The old system used 32 cores and had a performance
rating of 288.9 rPerf, while the new system uses 20 cores yet has a performance
rating of 426.4 rPerf – over 1/3 less cores, but almost a 50% boost in
performance. This allowed WVNET to transition from a traditional scale-up (or
vertical) infrastructure to a scale-out (or horizontal) deployment. Horizontal
scaling makes it easier for WVNET to offer state-of-the-art performance at
reasonable prices while providing a stable growth path as our customer’s needs

Oracle Database Security: WVNET continues to revise its security
policies to ensure that our customer’s data is protected. This year, we
implemented SQLNet encryption on all database connections to ensure that
data-in-motion is delivered over a secure channel.

Oracle Database Patching: WVNET continues to ensure that our
databases are up to date with the latest security patches. WVNET utilizes the
latest Oracle Enterprise Management (OEM) software to perform patches on
multiple databases and utilize the features of OEM to enhance productivity.

Network Operations Center: The Network Operations Center
(NOC) received about 11,000 calls and tickets.   Half of those were
for after-hours coverage of the WVOT helpdesk. 
As a reminder, WVNET’s NOC is staffed 24/7/365 to serve our customers.

Telecommunications Improvements

  • Migrated all 55 County Tax Assessors and 174 WV Library
    Commission circuits off of the expiring state communications contract.
  • Decommissioned outdated Netsweepers, modems, and ATM circuits.
  • Upgraded the video infrastructure and device endpoints, and trained
    NOC specialists on how to provide more comprehensive support for video
  • Enhanced data security by enabling encrypted communications
    over the Virtual Private Network (VPN) for DegreeWorks, Argos, Amazon Web
    Services, Microsoft Azure Cloud, Cashnet, Ad Astra Analytics, Campus
    Consortium, and Adirondack Solutions.
  • Made a significant investment in new core infrastructure
    equipment in preparation for a major upgrade of all WVNET network equipment in
    2020.  When complete, this will
    significantly improve throughput on the network, reduce network latency, and
    improve network reliability.

New Employees

Dr. Carl
of WVNET): Dr. Powell brings knowledge and experience to lead
WVNET.  Dr. Powell has a master’s in
computer science, a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, and thirty-five years of
experience in information technology.  He
has served as vice president and chief information officer at universities in
Colorado, Michigan and Ohio. Dr. Powell is the 10th Director of

Anita Davis (HR Generalist):
Anita is a Certified Senior Professional in Human Resources, holds a master’s
degree in Industrial Relations, and fifteen years of working in Higher
Education.  Anita is a U.S. Navy veteran,
having served as a telecommunications specialist.

Dr. Bonnie
DLES): Bonnie brings with her a broad background in Higher Education and
K-12. Bonnie holds a doctorate degree in Technology Education and a master’s
degree in Instructional Design and Technology.

Sarah Barnes (Web Developer):
Sarah is a front-end web developer and UI/UX designer with over twenty years of
experience in the field. Ironically, her first job out of college was at WVNET
from 1998 to 2003.

(Database Administrator): Edward has twenty
years’ experience working with Oracle software as an Oracle Database
Administration and as an Oracle certified professional.  He is also a U.S. Navy veteran.

Mary Burkhart (Telecommunications Network Specialist II): Mary got her start as a Microsoft intern in high school and now has a degree in IT Networking & Security Management. “I enjoy working at WVNET and I look forward to contributing and growing with the company for many years to come.” Mary has over ten years of networking experience.

James (Jimmie) Reed (Telecommunications Network Specialist II): After being a cook for several years, Jimmie enrolled at the West Virginia Junior College and graduated with a degree in Information Technology. “I’m very excited for what the future holds for WVNET and I look forward to working with the most brilliant and coordinated team I’ve ever been around!”  Jimmie brings fourteen years of experience to WVNET.

Adam McKeown (Network Operator):
Adam brings his degree in Information Technology and his helpdesk experience to
the NOC.

(Associate Director,
WVROCKS): Vijay is an experienced IT professional with over fifteen years of
experience in higher education, both in teaching and administrative roles.

Alexander Keefover (Program Assistant
II, WVROCKS): Alex received his bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, with a
minor in Computer Science, from Fairmont State University and a master’s degree
in Digital Media and New Literacies & Learning.