Teaching & Learning Environment (TLE) Planning and Spending Guidelines

(Updated September 17, 2015, for the FY 2016)

Purpose of the TLE Fund

The Teaching and Learning Environment (TLE) fund is a strategic allocation designed to build and transform the university’s educational technology infrastructure in ways that enhance student learning and contribute to the distinction of the MSU curriculum.

Two categories of TLE funding are available:

Strategic Investment Projects

Strategic Investment Project (SIP) funding supports innovative projects and initiatives that are aligned with the long-term strategic priorities of the colleges and the university. This is the largest available pool of funding in the annual TLE budget.

Maintaining Technological Effectiveness

Another key use of TLE funds is to upgrade and refresh the existing technology environment, especially in areas that are accessible to all students. Maintaining Technological Effectiveness (MTE) funds are divided into seven sub-categories of support (in order of funding priority): classroom and laboratory upgrades, virtual learning environment, teaching and evaluation tools, graduate education, library resources, faculty computing and other infrastructure.

Annual Planning Process & Calendar

TLE funding is part of the annual integrated general fund planning and budget process. TLE requests are considered based on alignment with programmatic planning and facilities alterations and improvements (A&I) needs.

The TLE process begins with the announcement of the Provost’s request for proposals in early January of each year. Major Administrative Units (MAUs) are asked to complete the funding request narrative and budget template and submit their prioritized requests to the University Planning Coordinator in the Office of Planning and Budgets.

Funding requests are reviewed for alignment with university strategic goals and priorities, readiness for implementation and appropriateness for TLE funding. Resources that faculty and students use directly in instruction and learning are most suitable for inclusion in proposals. Research or administrative resources generally are not eligible for TLE funding. Additionally, units are expected to plan for integrating maintenance and replacement of new infrastructure into their existing local operating budgets.

The Provost and Chief Information Officer collaborate to allocate TLE funds as part of the annual budget process facilitated by the Office of Planning and Budgets. Approved funding allocations are announced to MAU leadership via their budget materials and TLE communications. MAU leaders are responsible for informing departments of approved requests and communicating account information and spending guidelines.

Annual TLE Planning Calendar showing approximate timeframes

New in 2016

We continue to refine the TLE planning and funding process in order to optimize the use of available funds and expedite the modernization of campuswide teaching and learning resources.

Increased Emphasis on Strategic Projects

In 2016, a greater share of the TLE funding pool was dedicated to innovative projects aligned with university strategic priorities for enhancing the student experience. Units were encouraged to begin to build the replacement of basic computing infrastructure, such as faculty computers, into their operating budgets. We anticipate that this trend will continue in future years.

Improved Tracking of TLE Funding and Spend

In order to facilitate college and central tracking of annual TLE funding commitments and spending, we are adding new accounts and organizations to our accounting structure in 2016. SIP accounts will continue to be assigned on a project basis as in prior years, but 2016 will see the introduction of a new MTE account for each sub-category of award made to a unit. MTE accounts that existed prior to 2016 will be phased out and closed at the end of fiscal year (FY) 2016.

The introduction of new U2 level organizations under the TLE organization (10047159) will provide colleges with an easy means of tracking their accounts and the opportunity to establish college-specific workflow and organization review of transactions. Default approver workflow and organization review will include IT Services. MAUs may submit ARM forms to create subordinate approval levels or KFS eDocs to create subordinate org review as needed.

Accelerated Repurposing of Unspent Funds

TLE funding is designed primarily for projects that are ready for implementation within the course of the funding year. Carrying forward unspent account balances ties up funds that could be used to mitigate the negative effects of many years of deferred maintenance of our IT infrastructure.

Beginning in FY 2016, SIP accounts will be closed out upon project completion. The default action at fiscal year-end will be to sweep remaining fund balances on all accounts, including MTE accounts, and expire and close any remaining SIP accounts. Occasionally, remainders of SIP awards may be carried forward into a second fiscal year in order to complete a project (for example, a classroom renovation with a summer completion date). Colleges should contact IT Services to request an extension of a SIP account.

MTE accounts created prior to 2016 will be closed out at the end of the fiscal year, leaving only the newly created MTE sub-category accounts for reuse in subsequent years. Special requests to carry forward MTE funds beyond the current fiscal year should be sent to the University Planning Coordinator in the Office of Planning and Budgets with a copy to IT Services.

Roles & Responsibilities

IT Services partners closely with academic units, the Office of the Provost, the Office of Planning and Budgets, and Infrastructure Planning and Facilities to plan, design, coordinate and execute the IT elements of strategic projects and infrastructure maintenance.

As academic units begin to identify and prioritize technology projects that are large-scale or high impact, they should contact IT Services for technical support and guidance in adhering to university standards. In the long-term, collaboration between academic units and the technology experts in IT Services will ensure that we provide quality, effective and efficient technology across campus, achieve optimal performance of our systems and maximize utilization of scarce university resources.

Construction Projects

For projects involving construction or alteration of existing space, coordination between IT Services, Facilities Planning and Space Management (FPSM), and IPF is particularly important for timely and effective project completion. Since most TLE projects should be focused on enhancing academic spaces, TLE projects that require a construction or renovation component should be discussed with FPSM to determine the scope of the project and ultimately receive FPSM approval. Throughout the duration of the project, units are expected to continue to work with FPSM and IT Services to ensure appropriate and effective completion of projects. In the rare circumstance that a network/infrastructure project unrelated to classroom/lab space is funded with TLE resources, units are requested to route their IPF service requests through IT Services prior to submission to IPF. Once reviewed for alignment with the TLE project plan, IT Services will forward the request to IPF and continue to work with the academic unit and IPF to complete the project.

Wireless Networks & University Classrooms

Standardization of the wireless network and classroom infrastructure is critical to maintaining a stable, high-functioning technological environment that provides a contemporary, delightful customer experience to our students, faculty, staff, and visitors. With this goal in mind, all upgrades of the wireless network must be restricted to deployment of the MSUnet Wireless system and coordinated through IT Services Infrastructure.

Similarly, enhancements to TLE funded classrooms and all centrally scheduled classrooms (regardless of source of funding) must be coordinated through FPSM and IT Services Academic Technology.

Accounting Processes & Policies

A separate account is created for each new SIP project in July of each year. Spending may begin as soon as the new accounts are issued, but funding may not be available until late July or early August.

Accounts for each sub-category of MTE funding are created as needed at the beginning of each fiscal year. Once created, an MTE account may be reused in subsequent years. Sub-accounting according to college standards for each funded MTE activity is strongly encouraged on MTE accounts.

For both SIP and MTE accounts, only budgeted expenses submitted in an MAU’s TLE proposal and approved in the TLE allocation are allowable. Ancillary items that enhance the functionality of a TLE-funded resource or contribute to the project but were not included in the budget should be charged to a college or department account. If unbudgeted expenses are discovered during an IT Services account review, the fiscal officer will be required to process a distribution of expense to clear the unallowable items.

TLE accounts may not be overdrawn. Any remaining funds at the end of a project or fiscal year will be swept into a clearing account and made available for use in important technology upgrades or additional innovative projects. This practice of limiting the expense items allowed on TLE accounts simplifies account review and allows us to aggregate small remaining balances into a larger funding pool that can support worthwhile projects that would not otherwise have received funding.

All eDocs submitted on TLE accounts must include complete documentation of the items charged and follow university guidelines as defined in the Manual of Business Procedures.