by Divina Paredes

CIO 100: University of Otago

Mar 24, 2016
Technology Industry

A RAFT OF projects – involving traditional and disruptive, or a melding of both technologies – await the 250-strong ICT team at the University of Otago.

Mike Harte, the university’s IT director, points out some of the biggest projects he and his team will work on this year, which are the completion of a new University Network plus installation of WiFi network across all buildings/campuses and the electronic documents and records management system OURDrive.

The university will also be immersed in a lot of innovative technologies on the mobile and cloud arenas, including the move to Windows 10 and Office 2016.

“We are moving from the ‘on premise’ lecture capture service to a cloud based solution,” says Harte.

The system will include an automated ‘series record’ service to record lectures. The team is replacing the current ‘clicker’ system in lecture rooms with online services that will provide interactive technologies for the lecturers and students.

Another project is a mobile app that will allow students to access information such as timetables, results, information about clubs and societies,library borrowing information and department announcements.

In addition, there will be major investments in infrastructure consolidation/virtualisation, security/ risk management technologies and big data/business intelligence and analytics, says Harte.

For Harte, a standout project was the recent work on providing the new computing environment across the university, to what he describes as “anywhere, anytime, any device”.

The concept of the computer room was developed at a time when few students had computers, and even fewer had access to mobile computers such as laptops, he explains. Today, however, with over 98 per cent of our students owning their own laptop, and nearly that number owning a smartphone, he needed to re-imagine students’ university computing experiences. Staff also now spend as much time away from their desk as they do at it.

He says the situation called for “a re- imagining of ‘the computer’ as we knew it if we were to meet the needs of our changing staff and students”.

After this exhaustive research phase that included a roadshow and surveys among the various users, the university implemented a new desktop environment that delivered ubiquitous access for users, even among those based offshore.

The Citrix based virtual desktop system was completed on time, under budget and able to deliver twice as many concurrent users than originally planned.

“It had also broken the shackles that bound staff and students to use computing facilities at the university when, where and on the device the university dictated,” he says.

“Extensive user engagement, with a constant focus on their requirements, throughout the project was essential,” says Harte. “We were designing for our customers, not IT.”