CIO Quick Takes: Tech leaders prep for new college year
As students return to campus, college and university CIOs share how they prepared for the new academic year.
By Dan Muse
Colleges students and their parents have high expectations — and in many cases, a few butterflies — as they prepare for a new school year. As student roll onto campuses this weekend, college and university tech pros share that feeling of excitement, perhaps mixed with a little uncertainty and a tinge of nerves. After all, what demographic is more likely to push the limits of technology than 18 to 22 year-olds. Learning today is a 24/7, always-on proposition, which brings challenges along with opportunities. Add to that the sobering reality that student safety is now everyone’s top priority — including the CIO.
To find out how CIOs prepared for the new academic year, we teamed with our partners at the CIO Executive Council and asked four IT leaders the same question.
The answers reflect the broad role technology plays in higher education. CIOs from Cal Poly Pomona, Fordham, Arizona State and the University of Illinois talk about closing the generation gap, the agility needed to stay a step ahead of mobile-device wielding students, keep classroom connected and students engaged — as well as safe — and much more.
What’s your biggest priority as students return to campus?
Information security: I am always concerned with information security and creating and maintaining a learning environment that fosters collaboration and continually educates our constituents on the risks of information security.
Overall operation of our core IT infrastructure: It’s also very important that we continuously operate an environment that is reliable and one that serves the university mission.
Classroom and learning technology: The technology in our classrooms and other learning environments demonstrate our commitment to student learning. I am focused on ensuring we continually evaluate and improve our services.
Growing communication generation gap – My largest concern is the gap in how my generation (those who are between the ages of 40 and 60 without being specific about my age) communicates and our student population (those who are between the ages of 17 and 23) communicates. There is a growing gap in our communication styles, and I am determined to find options and solutions to bridge that gap, while respecting students’ private space.
“Today it’s agility. We’re constantly improving our technology services at Fordham University to ensure that when students return to campus, their experience of technology is trouble-free. But when they do encounter issues or have questions, they depend on our fast and complete response.
“Despite our research, they can surprise us with the latest and multiple devices, usually wireless.
“During the weekend move-in period and the month of September, Fordham IT’s student-led IT Tiger Team is on call 24/7 in dorms and other areas on campus to answer questions and help students set up their devices. Resident Technology Consultants live in the residence halls. These students support their peers throughout the school year with workshops and basic tech assistance. And our IT Customer Care is a fully staffed department, with walk-in and call centers. They repair equipment and provide essential troubleshooting for students, as well as for faculty and staff.”
“Arizona State University, one of the largest universities in the country, is preparing for the arrival of more than 80,000 students to our several campuses in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area. As at other universities, the priority at this time of year is ensuring the IT infrastructure is prepared to support students’ academic and residential needs — ensuring that several hundred classrooms are equipped with the latest in A/V, computing, lecture capture, student feedback, and adaptive learning technologies.
“In addition, each summer our staff upgrades several hundred student computing labs with new images containing the latest versions of operating systems and educational applications. Changing student expectations with regard to network availability demands that we provide effective Wi-FI coverage in all residence halls and academic facilities, a challenge that grows each year as students and faculty bring more Wi-Fi-enabled devices to our campus.
“We also need to ensure that our enterprise applications are ready to admit, enroll and register tens of thousands of students in hundreds of classes, and that our learning management platforms are prepared to deliver the content and administer tests, quizzes and assignments that are increasingly delivered online.
“Finally, the safety and security of our students is our highest priority — this year, a new addition to the mobile safety application, LiveSafe, is the ability for students to request an escort from any campus location or to allow a friend to track their movement on or off campus, as well as the ability to make an instant 911 call to campus police.”
“Tim Killeen, our new president at the University of Illinois, started in May of this year, and he has dedicated his presidency to our students. One of the most important aspects of his vision is student engagement. The Bureau of Labor Statistics published data showing worldwide employee engagement is less than 20 percent.
“Similarly, Purdue president Mitch Daniels recently wrote a Wall Street Journal article stating that engagement of new graduates with their new employers is less than 40 percent. At universities, we have a great deal of IT resources, and we need to use our high tech classrooms, online learning systems, ubiquitous network connectivity and thousands of mobile devices to engage our students. We need to use IT to increase collaboration inside and outside of the classroom, between students and faculty, with our community, and with the businesses that will be the future employers of our students. Our biggest priority is using our IT tools to help create life-long, engaged graduates.”