In March 2014, our President gave a series of presentations describing the direction our college would be headed in the future. In one of her final slides she introduced the idea that Oswego State needed to become a “Digital Campus,” utilizing modern technology to offer our students the education and services they required to thrive in the world they would head out into after graduation.
"The digital campus still has the personal touch, even if it is delivered technically"
Being the Chief Technology Officer at Oswego, my first thought was “that’s probably my job to deliver those goals.” And my second thought was “I wonder what she means by Digital Campus?” In November 2014, the college released its new strategic plan, Tomorrow-Greater Impact and Success. Based on the release of the plan, the timing seemed perfect to set out and determine what Oswego State’s IT version of the Digital Campus is. During the process, over 200 people were canvased, offering their view of what a digital campus is, and what the College needs to accomplish to become one. As the end of the process approaches, the campus feels they have a grasp of the Digital campus, but realize this vision will continue to evolve as Oswego State, Higher Education and technology evolve.
One item that stands clear is a strong infrastructure with extensive wireless is a key building block to all initiatives. Over the last two years, the College has increased its wireless by 500 percent in academic buildings. We moved from a single wireless access point in classrooms to one WAP for 25 seats in every classroom. Every conference room and collaboration space on campus has wireless.
We are working equally hard to increase the wireless in the Residence spaces. In Summer 2015 the college upgraded the wireless in our first three residences to one WAP for every other room. Over the next three years, the remaining residences will be outfitted with the same density.
Has it made a difference? Feedback indicates that it has. Over the past two years, the college has worked diligently to introduce more mobility and technology into the classroom. Cloud applications such as Lynda.com has helped many faculty flip the classroom. Now that the wireless infrastructure is prevalent, there is a marked increase in the use of mobile devices as tools instructors utilize to bring more active learning into the classroom.
The junior and senior students, who have seen the changes, have commented on how different their experience is now. Their expectations of the “at-home” experience are being met now, more than ever before.
A digitally enhanced campus is a home to students and faculty throughout the year who relies upon the stability of the infrastructure, depend upon the security, and push the limits of its possibilities. It integrates seamlessly into their learning and lifestyle.
A digitally enhanced campus has a green and healthy infrastructure, which thrives upon the ability to change and reinvent itself to meet the demands of pedagogical and technological change. It continues to grow and reach new goals each time a barrier is reached and overcome. The infrastructure and the technical staff who develop and support it continues to progress with each passing phase.
While the installation of wireless is a good start to building the digital campus, another goal is ensuring that the installationof this infrastructure is not a one-time purchase. Leadership at the College realizes that the investment of this equipment is an ongoing commitment that will need renewal as it ages. Funds are being set aside now to continue to invest into the future.
For Oswego, improved infrastructure is a good start to a number of other initiatives that are considered strategic. Many of them involve cloud based services.
New niche applications in the cloud are helping streamline administrative tasks to help faculty, staff and students improve productivity. Additional applications are available to help the campus identify students at risk at an early stage when intervention strategies can help the students get back on track. Other applications are available to faculty who want to explore how instructional technology can engage students in rich and meaningful online and classroom experiences.
The digitally enhanced campus is a community that implements technology, embraces change, thinks of the future and the next generation, and strives to make our campus, programs, and students successful. It provides every student with the tools they need to ensure a successful academic tenure, moving from acceptance to graduation in a timely manner.
Like many other colleges, cloud based services has presented both opportunities and challenges for Oswego State. The college has moved to the cloud in a variety of significant ways. First, a move to Google apps in the late 2000’s. Google docs is used extensively throughout the College and has become a key collaboration tool. More recently, the college moved the website off campus. This move offers many advantages including freeing up on-campus staff; right sizing the amount of bandwidth the website needsat any point; eliminating redundancy; and improving disaster capabilities that the system did not have before.
A digitally enhanced campus has a clear roadmap, deliverables, project plans and assessment criteria to achieve its goals. Decisions are timely and value is produced from all investments.
The challenge of moving to cloud services is that what looks to be quick and easy, isn’t always that way. While departments can move independently to acquire Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, it is usually not possible to implement without IT. To receive true value from these purchases, IT must work collaboratively with the departments, side by side, assembling a team that understands what needs to be done to extract the most value from the application.
To do this properly, communication and collaboration need to be handled proactively. There needs to be shared responsibility for results and the earlier these discussions take place, the better. At Oswego, we have worked with other SUNY institutions and developed a document that outlines the procedures for acquiring a cloud based service. The document outlines the basic risks that should be considered during procurement, what items should be included in the contract, and what the department responsibilities are in working with IT to deliver the service.
The digitally enhanced campus communicates and delivers information seamlessly and efficiently. It allows faculty, staff, and administration to focus on their teaching, scholarship and work. It provides the necessary data and information to support timely decision-making.
A digitally enhanced campus is service oriented, has efficient processes and personnel who are adept practitioners of their craft, are partners with the community in enabling their success, communicate well, and deliver results.
A key takeaway from the College’s year of defining the Digital Campus is that IT is a team sport. The Digital campus has students, staff and faculty who are eager to adapt technology as a solution to achieve their outcomes. While change is the only constant, we realize that collaboration and communication are key to working with the campus to reach the College’s strategic goals. The digital campus still has the personal touch, even if it is delivered technically. Going forward, as IT professionals, we need to examine what role technology will take, and collaborate and adapt with stakeholders to ensure the achievement of the College’s goals.