Technology changes quickly, and there are few constants. Although rapid change can make for challenging planning, there’s one touchstone to which we can always return: regardless of how specific technologies appear, develop, grow, and eventually fade away, I believe that the best technologies have, at their core, a human-centered purpose.
The most useful tech doesn’t change or define the meaning of what we do. Instead, it is aligned with what we need and helps us, frees up time, and improves our lives. To that end, a strategic plan for information technology at Colgate must be connected to us, our dreams and desires, and the work we set out to do in these first years of our third century.
In the fall newsletter, I outlined areas where a technology plan might provide focus. In this edition, I expand a bit on those areas and would like to share with you what I’m thinking about and let you know how those plans are connected to the community we serve.
Improving Classroom Technology and Innovative Spaces. Our students, and the majority of our new faculty, are digital natives. Prospective first-year students visit Colgate from schools with fully digital, flexible, and modern learning spaces. Although we have some outstanding special spaces like the Ho Tung Visualization Lab and the Peace and Conflict Studies War Room, there’s work to be done in providing comprehensive maker technology, and 3-D and virtual reality development facilities for interested faculty and students. Additionally, we have many opportunities to refine further the technology experience and overall fit and finish in our regular classrooms, auditoria, and seminar rooms.
Enhanced Support for Teaching, Learning and Research. Digital technologies offer unique affordances to support teaching, learning, research, and creative work — bounded only by the imagination of our faculty and students. ITS staff collaborate with faculty in the exploration of ways in which technology can be used to amplify the residential liberal arts learning experience. As reflected in the recent Middle States Self-Study Report, faculty satisfaction around collaboration with technology staff has improved in recent years, and interest continues to grow. As the satisfaction and demand increases, our strategic effort in this area includes the growth of instructional design support, evaluation of technology-based instructional innovations, and providing access to top quality academic technology resources.
Special Support for the Arts. We’re seeing increases in demand for digital media and special event support, and we anticipate that the demand for this suite of services will continue to grow. Film and Media Studies and Art and Art History are both beginning to open dialogue about improving their dedicated learning spaces and are looking to upgrade special event facilities, which support very special programs like the Flaherty Film Seminar. The technology plan must reflect our university’s strong commitment to support the arts.
Connectivity and Infrastructure. During the last two years, we have made substantial investments in wireless infrastructure in our residential spaces. Looking comprehensively at our network, we must ensure that the whole campus — its buildings and its outdoor common areas — has fast and reliable internet connections. Planning must include an opportunity to take advantage of high-speed research networks like Internet 2 and other services to fully support an active community of scholars and their ability to collaborate with national and international colleagues.
Information Security and Risk Mitigation. This is a consistent technology priority for higher education. For the second year in a row, it’s been identified as Educause’s #1 area of technology focus for our peers nationwide. Our information security program, especially in areas of community awareness and data governance, needs additional focus. Our technology disaster recovery plans are ready for refreshing, and our community has expressed interest in learning more about how to navigate safely, both personally and professionally, in an increasingly complex digital world.
Enterprise Data Systems and Data Analytics. Major enterprise systems that support admission and advancement are on solid ground with the implementation of Slate and ongoing implementation of Raiser’s Edge NXT. We are making strides in helping our community leverage analytics and data visualization to support decision making. However, many other systems supporting financial functions, human resources, service management, and student records are in need of modernization. Many administrative processes are paper-based and labor intensive. Many of those that are electronic are running in Banner, which is 25 years old and has not changed to keep up with current practice or technology standards. There are many “shadow” or ancillary systems that have been implemented over the years to fill gaps left by our older major systems. We must look strategically and holistically at these current systems to discern whether they are costing us more in staff time and institutional efficiency than we’d pay for refreshed and modern systems in these areas. As the Information Technology Strategic Plan continues to develop, we’re fortunate to have the support of great colleagues both at Colgate and in the broader higher education community, faculty and administrative governance bodies, student government leadership, and the community at large. To that end, I invite you to consider these six areas of focus and offer your feedback directly. As always, please reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments and thoughts about our planning direction.
Thanks, and enjoy Innovations!