Flanagan: We had an aging PBX phone system and were calling students who didn’t need many credits to complete their certificates or degrees to say, “What can we do to help you finish your education?” But we were all working remotely, and we were calling these students on our random cellphones instead of university phones. So, we were not getting answers from students, even to text messages.
We decided to invest in new Microsoft-based telephony so we can make office calls with office prefixes and area codes from any device running Teams, just so students know this is UVU calling. The system is going to be replaced before fall starts.
RELATED: Here are 4 signs that you should say goodbye to legacy technology.
EDTECH: What factors are you considering when planning for fall 2021 that you might not have considered in the past?
Flanagan: We clearly need better ways to communicate. A student-centric application will deploy in the fall, and it isn’t just a menu of things you can find on campus but much more process-driven — for example, here’s how to pay tuition on the phone or how to register for classes.
The open rate on pandemic news-related emails to students was low. That got us looking at our campus portal, which, frankly, was in really poor shape. There’s a real push in 2021 to improve our intranet.
Pitt: We need to be thinking about collaborative space in much more meaningful ways. For instance, my security team works remotely, but comes into the office to work one day a week in a conference room so we have a sense of belonging and working together. But that also means we have a conference room that’s out of commission one day a week, so we’ve got to schedule to allow flexible work to happen and achieve a level of productivity in IT.
Norris: We’re expecting the unexpected. We plan to have people in person, but things can change pretty quickly, so we will be ready to be a bit more agile, or continue to be, as we face the future.
MORE ON EDTECH: How automation adds agility to campus service delivery.
EDTECH: How can IT departments best use their technology investments to highlight and emphasize the critical role that IT plays in the university’s overall success?
Abouelenein: Institutions need to talk about student success. How do we ensure we keep them engaged throughout their academic journeys? How do we tell when a student is at risk? Technology can play a part in that.
You have to have a system in place, for example, that can detect when students are not posting in a learning management system — an automated trigger that initiates some events on the system, so that a faculty member can promptly reach out to the student and ask why they aren’t participating or why their grades are dropping.
Pitt: One of the most important things we put in place was a project management framework and office, because we’re able to showcase the value of bringing technology experts into those kinds of discussions.
There’s a tendency — and I don’t think it’s unique to any particular higher education institution — for people to see a tool and want that tool. At that point, you want to step back and ask, “What are your requirements? What do you need to accomplish?” Because there are multiple tools out there to do what you want to do, and you want to make sure you get the best tool, that it’s secure, accessible and integrates appropriately with your environment.
Norris: For a university, it’s important to have IT at the table as you talk about the future. Whether that’s teaching and learning and the research side, or even on the administrative side, it’s important to ensure IT is there from the beginning and not as an afterthought, to understand what the university is focused on and how technology can support that.