Fostering Technology Incorporation into Learning and Research

By Jack Chen, CIO, Adelphi University

Jack Chen, CIO, Adelphi University

Over the years, we have witnessed a massive change pertaining to the role of CIOs depending on the organization, the industry, the business strategies, the prevailing market conditions and the financial climate in terms of business value. How would you describe your own role as CIO has changed in the past couple of years?

My role as CIO has evolved over the last few years, but it changed dramatically after Dr. Christine Riordan became Adelphi’s new president in 2015. Being tech-savvy and data-driven, she is focused on transforming Adelphi to a digital campus. She asked questions that were never asked before. In most cases, we had the data to provide the answers, but not in all. For example, Dr. Riordan wants to see data comparisons between the current year and previous year’s data on non-return students. However, the Academic Services does not maintain the previous year’s data. It made us rethink data storage and retention and to plan for unanticipated needs.

"While IoT is still in the early stages, it has tremendous potential in an educational institution"

Given our technology-infused culture, IT has become a critical component across academic and administrative departments. Subsequently, as CIO, I have become more involved in working with senior leadership to implement Adelphi’s strategic goals. In order to more effectively support these goals, we developed three-year technology plans with a set of initiatives and key actions that are proactive and forward thinking. The CIO has to be strategic thinker with a clear understanding of the institution’s objectives and the role of technology in realizing them. The CIO has to be a trusted partner because collaboration is essential to success.

The opportunity and disruption in the education market requires business transformation at a swift time-to-market pace. How has technology and your initiatives helped your university/institution to excel or keep pace with the change?

An educational institution has a responsibility to its students and its faculty to be in the forefront of incorporating technology into learning and research. Technology has transformed the physical classroom into a learning space without boundaries. Almost all of the classrooms at Adelphi are multimedia with video on-demand. We created a simulation lab to facilitate the study of nursing and plan to develop technology-enhanced science labs. We have expanded wireless and introduced AU2Go, with mobile apps that expedite student access to services. These are among the initiatives that have moved us forward. We are leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT) and we anticipate that this will have a significant impact on how we respond to change.

Offering specialized academic programs is another way for an educational institution to excel. But this is a tough area to crack. Launching a new degree program is a lengthy process that requires many review processes and different layers of approval. There are internal and external accreditation bodies as well as federal and state education departments that must give their approval. The process can take months to years. However, IT can play an important role in establishing the infrastructure to expedite content delivery, course design and student support initiatives, especially in the case of online and/or blended programs.

Higher Education CIOs have seen the onslaught of both digital content and mobile devices and need to insure their infrastructure is ready. What needs to be done in the area of infrastructure investment?

Even just a few years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine the exponential growth in the amount of digital content that is produced. It is unfathomable to contemplate how much data storage we require! It should be noted that not only are we dealing with structured content, but non-structured content data, such as video, audio and pictures. It is impossible for any institution to accommodate or afford the infrastructure to store these data. We were fortunate to have partnered with Google many years ago and we use Google Apps for email and storage. Google Apps provides unlimited storage which has been proven to be extremely advantageous, with the additional benefit of no cost to us.

We have been investing in wireless access for over 10 years. In just the last three years, we have seen an almost complete turnover from wired to wireless network. Complete high-speed wireless coverage is essential to every educational institution. In fact, a dedicated wireless budget needs to be allocated as an operating expense. In addition, it is important to build the infrastructure to ensure that it supports internal and external audiences, including prospective students and visitors. We are pleased to be part of the Eduroam consortium which allows guests from other institutions to access our wireless network using the credentials from their respective institutions. A reciprocal process lets our users who are traveling to sign on to other Eduroam institutions with their Adelphi logins.

How are applications that leverage the IoT changing campus life and learning?

IoT has made significant inroads into campus life and learning and I expect that we will see rapid growth in this area. Security cameras, environmental control units and classroom projects are IoT devices. Adelphi’s College of Nursing and Public Health is exploring IoT for homecare in its nursing and health informatics programs. We anticipate that it will be incorporated into the curriculum very shortly. On the student service side, students bring in their smart TVs, gaming devices, etc. While IoT is still in the early stages, it has tremendous potential in an educational institution.



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