It is often said that technology and change go hand-in-hand. A university campus maintains a number of systems to facilitate teaching and learning, collaboration, and data-driven decision making. Existing systems need security patches and upgrades. New technologies are introduced regularly. When the COVID-19 outbreak began in March, the usual summer flurry of activity for campus IT staff kicked off much earlier to help the Illinois State University community adjust to the new norms of social distancing and remote learning.
Over the last five months technology staff have focused on facilitating improved and safer teaching and learning through enhancements and improved security. These changes will allow flexibility for faculty and students to have an effective fall 2020 semester regardless of learning modality. The impacts of these changes are widespread. Some specifically targeted to faculty, students, or staff, others deliver value to everyone, but all changes focused on student success, access, security, and increased productivity.
Early Response—Communication and Security
Early in the pandemic, IT staff were thrust into action to create a new website that housed critical information regarding Illinois State’s response to the pandemic. The site includes important updates and resources for faculty, students, and staff, including housing coronavirus-related training videos. About the same time, the Information Security Office released the Information Security Docs web resource to improve campus awareness and education on related topics. They revised the data-use risk-analysis process for better efficiency to support quicker procurement of software and services and introduced new email security monitoring and response mechanisms to quickly mitigate phishing attacks. Later in the summer, the Redbird Card Office, in partnership with Technology Solutions and several other campus departments, rolled out a brand new Redbird Card. The new card improves purchase swipe experience and security and allows for the installation of an improved door lock system across campus.
To prepare for many teaching scenarios, collaboration between faculty, IT directors, the Center for Teaching and Learning, and Academic Affairs has led to nimble technology solutions for teaching, learning, and research. Many new hardware and software features have been added to facilitate in-class, hybrid, and online teaching and research. Campus lab experiences have been standardized across campus and a team is exploring improved virtual desktop solutions to help faculty and students utilize lab equipment while remote. Added Zoom security features help faculty and students collaborate without the threat of Zoom bombers.
Tools for Success
When it comes to ensuring success, a wide variety of resources have been developed to ensure students, faculty, and staff can adapt. For example, an online faculty technology resource guide, a new online proctoring solution, a chatbot that can answer questions for freshmen quickly at any hour of the day, and a redesign of My.IllinoisState.edu to provide valuable information at a glance. Additionally, ReggieNet, the campus learning management system, received an upgrade to the latest version to provide faculty and students with improvements that should be well received in a mostly remote learning environment.
Technology and connectivity are critical to success in an online environment. A new program was instituted to provide laptops to students that needed them most, ensuring access to online tools is not a roadblock to success. Further student assistance is available through a new and improved student technology orientation, aimed at preparing students for ISU-specific technology that will help them in the classroom and beyond.
Several new tools for advisors improve the experience to access to data and facilitate many appointments during their most hectic time. Coupled with the launch of a new Student Success Dashboard, advisors are positioned to provide timely guidance to help students be successful.
TechZone and Student Technologies moved into a brand new, easily accessible first floor location as part of the Bone Student Center remodel. This convenient all-in-one location features a walk-up help desk, an expanded computer and technology retail area, and a demonstration area with particular focus on the student community.
The work of technology staff across campus has been fast and furious but could not have been done without strong collaboration. Teams of people pulled together to achieve extraordinary feats. At Illinois State University, every Redbird is supported to ensure they can reach their loftiest goals.