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Wheaton College Technology Plan

Refreshed annually, this three-year plan provides direction and guidance to the future of technology at Wheaton College.

2020-2022 Wheaton College Technology Plan

Introduction

Technology touches everyone, to some degree, in their personal, academic, and professional lives. Embracing appropriate technologies in support of the mission of Wheaton College has become an imperative in this digital age. As stewards of the resources which God has provided for the College, we have developed the following document to outline specific goals and initiatives for the next three fiscal years. These goals will move us in the direction of increased data security, strengthened teaching and scholarship, enhanced student experience, and improved administrative efficiencies. This document was developed with input from faculty, staff, and students who are committed to seeing Wheaton College flourish, For Christ and His Kingdom, for many years to come.

Drivers of Change

The context for the delivery of technology services at the College is shaped by both the current and rapidly evolving significant drivers in the world around us.  Consumerization of technology, information security, mobility, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, “always-on,” globalization, data analytics, artificial intelligence, and virtual and augmented reality are themes that are discussed in the technology world as well as the mainstream media. Taken together, these drivers are creating increased demand and changes in the expectations, consumption, and delivery of online services. In addition, technology that was new ten or more years ago has become obsolete and requires investment to replace or renew.  

Higher education is being forced to consider new, more efficient business models, while holding on to the fundamental tenets of relational and broad-based learning that are core to an excellent liberal arts education. Graduate programs are increasingly offered online as the non-traditional student requires flexibility to balance school, work, and family demands. Undergraduate students arrive on campus having experienced innovative and technology-rich teaching environments as K-12 schools issue laptops or tablets to each student, promote active learning, teach students through the daily use of Google Apps, and invite involvement by assigning multimedia projects. Some students are arriving with online high school or college course credit that supplemented their secondary school experience. These digital natives arrive at Wheaton College with multiple devices and experiences across many technology platforms.

With growing regulatory requirements, the ever-changing threat landscape, and continual financial pressure, everyone at the College needs to work together to solve problems and make decisions collaboratively and strategically so that resources are focused appropriately. Through technology governance and relationship building this can be achieved.

Responding to Drivers of Change

These drivers impact the demand for technology services and the way they are provisioned at the College. The overarching goal is to support the mission of the College by providing an excellent user experience. To do this, we need to develop and maintain an infrastructure that is secure, reliable, resilient, flexible, scalable, and innovative where strategically advantageous. The focus remains on addressing immediate technology needs while at the same time prioritizing the foundational work that is necessary to create a new framework for responding faster and more effectively to the ongoing needs of the College.

The Technology @ Wheaton governance structure (including the Technology & Information Resources Sub-Committee for faculty, Student Technology and Campus Services Advisory Committee for students, and Administrative Application Advisory Committee for staff) meets regularly to identify and advance priorities in a collaborative manner. The College also adheres to a list of Technology Guidelines to support good decision making around technology issues.

Academic and Institutional Technology (AIT) is fully committed to supporting the institution in meeting its strategic, operational, and educational objectives through leadership, scholarship, and support of appropriate information technology solutions and services. This will be accomplished by:

  • Aligning and stewarding resources to effectively support college priorities and objectives;
  • Investing in the development of close, transparent, and collaborative relationships with faculty, students, staff, and other community members to best serve the campus' existing and future needs;
  • Encouraging and supporting innovation in solutions;
  • Developing our human resources to ensure we are leaders in understanding, deploying, and supporting current and future solutions to support the College’s mission;
  • Partnering with other educational institutions and external organizations with similar objectives to efficiently leverage resources.

Existing organizational functions continue to be redefined to improve our ability to deliver services. Together we seek solutions on platforms we already use/own and to reduce or eliminate redundancy. Whenever possible we will look to implement an already available commercial solution rather than build a system in-house. Pivoting to this new framework by changing our technologies, the skill sets of our people, and our processes for interacting requires ongoing commitment and a degree of patience at times. The press of everyday responsibilities to keep the organization running competes with the time and resources required to be transformational.

The initiatives in this document continue to be ambitious. It will take the combined efforts of all campus stakeholders to accomplish our goals.

Priorities

The following are our key priorities, organized by functional area:

Academics and Scholarship

  • Effort must be made to expand subject-centered teaching methodologies that are focused on learning outcomes, in ways that support faculty adoption of technology and other pedagogical best practices. Providing faculty with mobile technology and opportunities to facilitate active learning in the classroom, through the successful Learning Community program, will demonstrate the value of these methods to other faculty across campus.
  • A shifting focus on software solutions versus hardware will provide increased faculty and student flexibility in the classroom.
  • Creating and supporting efficient methodologies that enable Graduate School online education while also providing equivalent access to campus resources is key to ensuring the success of the program. Being able to leverage existing campus technologies and developing new support structures that are repeatable will create a scalable learning infrastructure. Providing high-quality instructional design for credit-bearing and non-credit bearing classes will help ensure the College’s place and reputation in Christian higher education.
  • Technology Enhanced Spaces include learning and event spaces of all sizes across campus. Extending our work to put the appropriate level of technology into each space, without over-building, continues to enable the College to better plan technology refresh cycles. High-profile event spaces will be supported by staff and student workers who can raise the level of professionalism for complex events.
  • Learning spaces must be flexible, streamlined, easy-to-use, allow for self-operation, and provide video connections. To support this, faculty will be issued laptops and mobile devices to allow them to connect their personal machines to classroom resources.
  • To provide an optimal experience for our students and faculty we must continue to work towards implementing a steady six-year technology replacement cycle in these spaces. As technology and new spaces across campus proliferate, budget models that are incrementally increased are fundamental to keeping these spaces adequately designed and operational.
  • Digital scholarshipis the use of digital evidence, methods of inquiry, research, publication and preservation to achieve scholarly and research goals. Digital scholarship can encompass both scholarly communication using digital media and research on digital media[1]. Supporting faculty and students with digital scholarship endeavors is a strategic part of showcasing the excellent work that is being done at Wheaton College.
  • Expanding the use of virtual software computer labs will reduce the expense and need for proprietary computer labs on campus and facilitate greater student flexibility by encouraging the use of each student’s own computer.
  • The development and use of virtual and augmented reality environments can bring the classroom experience to life and should be explored where aligned with pedagogy. Building community partnerships to explore this technology reduces the campus investment in pilot projects and saves valuable square footage.
  • As the world expands we need to build services that bring faculty and students together. Some of these include video conferencing, virtual classrooms, and robots that interact with others in the classroom, making it seem as if the group is collaborating in real time.

Infrastructure and Security

  • The College’s online data and other resources should be available, easy to use, and appropriately secured with risk mitigation mechanisms in place. In response to an increasing threat landscape, security policies, education, and engagement are critical for success. Providing services that make “doing the right thing the easiest thing to do” is also a necessary element for an effective strategy.
  • Fortifying data security across campus is a top priority. Areas of focus include reducing risk associated with administrator privileges on computers; deploying an expanded multi-factor authentication system; and continuing to explore new methods of user security training by audience.
  • Increasingly, technology service providers are offering end-to-end solutions, frequently referred to as “in the cloud.” Cloud services allow a vendor to maximize economies of scale across their customer base, while investing significantly in ensuring data and platform security. The security level provided by these vendors frequently surpasses the capabilities of Wheaton College. Concerted effort must be placed in acquiring new services that are hosted in the cloud and moving existing services to the cloud, as appropriate, which will also allow the elimination of the Jenks Data Center.
  • Wheaton College currently has over 15 departments accepting credit cards as a form of payment; this exposes the institution to significant security and compliance risk. In partnership with the Controller’s Office, our Data and Information Security Service Provider documented current credit card handling processes, quantified the risk, and made recommendations for policies and procedures to reduce that risk. To the extent possible we intend to engage cloud service providers. Any credit card processing that remains on campus must employ point-to-point-encryption (P2PE) technologies approved by Wheaton’s acquiring bank and/or the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council. The Controller’s office must be consulted in advance of payment business process development.
  • The campus wired and wireless network is vital to the functioning of the College. The increased numbers of devices continually added by students, the increased reliance on cloud-based services, and emerging “Internet of Things” (IoT) requires that Wheaton College invest in scalable network bandwidth, redundancy, and re-engineering to meet evolving technological needs. Aged networking equipment, both wired and wireless, will need to be replaced within this time period along with adding support for new protocols and expanding our Internet service.
  • Wheaton College is a beacon of Christian hope and consequently a frequent target of social discontent; therefore, its applications and systems can be a significant target of hackers or other nefarious people. We must continue to prepare to recover from a potential disaster and make appropriate plans to restore key systems in the event of an emergency. This should include expanding cloud backups, retiring tapes, and enhancing Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS.)
  • AIT plays a crucial role in partnership with campus stakeholders in complying with the growing regulatory and legal requirements for properly securing information and technology resources. With assistance from our managed security service provider, Wheaton must achieve compliance with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) and NIST 800-171 to protect student financial data, Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) for credit card information, the California Privacy Protection Act; HIPAA for the new Family and Marriage Therapy clinic; and NIST standards as required by the Office of Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) for the Wheaton College Trust Company.
  • Faculty scholarship in the Natural Sciences Division continues to push the envelope with computational analysis of data on the College’s computing cluster. As social science faculty explore new scholarship opportunities that are facilitated with these resources, we need to find ways to partner across campus to fund the ongoing need for space and processing speed.

Enterprise Applications

  • Enterprise and administrative applications at Wheaton College need to subscribe to the following design principles:1) cloud-based preferred; 2) user-centric interfaces; 3) Wheaton NetID authentication; 4) accessible to all users; 5) web-based; and 6) an architecture that values analytics, agility, and service focus. Departments must review business problems and possible solutions with AIT before beginning a new solution investigation. AIT is then able to consult on possible existing solutions that can be leveraged to meet the need or to assist with evaluating how a new solution would fit within the College’s technology ecosystem and the workload pipeline to ensure that value is fully realized in a timely manner. Our administrative systems must facilitate the core mission of the College, provide appropriately secure access to services and information when they are needed, and be as frictionless and adaptable as possible (easy to find and use, develop and support.)
  • A commercial Identity and Access Management system has been successfully deployed, with future enhancements such as a full single sign-on experience, on the list of things to accomplish in the near future.  
  • The College has made a significant investment in the Ellucian Banner Enterprise Resource Planning Systems (e.g. Finance, Financial Aid, Human Resources, Student, and Student Accounts Receivable) and is under contract to use these systems for another two years. The College is committed to continuing to advance the recent system and business process improvements that have been made. Establishing a living data dictionary/standards system that supports cross functional use of Banner is key to helping to continue our improvement trajectory. Deploying more automation and workflow capabilities (including Banner Communication Manager); evaluating a new portal solution that includes mobile push notification); documenting the system processes and workflows so that other staff members can be more easily trained; and working cross-organizationally will be required to meet growing business needs and take full advantage of available resources. Further investment is needed to educate staff on additional ways to leverage the system, reduce manual processes and provide a more user-friendly experience. Add-on products to Banner that will enhance Human Resources business processes and data analysis should be reviewed and considered as ways to provide support for strategic decision-making and efficiency. 
  • Each business area benefits from having a Functional Technologist/Analyst assigned to work collaboratively with AIT to identify business process and system improvement opportunities, to successfully launch new functionality, and to collaborate with institutional reporting efforts. AIT technical staff should focus on the technical aspects of the systems while functional analysts focus on the end-user experience and reporting needs within their areas.
  • Mobile phones are like mobile computers, used to access work-related and social media applications on a regular basis. To stay relevant, Wheaton College must develop systems and applications with a “Mobile First” mindset. This includes responsive web applications and, as appropriate, the development/launch of mobile apps to access institutional tools.
  • Data is collected across the many systems that are managed by the College. We must continue to evolve a strategy for warehousing the available data and providing access to reporting tools that make it easy for administrators to analyze performance, predict outcomes and plan accordingly. The most powerful reporting tool is one that is able to gather data from multiple sources thus enabling reporting managers to create and run their own reports that are most helpful to their needs.
  • The Wheaton College ID system has aged and needs to be replaced. A replacement system will need to be accessible to many different services (e.g. building access, dining, library, Thunder Bucks, etc.) Consideration for how identity can be verified and transactions processed using mobile devices should be considered.
  • The College has a commitment to reducing paper administrative processes that are error-prone and highly inefficient. Work is underway to expand the deployment of OnBase for document/image management and form processing that will integrate with Ellucian solutions via the Ethos platform.
  • The Chapel attendance tracking system is an old homegrown system that is at the end of its lifecycle. We need to evaluate other technologies that reduce complexity and better utilize today’s technologies, as a priority project.
  • Technology for the College Post Office operation has advanced considerably. With a mail and package processing automation system the footprint of CPO can be reduced and students would be able to use their mobile devices to manage delivery.
  • The College has an event ticketing system that is used primarily by the Conservatory. Interest in this technology across campus has expanded causing us to evaluate alternatives that handle mobile payments securely and facilitate ticketing in many other areas.
  • Scheduling classes is currently a manual process at Wheaton College. The deployment of an automatic scheduling system will allow the Registrar to focus valuable time on directly supporting students and faculty.
  • As students gain valuable credentials from Wheaton College, we need to monitor and investigate evolving technologies in support of facilitating life-long learner credentials. Block-chain technology is emerging as a way to facilitate just-in-time official access of earned credentials from a personal mobile device.

Support & Service

  • Effective technology organizations develop service strategies (referred to as IT Service Management) that align with the overarching mission of the institution. Documented and repeatable processes increase service reliability at the desk and in the classroom, resulting in improved customer satisfaction. Processes supported by an IT Service Management System will advance coordinated efforts within AIT and across the Technology@Wheaton community.
  • Technology standards for end-point devices ensure that faculty and staff can consistently and reliably access services provided by the institution. Typically, enterprise applications are developed primarily for Windows operating systems. Funding models need to be developed to encourage standardization and take into account the ever-changing device landscape.
  • Increasingly we go to YouTube for “how-to videos” to fix things at home or elsewhere. Providing a self-service technology environment and making “Wheaton how-to” information easily accessible, in a centralized location, empowers the Wheaton Community to solve problems 24/7.
  • Virtual applications and desktops facilitate access to College technical resources from anywhere or any type of machine (Mac or PC). They can also make cost-prohibitive software available to students who only need it for a short period of time. A strategy to virtualize applications and desktops is one that will create value for the campus community.
  • Recruiting and admissions is an institutional priority that can be supported through technology. Creating improved automated communications; the ability to text important academic alerts; and a Virtual Wheaton environment will allow potential students from across the globe to interact with our community, increasing their “connectedness” and likelihood of acceptance.
  • Technology support is a shared responsibility across campus. Development of a technically curious community across all departments and leveraging social media will create new communication pathways that enhance understanding and promote effectiveness in the use of technology.

Conclusion

The priorities outlined in this document may be ambitious, but, when achieved, will provide Wheaton College with an excellent technical infrastructure that is user-centric and aligned with best practices within the industry. These plans will be reviewed annually and adjusted as needed to remain relevant.

[1] http://www.lib.washington.edu/digitalscholarship/about