The New Classrooms Post Pandemic: Where Digital and Physical World Meet

Elaine Montilla, Assistant Vice President for Information Technology/CIO, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Elaine Montilla, Assistant Vice President for Information Technology/CIO, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

1. What are some of the major challenges and trends that have been impacting the education space lately?

The COVID pandemic has undoubtedly challenged the IT and Education industries. One of the significant challenges we face in education includes providing on-demand support for course development and delivery. Our cultures were impacted, and this new virtual interaction may become a delivery method here to stay. We've talked for years about the digital transformation needed, and the pandemic, in a way, propelled us forward. Students will have new expectations and demands that include a more flexible, hybrid learning environment and the seamless integration of digital and physical elements in their learning. With this new flexibility, hand in hand comes another major issue related to privacy and security. We must ensure that any collected personally identifiable information (PII) is protected effectively. Students do not expect anything else, and in my opinion, the less information we need to protect, the better for everyone's sake. The last issue is making sure we advocate for budget models that help us preserve critical IT operations. The reliance on technology has increased tremendously in the previous year, and IT investments need to be prioritized across the institution. We, as CIOs, also have work to do, ensuring a thorough examination of our operations, current contracts, and services to determine which ones can be dismantled.

2. What keeps you up at night when it comes to some of the major predicaments in the education space?

While IT security is the obvious answer, I am deeply concerned about digital equity. Many of my peers and a lot of our students lack access to high-speed broadband technology, which impedes their access to online materials and collaboration. The pandemic has highlighted many of these inequities. I am delighted to work at an institution that invested in WiFi hotspots and laptop loaner programs early on to support our community. Unfortunately, that is not the case for some of my peers, and we have roughly five million households with school-age children who don't have internet access at home. Perhaps we can make remote learning more accessible with offline access and develop learning plans accessible to all students and not some.

3. Can you tell us about a latest project that you have been working on, and what are some of the technological and process elements that you leveraged to make the project successful?

Increasingly sophisticated phishing attacks forced us to be intentional about new ways to protect our users. Amid the pandemic, we started a pilot to enable multi-factor authentication. After trialing a few different products, the team settled on Cisco subsidiary Duo, which was rolled-out to administrative accounts as a pilot in Phase I. Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra layer of security to our University accounts, and we hope to expand it to include all AD accounts in the near future. By being an early adopter of MFA, the pilot group (Internal Admins) will help the project team better understand the benefits, challenges, and requirements of deploying MFA for all GC users. During the same period, we were able to successfully enable MFA for all of our student accounts currently hosted in the Microsoft O365 environment. We look forward to gaining the benefits that come from having additional security features enabled moving forward, as time/funds permit.

4.Which are some of the technological trends which excite you for the future of education space?

I am genuinely excited to see what the new classroom will look like and be. I believe classroom technology will continue to evolve past this pandemic period. We will need to become better listeners and truly understand how to address our faculty's various needs and their individual pedagogical approaches. Wireless networking and videoconferencing make it possible today to invite experts from remote institutions. Still, I believe the portability of network connectivity will make learning happen more informally, perhaps outside of the regular classroom space we see today extending the student's learning environment we are all used to.

5.Would you like to give a piece of advice for the CIO community as to how should they approach this industry?

As leaders, I would recommend we spend more time focusing on the people, their well-being, and their need for belonging and to be seen. Let's be an example and foster inclusivity, diversity of thoughts and demonstrate how vulnerability can be a superpower and not something we hide from others in fear of being perceived as weak. I see strength in our differences, and I encourage every CIO to be comfortable having difficult conversations with their teams about the many issues in our lives that affect our creativity and productivity at work. It is no longer possible to separate what we do in the workplace from the events affecting our lives outside of it.

6.How can budding and evolving companies reach you for suggestions to streamline their business?

The best way to contact me is via LinkedIn and through my blog at 5xminority.

 

Weekly Brief

Read Also

How advancing digital learning resources can drive student engagement in higher education

How advancing digital learning resources can drive student engagement in higher education

Adrian Gallagher, Associate University Librarian, Learning Resources, Technology and Infrastructure, Victoria University
From Passive to Active Cybersecurity Risk Management

From Passive to Active Cybersecurity Risk Management

Frederic Lemieux, Ph.D. Director, Master’s in Cybersecurity Risk Management, Georgetown University
Leveraging Cutting-edge EdTech to Enhance Student Experience

Leveraging Cutting-edge EdTech to Enhance Student Experience

Kenneth Pierce, Vice President at Information Technology & Chief Information Officer, Texas State University
AI and Advanced Computing in Corporate Analytics, Training and Education

AI and Advanced Computing in Corporate Analytics, Training and Education

Brendan McGinty, Director of Industry, National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and Dr. Eliu Huerta, Director, Center for Artificial Intelligence Innovation, National Center for Supercomputing Applications and Dr. Volodymyr Kindratenko, Senior Research Scientist, Center for Artificial Intelligence Innovation, National Center for Supercomputing Applications
The New Classrooms Post Pandemic: Where Digital and Physical World Meet

The New Classrooms Post Pandemic: Where Digital and Physical World Meet

Elaine Montilla, Assistant Vice President for Information Technology/CIO, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
The Danger of Online Proctoring Tools

The Danger of Online Proctoring Tools

Udayan Das, Clinical Instructor of Computer Science, Director of Technology Programs, School of Continuing and Professional Studies, Loyola University Chicago