Progress is being made on the University of Georgia’s IT strategic goals, and there are even bigger IT initiatives on the horizon to grow the university’s research enterprise, improve tools for teaching and learning, and introduce new technologies to improve business processes, Timothy M. Chester said during his annual State of Technology address.
Chester, vice president for information technology, gave his address to about 240 people over Zoom on Nov. 16, outlining progress toward the IT strategic goals, speaking about IT initiatives planned for the future and sharing results of the latest TechQual survey, which measures satisfaction with campus IT services.
“Overall, the state of technology at the university is strong; people are happy with the services,” Chester said. “But at the same time, there is always an opportunity for continuous improvement.”
Chester spoke about the progress his team has made on some of the key IT strategic goals, including improvements in classroom technology to support teaching and learning, investments in the university’s research enterprise and support for enrollment management efforts to predict student success.
A $1.1 million one-time investment in student technology fees will support next-generation physical and virtual learning spaces, while an additional $500,000 in technology fee funds supports writing tools, such as the newly launched Turnitin software available in Google Docs and eLearning Commons.
The university’s Georgia Advanced Computing Resource Center continues to grow, supporting 256 research groups and 759 faculty across the institution. Additionally, the Office of Institutional Research’s use of predictive analytics has helped enhance enrollment, retention and graduation efforts, particularly with students who are considering transferring away from UGA.
Future large-scale IT projects at UGA include:
- An upgrade and reimplementation of DegreeWorks and an improvement in business processes to support a course in program of study (CPOS) initiative. CPOS will automate current manual business processes to ensure that students are taking the right courses to match their degree plan, so they are eligible to receive federal financial aid. “We think it’s going to provide better tools for advisors to advise students, and help us understand where students perhaps stumble and risk falling behind on their degree programs, lengthening their time to graduation,” Chester said.
- Upgrades to GACRC resources and support for global data collaboration tools for researchers. About $2 million in university funds and $2.85 million in EITS reserves was earmarked in FY22/23 for upgrades to GACRC resources, and an additional $4.3 million will be requested over FY24-27 for this initiative, which aligns with UGA’s significant investment in faculty expertise with machine learning and artificial intelligence.
- Additional investments in the Office of Institutional Research to further data and analysis that support enrollment, retention and advising programs. The use of predictive modeling by OIR may be able to identify individual students with academic issues or highly qualified students who might consider transferring away from UGA.
- A $4.1 million investment in student technology fee reserves over the next four years, committed to improving next-generation classroom design.
- Piloting next-generation telephony solutions to more fully support remote working and voice, video and message convergence. EITS has been piloting Zoom Phone as a replacement for traditional desktop phones since the summer of 2022.
Chester also spoke about the perception of IT services by students, faculty and staff at UGA. According to the annual TechQual survey, satisfaction with campus IT services has continued to increase since 2020, when university students, faculty and staff were forced to pivot to online and hybrid learning and working environments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Services that ranked high in satisfaction for students, faculty and staff included Zoom, UGAMail and the EITS Help Desk.
“For the first time in our lives, we were totally dependent on technology to do our jobs, and I think it created an opportunity for everyone to really develop their comfort level with these technologies, it forced a lot of collaboration, and it resulted in a lot of good things for the university,” Chester said.