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Creating A Mobile Campus IT Strategy

Working together and addressing challenges for creating a mobile campus
University Business, December 2014

Addressing the technology needs of today’s students is becoming increasingly challenging, as students expect to have mobile access to any and all learning resources, anytime and anywhere, from any device. These challenges require new IT strategies for institutions; IT managers across campus need to work together with other administrators to address common problems, save money, build relationships and create value for the university. Attendees in this web seminar, originally broadcast on October 16, 2014, learned how the University of Central Florida is addressing the challenges of the mobile campus with IT strategies and a new student-focused UCF Apps program, and heard from an industry expert about new solutions that enable mobile learning.

Nicole Nesrsta
Vertical Solutions Marketing Manager
Citrix

At Citrix, we help higher education institutions create a mobile strategy that focuses on the most important thing on your campus: your people. We’re aiming to help schools make sure students can learn, work and study from anywhere on whatever device is best for them. IT no longer needs to manage the proliferation of student devices. You only need to make sure that everybody has the same learning experience across them all, and you can accomplish this with Citrix. You need to make sure that they get access to all the information that they need, that it’s secure, and that even if you have remote students who want to connect with their teachers without coming onto campus, that they can do so from anywhere.

Of course, while people are definitely the forefront and the focus of how we approach a mobile strategy, we also want to ensure that we’re making the world better for IT. We want to streamline your operations to make sure that any solution you are putting in place is going to help you save money and reduce the management workload. With Citrix, we help you to manage and protect your information. We’re also starting to deliver IT as a service to students as opposed to having them having buy their own. We’re trying to unite all the apps, data, desktops, etc., and ensuring that they have access with zero downtime, 24/7, 365 days a year. Because, as we know, higher education is not like the corporate world. Students don’t need access from 8 to 5 and then go home. They are studying at various times throughout the day and even in the middle of the night, so we need to make sure that everything is available to them all the time.

JP Peters
IT and Communications Director
College of Sciences
University of Central Florida

We are the second largest university in the U.S., made up of about 27 academic colleges and administrative divisions. A couple of years ago, a few of us got together and said, “We have 27 disparate groups. We want to get together in terms of finding ways to save money and finding ways to look at the issues we have across the board. How can we can save some time, save some money, add value to the university, eliminate service redundancy, and collaborate on initiatives that make sense for either a few colleges and divisions or for the whole campus?”

One problem we identified is that we had over 60,000 students and sometimes they were finding it difficult to access software when they needed it. Of course, once they had the software, depending on what it was, it could be very difficult to install. The flipside is that a lot of students have capable devices. Students had a fully functional laptop, or a Mac, or even a tablet, but they weren’t able to use it because the software they needed wasn’t installed on it. So they had to work within the hours of public labs instead. Students have these devices, and we want to be able to cater to that.

Over the past few years, we’ve invested in wireless and in collaborative spaces—basically gutting public labs and creating spaces with high-density wireless and with open seating where students can bring their laptops and collaborate and work together. For example, we constructed a space called The Technology Commons that replaced a 240-seat row-by-row public computer lab. It’s now a collaboration lab, with some study areas and a lot of group seating. And all these spaces have wireless. We also have stations there; there are about 20 PCs and 14 iMacs. So we wanted a way for these students to access software such as Microsoft Office, SPSS, SAS, even 3D Studio Max, and be able to access them anytime, anywhere, on any device they have. It was about a year and a half ago when we started looking.

Fortunately we found a couple of nearby institutions that paved the way for us to develop our solution. These universities adopted Citrix. So rather than doing an expensive evaluation, we trusted their endorsements, and saw their environments and how well they worked. We also looked at some of the other providers, and we saw that they just weren’t where Citrix was. The applications we’re planning on releasing include Microsoft Office Suite, which was a big one when we first initiated it. We use a student advantage option through Office 365, so students can download and use Office on their own. Now we’re shifting our focus to the other applications—the SPSS, the SAS, RTIS, 3D Studio Max. Those are all priorities. My web developer just tested Photoshop and he’s pleased with how it came along. That, Illustrator, Mathematica and OriginLab are a few other applications that we’re just testing the performance of.

Once we confirm, then we can approach the vendors and say, “Okay, it works. Now, how can we license it for the students who need it?” We’re doing some testing with faculty and students and we’re finding there are some usability issues: Where are my documents? How can I reach my documents on the desktop? Where do I save them? So we’re trying to figure out ways to make that user experience a little bit better, because that’s so key. We want to spend a lot of time to making sure the experience is excellent, so that we can continue to grow and garner support from students and faculty as we expand this. But also, we don’t want to roll out something that the students aren’t going to adopt and tell their friends to adopt.

No matter what we do, we’re going to need some user education. We definitely have to spend some time to develop documentation. Probably the biggest lesson we learned from the other two institutions we talked to beforehand was about technical implementation and the best ways to do that. One thing that both agreed about is getting the word out—creating materials and a campaign to show students how to use the technology, and to just give students the ability to onboard as quickly and as painlessly as possible. We thought, Wouldn’t it be great if we could work with Citrix on a campaign? Nicole was receptive to our ideas, and she provided a lot of good ideas from her side. Working together, we created a short video that sells the technology to the students and demos how to install it on an iPad or Windows. Nicole also worked with us on some print and digital materials—we wanted to have it on the digital signage located around campus, and physical copies that we could put in our technology products center. Also, we wanted to have a launch event, and Nicole was excited to do that. It will essentially be a live demo of UCF Apps, then also some time for an onboarding session.

We will have IT staff from our different colleges there to help students start using apps before they leave the event. Another key piece is that faculty champions are huge for adoption across campus. We can tell students that this is great, but if faculty can embrace it and then eventually incorporate it in their courses, then the students will have to get in there and use UCF Apps. We’re looking forward to seeing this blossom. We had about 200 folks in the beta pilot and a lot of the feedback is, “When is this going to be up so my students can use it? When is this available so I can use all the applications and teach them?”

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please go to: www.universitybusiness.com/ws101614

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