Emerging Trends in Smart Classroom Technology

By Inder Singh, CIO, Springfield Technical Community College

Inder Singh, CIO, Springfield Technical Community College

What are some of the significant challenges and trends that have been impacting the education space?

Being in the education industry for 30 years, I have observed that one of the significant challenges that is prevailing in the education industry is the rising cost of education and balancing it against the benefit of a college degree the student is receiving. Similarly, the growing complexity of the security threat is also becoming a significant concern not only for higher education but also for the private and public sectors. Numerous security breaches are happening, and it requires a lot of resources, funding, and specialized skills to resolve those issues. Moreover, with the increasing intricacy of technology, architecture, and data, a deeper understanding of cloud computing, SaaS, artificial intelligence and data analytics is also essential for colleges to improve student outcomes and student support services.

"The education industry is moving toward cloud and SaaS models using IT as a partner to improve services and be flexible"

As threats are increasing at an alarming rate in the education industry, what would be your take to mitigate those threats?

As threats are a moving target, we need to look at security with a proactive approach rather than a reactive approach. Proper planning and constant reviewing of the policies is necessary for a proactive approach strategy as it keeps changing very rapidly. Moreover, to maintain security awareness, it’s required to communicate and educate the end-users and the students and make them aware of the security threats. To top it off, we need to make sure that the supply chain management and policies management are in place. Moreover, to support the new policies and procedures, the infrastructure and equipment should be flexible enough to manage all the threats. Constant learning of the policies and procedures is recommended to improve the process and take note of the loopholes. 

What are the new technologies that have impacted the entire education system and what approach do you take to stay abreast of the technological trends?

Some of the key technologies in the education industry are cloud computing and SaaS infrastructure, and these two involve less of technology and more of business process reviews. The higher education industry has been using a lot of different processes and procedure for years, and with new technology, it’s seeking standardization using the best practices. Moving forward, the education sector needs to look at their core value to sense the way they are providing the services today and how they are going to offer it in the future with a focus on improving the student support services. The technology infrastructure has changed, and we are focusing in terms of service industry rather than technical industry. The new technology will also provide more flexibility as the requirements, and the student needs change with new compliance requirements. We will be working more closely and solving business issues rather than spending time on the technicality, and with that, we’ll be able to be more flexible and cost-effective and implement the changes rapidly.

What are some of the policies and methods that have been implemented in your college regarding smart classrooms, and how well is it working? 

We use smart technology in every classroom, and we have a network infrastructure setup where faculty can come along with their laptops or other devices and connect it with the projector or different types of technology and use as a delivery method to the students. We are continually reviewing and evaluating the technologies that we have in place from the faculty perspective to make sure that the implementation is perfect. We are also providing 24*7 support infrastructures to our students and leveraging our online management system to deliver some of the educational material and online learning. Our learning management system is Blackboard, and it’s fully integrated with our ERP system in terms of online registration and enrollment perspective.

Can you tell us about the latest project that you have been working on and initiatives that you have taken for the institution to make the entire classroom experience better?

On January 2019, we finished building a new learning commons with a concept of one-stop-shop. The building is more than a hundred thousand square feet and equipped with all the student services, such as the library, admission registration, financial aid, and all other services under the same roof. We use state-of-the-art infrastructure and technology to support our students and all our end users, and it’s been very successful. We are receiving feedback from the students and employees, which will help us to improve student services further. 

Besides, we are working toward streamlining all our business processes to make it more efficient and improve the institution’s goals and objectives for recruiting, retention and learning; this is an ongoing process for the next few years. At present, our primary focus is on admission, registration, and student financial services, and also improving the data integration between our online learning and ERP system to streamline the whole process from efficiency and integrity perspective. We are also enhancing our security infrastructure to strengthen the security from inside out ensuring that the core structure is stable and supports the current and the future security aspect alongside the firewall to support high availability and reliability. By the end of the fiscal year, personal computers with the latest technology will be available in the classes, and all the student technologies in the classroom will be updated accordingly. Simultaneously, faculty’s computers are also being updated to provide them with more mobile technology and improved flexibility. 

What are some of the leadership traits of yours reflected when it comes to policy formulation or any meetings to streamline the entire processes that you have with your team?

I work with my college leaders and peers very closely to understand their goals, objectives, and challenges that they are trying to accomplish moving forward, and bring in the technologies and services to support them. I educate the leaders about technology, the challenges, and how we can get a better return on investment when we invest in technology and improve the educational outcome and student support services. We don’t believe in implementing technology just for the sake of achieving it, and we want to make the difference and contribute towards operational excellence and making a difference in students’ lives. Be a team player, and create a positive and productive environment for both the internal staff as well as external team members. I encourage my team members and make sure they have excellent listening skills because the more we listen to our leaders and students, we can provide better service and technology to solve problems. 

What would be the advice that you would like to pass on to your fellow CIOs, and where do you see the education landscape in the coming years?

Firstly, communicate and collaborate with your college leaders, and understand the business and academic challenges, as it will help in delivering a better solution to support the goals and objectives of the college. Secondly, educate the leadership team about the technology, challenges, total cost of ownership, and return on investment. In recent times it’s about security threats, and proper education will help to develop the policies and procedures to protect the assets, inventory, and intellectual properties of the campus. And my final piece of advice is to be proactive, be a team player and a problem solver. 

The education industry is moving toward cloud and SaaS models using IT as a partner and improving the services. Apart from this, data analytics and artificial intelligence will improve not just in regards to course delivery and educational delivery method; it will also enhance the recruiting and retention strategy for the college.

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