By Nico Zulli
Information Technology Systems in higher education is navigating a whole new world as technology changed the face of campus demand one device at a time.
Despite the ever-evolving nature of technology and today’s digital climate, Micah Lamb, assistant director of systems support, said the goal of ITS is to serve as a help and not a hindrance to Baylor students, faculty and staff. To do this, Lamb said ITS focuses on maintaining an appropriate balance of accessibility, usability and security for the Baylor campus environment.
“One of the things I love about working in the ITS office at Baylor is that it is never boring,” Lamb said. “We are constantly asking ourselves how technology can be applied differently on campus, asking ourselves how can ‘this’ technology be used for ‘that.’”
On an individual level, Lamb said there are many different devices students bring to campus today. He said ITS is tasked with supporting these devices while also providing efficient user experience.
“Because of this device explosion, whenever there is a problem, all we can do is just let everybody know about the problem,” he said. “We are having to create our network and services in such a way as to plan for all of the different variables, but it is ultimately up to the users to use these services to fix device issues.”
Lamb also said another important element for ITS to consider with technology support is understanding that faculty and student users are scattered across the technology spectrum, ranging from beginner to advanced technology users.
“We have to be able to allow for both of those people to do their job with these devices,” Lamb said.
When it comes to creating and providing tools for students, faculty and staff, Lamb said ITS sees the personal device explosion play to their advantage.
“It’s bitterwsweet,” he said. “On one hand all of these devices pose a challenge for ITS, but on the other hand it is a great means for us to get information into the hands of students.”
On a broader scale, Becky King, assistant vice president for information technology, said ITS also has an established technology standard in place when it comes to the support of different operating systems on campus devices and technology. The aim of this campus technology standard is the same as the goal when it comes to handling individual devices — to provide the most positive user experience.
“We have a standard Apple configuration and Windows configuration for on-campus technology,” King said. “ITS does not try to influence someone on what technology to use. We just provide standard technology options for the campus community.”
King said the departments around campus use standard packages when they go to purchase new technology or devices, but that a request form may be submitted to ITS if a department would like to inquire about the purchase of a non-standard item. She also said campus departments are also responsible for their own budget funding for technology purchases but often work and consult with ITS on potential technology purchases.
“Most of the schools on campus have a head tech person, and we work closely with those individuals as well as our vendors, Dell and Apple, to determine what new things are coming,” King said.
One of the new technologies being discussed as a potential addition to campus is the Apple TV.
“We are eventually going to implement Apple TVs on campus,” King said. “We just had to wait for the technology to be developed for institutional usability.”
Lamb said the Apple TV is a phenomenal device but had to be developed in order to support widespread use in a higher education environment. Lamb said the Apple TV interface was the main issue, because it would show every screen on the campus network.
“As of late, Apple TV technology has undergone major changes and is now available for use on campus, if the departments decide to invest in this technology, Lamb said.
Lamb said the issue of the interface has been solved, and the Apple TV is now able to display one screen on the network at a time, allowing for the efficiency that this technology lacked prior to this change.
Lamb said the development of devices like the Apple TV from personal to commercial use is a commonality when it comes to technology today.
He said ITS will continue to work on providing students, faculty, staff and campus departments the most cuttings-edge tools to conquer tasks in the higher education environment.