EDUCAUSE 2021: Reflecting on the lessons of the pandemic to build a stronger future

IT leaders like Rathje are also striving to use their institutional power to influence change.

“It gave us the opportunity to share with our heads of state that there is no equitable access throughout the state of Ohio,” said Rathje. “Some areas have access to it, others don’t. And some places that you think would have access to them don’t.

“We have to understand this, because digital access is not only an essential part of learning, it is an essential part of careers,” he said. “I think it’s important for us to recognize that digital literacy must be everyone’s responsibility. “

MORE ABOUT EDTECH: Here are 6 ways to bridge the broadband gap between rural and urban students.

The right mindset for innovation and adoption

One of the main lessons of the pandemic for Saran has been the importance of moving forward on the path of digital transformation.

Five years ago, CCCD deployed a virtual desktop infrastructure, leaving the IT department to take on the arduous task of demystifying VDI to bring faculty on board.

So by the time we rolled out Desktop as a Service during the pandemic, educators already had a basis for adoption. “Having that mindset made it easier,” she said.

At the University of Georgia, Chester says the pandemic validated his efforts to reduce the number of ghost systems on campus. “It made the pivot a lot easier,” he said.

In addition to supporting learners and hybrid workers, the university manages COVID-19 testing, reporting and contact tracing on campus.

Chester cited an integrated workflow with automation capabilities as essential for effective contact tracing. When people who test positive alert the university, “there’s a series of workflows that run automatically,” Chester said. “On the personal side, it warns the supervisors, it warns the facilities that need to be cleaned. And if it’s on the student side, he notifies Student care and awareness, it informs their faculty and so on.

All things considered, the pandemic forced higher education leaders to see what their professors and staff were capable of from the start. “As humans we need a little structure, but too much structure destroys innovative thinking and creativity,” Chester said.

Learn more EDUCAUSE 2021 coverage, including interviews and advice from higher education experts.

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Norma A. Roth