BYU-Idaho's Information Technology Vision
As we pursue the mission of BYU-Idaho in these challenging and wonderful times, we are guided by three strategic imperatives: 1) to raise substantially the quality of every aspect of the student experience; 2) to serve more students; and 3) to lower the relative cost of education. Our intent is to create the capacity to consistently and reliably deliver the BYU-Idaho educational experience with high quality and relatively low cost to many, many more students.
Our focus on quality, growth and cost will have important implications for the technology resources we develop and how we use them. We will deliver solutions that meet the test of the three imperatives: any application of technology must improve at least one of the imperatives (preferably more than one) without hurting the others.
IMPERATIVE #1: INCREASE THE QUALITY OF THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE
Information technology will help us to increase the quality of the student experience in three ways.
Harnessed to the BYU-Idaho Learning Model, information technology will allow us to create deeper learning experiences for our diverse student population. Technology will help us create a broad menu of formats for courses and experiences, including face-to-face, online, hybrid and competency-based.
Using simulations, video, collaboration tools, learning analytics, computer-adaptive testing and many other technologies, we will give students access, in support of their academic endeavors, to analysis, places, people, and information that simply would not be feasible otherwise. We will enable collaborative interactions that will allow our students to teach one another and greatly increase the depth of their learning. This is particularly true of online faculty and mentors who will function at a distance, thus allowing us to offer a much higher quality online experience for our students.
Streamline Student Services and Functions
Information technology will allow us to offer students services that are self-service, easy to use, reliable, readily available and transparent. Through the simplification of requirements, policies, procedures and business processes, combined with a resulting simplification of the technology landscape, we will greatly simplify the lives of our students and reduce the amount of time they need to spend in acquiring essential services. In so doing, information technology will allow us to focus the time and energy of the people in organization on serving the student. Information technology will be critical in helping BYU-Idaho to grow and take advantage of whatever scale economies we may obtain, while at the same time preserving the intimate and caring environment that has been a hallmark of the university for decades.
Strengthen the BYU-Idaho Community
The BYU-Idaho community will be global in scope. Information technology will allow us to strengthen the university community by connecting its members all across the earth. With BYU-Idaho students, alumni and church service missionaries learning, studying and working in many different countries, and with faculty active in Rexburg and in many states within the U.S., IT resources will be critical in fostering interactive communication and strengthening relationships. Students will collaborate and learn with classmates who live right down the street and in different countries. Many faculty members will serve in Rexburg, and many others will teach online. All of the faculty will interact with and teach students using powerful IT tools. Alumni mentors and church service missionaries will be able to interact with and serve students locally and online. IT resources will be essential to creating the BYU-Idaho experience for each student no matter where that student may live and/or study.
A focus on improving operational excellence throughout the university will result in improved quality of our IT services and solutions. We will be disciplined, unified and highly efficient in the establishment and application of policies, standards and processes. We will also establish sound architectural principles and strategies that will guide decisions about the acquisition and use of hardware and software. We will monitor new developments in information technology and will adapt our strategies as needed to accommodate the three imperatives. We will establish an effective project management process and will develop project managers who can build and lead effective teams for major projects. We will use both internal and external resources on these teams, but leadership will come from BYU-Idaho.
IMPERATIVE #2: SERVE MORE STUDENTS
We will provide learning and communication resources on a global scale with 24/7 availability and high reliability. We will maintain an effective and appropriately sized core in Rexburg and will utilize off-campus hosted infrastructure for services that require high availability, content distribution, and capacity on demand. We will work in partnership with other organizations that provide these services and we will develop the ability to manage these relationships effectively. These resources will allow us to serve many more students no matter where they live.
We will use information technology to magnify the capabilities of our human and physical capital. More intensive use of our physical assets (and the resources required to operate them) will come through more efficient scheduling and through increased use of online courses to expand our capacity. IT resources will allow us to multiply the investment we make in our people and their development and to spread the benefits and costs across many, many more students.
In concert with the development of new materials in new formats, IT resources will allow us to create new options for higher education. These options, involving different combinations of time in Rexburg, time studying online and time in experiential learning will allow us to serve more students without exceeding our enrollment cap.
IMPERATIVE #3: LOWER RELATIVE COST
Information technology will help us lower the relative cost per student by integrating our operations, leveraging our assets and allowing us to use effective, less expensive materials and resources. Every function, process and department in the university will be connected effectively by using the power of our campus network and creative software development. We will improve data quality, reduce errors, eliminate unnecessary steps in processes and become far more efficient and effective in our operations.
BYU-Idaho will maintain a single, centralized department to meet all information technology needs. We will be creative and efficient in the use and allocation of IT resources and will approach choices about technological capability and cost in the spirit of long-term frugality. University leadership will provide decisions and guidance on topics such as technology spending, risk tolerance, quality expectations and project priorities. With this guidance, and in conjunction with key stakeholders, the IT Department will acquire, implement and maintain technology solutions to support academic and administrative functions and will provide a robust infrastructure of servers and networks.
We will seek technological investments and applications that produce large cost savings while maintaining, or sacrificing to a reasonable extent, potential performance or availability. Likewise, we will take advantage of innovations that will allow us to increase performance while maintaining or even reducing costs. IT professionals, faculty members, course-development specialists and other employees and students will learn to set proper expectations and modify behaviors to get by on less than others might think necessary. We will seek opportunities to employ students and build a culture that will enable them to have a professional experience and bring value to the organization.
Our strategy is to be creative in the application of proven technologies that leverage and enhance the competencies and capacities of the university. We seek to be effective in understanding the real needs of our students and employees and in applying proven technologies to meet those needs effectively.
We will not lag behind in technology, but we will not work at the leading edge of innovation, nor will we incur the risks of experimenting with unproven technologies. Because frugality is central to the identity and character of BYU-Idaho, we will seek to extend the useful life of our technology investments and we will be effective, but relatively modest in the way we apply technology. For example, our online courses are relatively “flat”- they do not use a lot of HD video, rich simulations, and fancy graphics and animation. Though modest, our courses have proven to be effective learning experiences. Over time, as the bandwidth available throughout the world increases, and its cost declines, and as the cost of applying these kinds of technologies decreases, we may apply more of them in our courses. However, we will always be relatively modest compared to the state of the art.
We will rely on packaged software and software as a service (SaaS) to meet our needs. The direct cost of these services may not always be less expensive than hosting software ourselves, but this abstraction will allow us to focus our precious internal resources on important functions such as integration, workflows, identity and access management and business intelligence. We will be flexible and adaptable in our business processes to allow for the implementation of customization free solutions that will significantly decrease the long-term total cost of ownership. We will use our internal software engineering resources and outside contractors to integrate packaged software and to develop applications when we cannot find an appropriate solution in the market.
Our integration architecture will support modular systems and tools from different vendors; however, we will seek to implement pre-integrated solutions for certain core functions or applications that interoperate with a very high level of integration. For example, rather than a fully modular approach where we integrate different modules for a grade book, discussion board, wiki tools, e-portfolio and material distribution, we would seek to find an integrated learning management system. We will seek to implement such integrated solutions that are compatible with our standards and with other software.
We will be highly disciplined and unified in our allocation of resources, especially in the launch of major projects. We will use our portfolio management, long-term project planning, risk management and governance processes to identify, prioritize and launch new projects. We will base stewardship review and budgeting decisions on hard data about long-term costs.
By using proven technologies creatively, we will reduce dependence on high-cost materials and resources. For example, we will reduce the use of older, more expensive materials like textbooks and increase the use of lower-cost materials delivered digitally. We will follow that same pattern in communications of all kinds.
Information technology will give us access to more resources in a more efficient manner. For example, through technology we will gain access to excellent faculty who do not need to relocate to Rexburg. This will greatly enhance our resource base without the cost of relocating each new faculty member.
We will find ways to reduce costs by collaborating with the Church ICS group, the Church Educational System and other institutions of higher education.