You are on page 1of 12

A Vision and Strategic Plan for Information Technology This document was contributed by the named institution to the

CAUSE Information Resources Library. It is the intellectual property of the author(s). Permission to copy or disseminate all or part of this material is granted provided that the copies are not made or distributed for commercial advantage, that the title and institution that submitted the paper appear, and that notice is given that this document was obtained from the CAUSE Information Resources Library. To copy or disseminate otherwise, or to republish in any form, requires written permission from the institution. For further information: CAUSE, 4840 Pearl East Circle, Suite 302E, Boulder, CO 80301; 303-4494430; e-mail info@cause.colorado.edu. A VISION FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES AT HAMILTON AS WE APPROACH THE 21ST CENTURY As we approach the 21st century, the so called "information superhighway" is moving from its beginnings as a computer network for scientists to a vast conduit for information of all types and as a part of everyday life. Information technologies (computing, and voice, data, and video communications) are the vehicles for accessing and distributing this information. Whatever its final form, certain trends are clear: Distributing and accessing information in electronic form is economical and effective in many areas where the same information was previously distributed only in more labor intensive formats (e.g., print, film, audio tape). The ability to deliver information in electronic form in a timely and economical fashion will provide organizations with a competitive advantage. The rapid growth and pervasiveness of information technologies such as facsimile and electronic mail, is evidence of this trend. Understanding how to use information technologies to access and distribute information will be an integral part of the personal and professional lives of our graduates. Information technologies can enhance the communications process, and in doing so enable us to be more effective and productive citizens. By the fall of 1995, we will have a state-of-theart campus network infrastructure. Our network will enable us to share information economically, to enhance communication among members of the college community, and with colleagues elsewhere, to redesign processes to eliminate paper flow, to enrich and improve the teaching and learning process, and to make academic resources available

from any place, at any time. Further, it will provide our students with an excellent opportunity to learn to use information technologies in preparation for their times beyond Hamilton. If we apply information technologies judiciously, Hamilton will have a competitive advantage in attracting excellent faculty, staff, and students. A STRATEGIC PLAN FOR USING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES Introduction To prepare our graduates for active citizenship, and to enable Hamilton to operate in an efficient and effective manner, we propose a strategic plan for how to use information technologies (computing, and voice, data, and video technologies). Ultimately, this plan should be integrated with that for library resources, and information services to produce an overall plan for the use of Institutional Information Resources. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats and External Factors As part of any strategic planning process it is important to assess the internal strengths and weaknesses of the current information technology (IT) environment as well as external opportunities and threats that would bear on the use of information technologies at Hamilton. Internal Strengths and Weaknesses Strengths S1 - Consistency of IT resources For the most part, during the last decade, the acquisition of information technology resources has been managed to achieve an environment with considerable homogeneity of hardware and software. Three fourths of the computers on campus are Macintosh, and use common software for word processing, spreadsheets, data base, and communications. Most users of DOS/Windows computers also use a few common software packages for these same generic applications. The result has been an environment in which users can often help each other. S2 - Publicly available IT resources Hamilton's public computing clusters provide a high level of access to information technology resources. Over 120 computers are available for over 100 hours per week. Almost all of these computers have full Internet connectivity and

simple software to enable users to access Internet resources. The ratio of publicly available computers to students is among the highest of our peers and substantially above national averages. Library resources, including the catalogue of holdings, are available over the Internet and we operate gopher and WWW servers cooperatively with our library staff. S3 - Staff The staffs of Information Technology Services (ITS) and the Library are a dedicated group of professionals who have had to work in an environment where expectations continue to rise much faster than financial resources. Cooperative ventures between these two organizations have made electronic information resources more widely available to the college community and improved training opportunities. S4 - Campus network infrastructure Hamilton is in the process of constructing a stateof-the art infrastructure for voice, data and video, that will connect all college buildings, and provide access points for every individual at the College. Twenty-five hundred network "information outlets" will provide industry standard connections (level 3 unshielded twisted pair for voice, level 5 unshielded twisted pair for data, and rg-6 coaxial cable for video) across the campus. The data network will use secure, intelligent hubs from 3Com and switching hubs from Alantec. The initial data network hardware will provide for speeds of 10mbs to every outlet. The network will be centrally managed through advanced software and hardware. While the data network will be fully operational in the fall of 1995, the video and voice portions of the network will be activated at some later time when decisions are made about the use of new video technologies and the purchase of a new telephone switch. This network will be among the most comprehensive and modern information technology infrastructures at any college or university. S5 - Applications to improve student learning Several faculty have made notable applications of information technology to improve student learning. For example, use of computers is a standard part of the learning experience in the natural sciences, mathematics, and music. A national award for instructional software development was won by two members of our computer science department. The successful efforts have been largely the result of a small group of faculty and staff, the so-called "innovators and early adopters" who have made significant efforts to use computing to improve student learning and operating productivity. A few

additional faculty have made some minimal efforts. There are now faculty who are interested in exploring such applications, but will need significant assistance to do so. At present, there does not exist sufficient help for such faculty and it is not clear that recognition or rewards will follow if they decide to invest their time. S6 - Applications to administrative services The College is in the final stages of converting all administrative information systems to the Colleague and Benefactor software from Datatel. The new software will enable our administrative offices to operate in an efficient manner. Electronic and voice mail are commonly used on the campus. Over 90% of faculty and staff and 65% of our students have electronic mail accounts. Committee work is facilitated, and much day-to-day communication is accomplished using a combination of e-mail and voice-mail. For the most part information technologies have mostly been used to automate existing processes, rather than as a catalyst for redesigning those processes. This has achieved some benefits, and most of our administrative offices could not operate without the computing resources they now use. However, maximum savings will accrue only when we rethink how we do these processes. Weaknesses W1 - No amortization of IT resources The College has made significant investments in information technology resources, and for the most part these resources have improved productivity, helped student learning and enabled Hamilton to attract excellent students and faculty. However, there is no planned funding pool for replacing the hardware and software represented by these investments. With the rapid changes in the information technology field, instructional, network, and administrative applications will continue to require more powerful equipment. Without a plan for replacement of this equipment on a regular schedule, productivity will suffer, and opportunities will be missed. W2 - Lack of a sustained training program Use of information technology has grown substantially over the last five years. However, due to a lack of available ITS staff, and a lack of understanding of the benefits of training, insufficient training opportunities have been provided to members of the Hamilton community. The result is a loss of productivity, and a suboptimal

use of our investments. This situation will become more severe as we move to a heavily networked campus. The network has tremendous potential for enabling us to redesign operating processes to reduce cost and improve the quality of services provided. However, this potential will not be realized if members of the community do not know how to use the network, and the information resources which will be available over the network. W3 - Lack of strategic focus for the use of IT resources Information technology has, for the most part, been used to automate processes rather than strategically to help us attract the most capable students and increase external resources to the institution from alumni and other sources. The way we use information, in all its forms, is central to achieving our institutional mission. W4 - Support for DOS/Windows computing environments Current knowledge about and support for users of computers running MS-Windows is not as complete and uniform as for those using Macintosh computers. There are a variety of reasons, including limited staff resources and the additional complexity of configuring and networking in the DOS/Windows environment. External considerations - Opportunities and Threats The world in which our graduates will live will be a diverse, complex, and global society in which information will be widely available in formats other than traditional print and in which electronic communication and access to information via computer networks will be commonplace . Already information is a fundamental currency those who have ready access to it, and know how to use it have considerable leverage over those who do not. Recent events in the computing and telecommunications industry, as well as national networking leadership from the federal government, augur the day when information in electronic form will be accessed and delivered not only to the workplace, but to the home, and more likely to the individual wherever he or she may be at the time. New communication technologies (e.g., electronic mail, video conferencing, facsimile transmission) provide not only alternative ways to distribute information, but they can change the way work is accomplished. These technologies make it possible for people to communicate - freed of the constraints of being available at the same time, or in the same location. Our emerging campus network infrastructure will provide us with a major opportunity to make important applications of these

technologies. Unlike most other goods in the economy, the cost per unit of performance (e.g., speed, amount of disk storage) will continue to drop for information technologies. This will continue to create opportunities for doing things differently and more economically. Along with these opportunities for change will come a degree of complexity, and a measure of anxiety. The anxiety that comes with change, if not recognized and assuaged, can be a threat to Hamilton's creative use of information technologies. We must always keep in mind that these technologies serve the institutional mission, and are thus a means to achieving broader goals. National efforts to infuse computing and networking into the public schools will result in more students graduating from high school with experience using these technologies. In the increasingly competitive environment of admissions, their decision to apply to, and ultimately enroll at Hamilton may be based upon their perception of Hamilton's ability to prepare them for a world in which technology will play an increasingly important role in their personal and professional lives. The competition for excellent students will be intense in the coming years, and institutions of higher education will actively use the Internet as another vehicle to reach out to prospective students. Our networking infrastructure, supported by other investments in technology, provides Hamilton with an opportunity to achieve a competitive advantage. A MISSION FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES AT HAMILTON Information technologies should play a central role in helping Hamilton to achieve its mission by: (1) enabling students to learn more effectively, (2) enabling Hamilton to operate in an efficient and effective manner, (3) preparing students for a world in which information technologies will play an increasingly important role in their personal and professional lives, (4) enabling Hamilton to achieve a competitive advantage in attracting excellent students and obtaining funding from external constituencies. Some general comments about the mission: Effective Learning Information technologies have already been used by

several faculty to improve student learning at Hamilton. These applications enable students to engage subject matter interactively through computer programs as well as share information with each other. The creation of the campus network will provide a substantial opportunity to do more. Computing and networks are widely used as communications enhancers. The network can be used to enhance communication among students and between students and faculty, and enable students and faculty to access academic resources at any time and from any place. However, if these tools are to facilitate their learning, the college must provide students with the electronic tools and training they will need to use these tools as soon as they arrive on campus . Efficient Operation Information technologies have been used in two main ways thus far, to enhance what we do (improve quality) and to do things faster (automation). We need to reexamine our operating processes and use information technologies, to reduce operating costs. Substantial reductions will only come from rethinking the processes we use to provide services. We need to go beyond using information technologies to do the same things faster, but rather, use IT to enable us to do things differently. For example, students need to know their rank in class, how much money they owe the college, when and where their courses meet, etc.. To find this information they generally have to use intermediaries (people in the Business office or Registrar's office, printed listings, etc.) who prepare and provide information. All of this information is already in electronic form. If appropriate procedures can be developed to provide this information over the campus network, we can more effectively use staff time to deal with complex or ambiguous requests for information. Finally, we need to examine ways in which IT might enable us to reduce the cost of student learning, while maintaining/enhancing the faculty/student relationship that is at the core of what makes Hamilton attractive to prospective students. Student Preparation We prepare students for roles as active citizens in the world beyond Hamilton. Information technologies will increasingly be a part of our graduates' personal and professional lives. It is clear that almost every occupation in the future will require some use of these technologies. Our students must develop not only the ability to use these technologies but a critical appreciation for the impact these technologies have on their lives. Competitive Advantage

We need to use IT to allow us to use information strategically as one means of attracting excellent students and enhancing support from external constituencies. We must explore ways for prospective students to learn about Hamilton through electronic information services, such as gopher and the World Wide Web and ways in which information highways can facilitate communication between the college and its alumni. GOALS RELATED TO THE MISSION Goal 1. Provide each member of the Hamilton Community with convenient and secure access to information over the data network from on-campus. Almost all faculty, administrators, and staff can be more productive by having a computer on their desks connected to the campus network. To realize many of the benefits of distributing information in electronic form it is necessary for as many people as possible to have convenient access to that information. Such access comes through a computer connected to the network. For faculty, the experienced gained in using computers is a precursor to their use in connection with student learning. For those individuals who do not have computers at their desks we should provide access to kiosks. A kiosk is a computer connected to the campus network that is located in a public or shared office area (e.g., Beinicke Village, Coffee House, Bristol Campus Center, etc.). Kiosks provide "walk-up" access to library resources, general information about the college, and Internet resources such as electronic mail. The completion of the campus network will provide network access points for each student in residence hall rooms and public spaces. However, students will have to provide their own computers. The cost of a suitable computer system will represent less than two percent of the cost of attending Hamilton for four years. Having network access will provide access to academic resources (e.g., library resources, course materials, slide collections, computer software) from anyplace, at any time. In this way, the networked campus will provide an opportunity to integrate the academic and residential lives of our students. As networked applications of computing to student learning increase, the value of owning a computer will also increase. Issues of equity, as well as "providing" computers to entering students, will need to be examined on an annual basis.

As we provide access to information resources we must pay close attention to issues of privacy. A balance between openness and security must always be maintained, assuring that access to information is only provided to individuals who are authorized to see it. Goal 2. Develop a plan to replace computer equipment on a three - five year cycle. Planned replacement entails setting up a fund so that each time new equipment is purchased, the replacement cost is added to the fund (the fund would have to be started with sufficient resources to replace existing equipment). As new equipment is acquired, the equipment that is replaced will be used to replace even older equipment. The least capable equipment will be sold. By moving older equipment to less experienced users we maximize the longevity of our investments. Replacing equipment should also be seen as an opportunity to create a more homogeneous computing environment, by assuring that new equipment meets agreed-upon standards for hardware and software. At the same time that equipment is replaced we should address the need for ergonomic furniture to provide a proper operating environment for those who use computers regularly. Goal 3. Improve the effectiveness and efficiency of investments we make in information technology by providing a program of continual training for all employees and students of the College. We are an institution where "learning" is central to our mission. This learning should extend to all members of the community. To make effective use of information technologies to improve productivity, a continual and incremental program of training is necessary. Significant productivity improvements for employees of the college are possible through such a sustained training program. Improving their performance will help us reduce operating expenses, and improve morale. Ultimately, everything we accomplish using information technology depends on the people using that technology. For example, electronic mail has become a basic communications tool on our campus. Yet many users of electronic mail are unaware of some of the simplest time savers, such as the use of mailing lists, mailboxes, or attachments. As a result, these individuals lose hours of productive time each week. Basic training provided to these individuals would improve their productivity substantially. Student training should begin as soon as they arrive on campus. New students must be provided with the learning tools, such as electronic mail,

access to the on-line library catalogue, to make the most of their time at Hamilton. Doing this as soon as they come to campus will also make it possible for these tools to be used in connection with their courses in the very first semester. A student training program must be developmental, providing a small amount of information that can be used immediately, and then providing incremental additions to this training as they can benefit from it. Goal 4. Assist and encourage members of the Hamilton community in their use of technology to improve student learning. Several faculty, in disciplines other than computer science, have already made significant use of information technologies to improve student learning in their courses. Such efforts need to be recognized on a continuing basis. Most faculty who have used technology in this way have been comfortable using the technology on a personal and professional level. They are the "early adopters", who have been willing to deal with the occasional "potholes" on the road to using technology to improve student learning. At Hamilton, such faculty have been primarily in the natural and social sciences, and music. To encourage others to participate will require more training and support, including incentives (e.g, released time, financial stipends). However, these incentives should be tied to a commitment to use technology in support of student learning. A networked campus will provide opportunities for the creation of "electronic study groups" students in a class who discuss the subject of the class outside of the classroom, possibly under the electronic guidance of the instructor. This simple use of technology is applicable in many courses. Electronic communication enables everyone to participate in study groups, at a time that fits in with their extracurricular activities. Engaging subject matter in this way, can improve understanding and elevate the level of discussions that take place in the classroom, as students will be better prepared. Moreover, it can further enhance faculty/student interaction and therefore be of strategic value in recruiting students. Other members of the community, particularly in academic support services areas such as the Library, the Writing Center, Career Center, Study Skills Center, and Information Technology Services, use technology in a variety of ways to improve services provided to students in support of student learning. These efforts must be encouraged and supported.

Goal 5. Pursue cooperative information technology ventures with other colleges to reduce costs and improve service. A small college cannot take advantage of economies of scale, which permit it to provide services in an economical fashion. For example, neither Hamilton nor Colgate could afford the cost of providing an on-site technician for our telephone systems. Through a joint agreement with an outside vendor we share a technician. Another agreement with Cornell University provides economical access to high performance computing, expertise, and expensive data bases. In the academic program, faculty teaching Japanese are shared between Hamilton and Colgate. This is a model that needs to be pursued more aggressively. The recent Mellon grant (with Colgate) will encourage further cooperation. Much more can be done among the five institutions located in our immediate area (SUNY, MVCC, Utica College, Hamilton, Colgate). Cooperative activities among institutions that are more geographically dispersed is possible through our Internet connection. Goal 6. Create an "empowered campus" by the year 2000. The "empowered campus" can be a metaphor that serves to inspire creative thinking about the nature of the way we do business. Many of Hamilton's operating procedures currently require that individuals act as intermediaries between the person seeking information and the information itself. For example, when a student wants to know her rank in class she must go to the Registrar's office and ask one of the staff to look up this information for her, even though the information is already in electronic form. The current operating paradigm is one of intermediation - individuals looking up information for those needing to use it. An alternative model would "disintermediate" these processes whenever appropriate and possible. The campus network would be used as a vehicle for distributing information of all types, will a minimum of intermediation. Potential savings are large but only if we are willing to change. Opportunities exist to rethink how we do business, and in doing so to eliminate unnecessary processes, redesign others, improve the quality of the services we provide, and reduce the cost of making information more widely accessible. For example, the network can be a vehicle for encouraging the economical use of shared information resources. Examples include, but are not limited to, accessing library materials, enabling departmental chairs to create purchase orders on-line and access departmental financial

records, and using electronic communication as a substitute for paper communication. Goal 7 - Use IT to enhance communication with prospective students and Hamilton alumni . A growing proportion of excellent prospective students have access to the emerging information highway through their high schools, or through information services to which their parents subscribe. Making it possible for these students to learn about Hamilton through these networks, and even to apply to Hamilton electronically, will give us a competitive advantage. Interaction with prospective students can be further enhanced by encouraging them to address their questions to members of the faculty and staff via electronic networks. By enhancing communications with prospective students we improve our competitive position relative to our peers. Allowing alumni to communicate with the college community electronically can enhance their continued interest in the College, provide an economical and timely way to provide them with information about the College, and ultimately encourage their financial support. Already efforts are underway to facilitate such communication with alumni through the WAVE program. Discussions about the design and creation of an institutional World Wide Web home page are underway, involving members of the offices of Admissions and Communications and Development, with help from the staffs of the Library and Information Technology Services. These efforts should be encouraged. APPENDIX (FIGURE NOT AVAILABLE IN ASCII TEXT VERSION) June, 1995