Foundational initiatives are essential to OSU being able to compete successfully as a top tier teaching and research institution. At present, OSU has critical gaps in the necessary components of an effective information technology enterprise, as well as areas of instability. Closing these gaps requires that we institute substantial improvements by making some tough decisions to abandon some historic practices.
The first essential, foundational initiatives are to develop financial structures that reduce risk and support OSU priorities:
Financial restructuring and investment is required to support continued maintenance and growth of the University network, enable the physical growth of the Corvallis, Bend and Newport campuses, and support the growth in the number of people and complexity of work they do. Network management must be centralized and stable funding secured.
The Technology Resource Fund pays for much of the educational technology at OSU, including classroom technology renovation and maintenance, Blackboard, computer labs and equipment loans, library materials, support for students with disabilities, and pedagogical innovation. The allocation of funds must be realigned to support the University’s goals, and in particular, adequate funding for classroom maintenance must be identified as new buildings open and existing spaces are renovated.
Second, data is a strategic asset of the University, but only to the extent it is available, true, and actionable. We will create a comprehensive set of management data reports and dashboards that speak to the overlapping contexts we must manage – financial, educational, space, research, people, etc. – and simplify system to system access. This strategy helps us answer the compelling and complex questions related to understanding our progress, and improves the University’s ability to manage its programs.
Third, we must provide a technology framework that enables the innovation in the University’s administrative, instructional and research practices. We must put in place the necessary architectural underpinnings to manage identity and access to data and systems.
Fourth, we must shift the value and innovation curve for technology, lowering costs and risks related to contract lock-in and local limitations while improving services and functions offered.
The "cloud" – shared, scaled resources amongst university and industry – is a game changer because of the economies provided and the continuing innovation in services and functionality. Higher education is moving aggressively toward scaled cloud services because it radically shifts the cost/benefit curve. Oregon State University must purposefully, thoughtfully and systematically migrate to cloud options, such as the move of student email to Google, to lower costs and improve services to the community.
Open source software offers excellent options across the spectrum of our enterprise. These choices are often superior to what is available in the marketplace, particularly when developed for and by higher education, and allows us to break from a cycle of externally driven cost increases. OSU’s wide use of Drupal demonstrates the viability of this strategy. We will purposefully shift toward using open source software.
These changes can lift OSU’s technology profile to the level, quality and sustainability needed to compete successfully against our aspirational peers. Successfully implementing these changes will require substantial shifts in technology programs, staff skills, and funding models.