Improving the Student Experience through new ICT Initiatives

by Simone Knapp

If you look around our campus you’ll see students using laptops in their classes, checking their email in the coffee line or sending texts while waiting for their bus—all on personal devices they carry around with them. This marks a dramatic change how students interact with their ICT environment compared to five years ago—continuous connectivity is now an expectation.

“Responding to the expectation of continuous connectivity and the increasing appetite for new and better technology has been an important part of our efforts these last few years,” said acting chief information officer and associate vice-president of information and communication technology, Kevin Schneider. “Providing students with access to university services from personal devices that they already use just makes sense.”

Significant progress has been made over the past few years in improving the ICT environment for students—by expanding the wireless network, by improving security on the wireless network, by providing text messaging as a way to send time-sensitive, high priority announcements or for resetting passwords, and by providing access to U of S services such as grades, exam schedules and more, through iUsask.

“Students are better able to work outside of computers labs,” explained Schneider. “Expanded wireless connectivity allows them to collaborate with fellow students wherever the opportunity arises, using whatever device they have with them.”

The PAWS user interface was redesigned early in the planning cycle to improve students’ online interactions with the university, and a user-centred design that allows students to get to information more easily is what drove recent enhancements to iUsask. The university’s advances in  PAWS laid the groundwork for providing students with the services they want and need on mobile devices.

As part of the commitment to enhance the student experience, much work has been done to improve the campus environment for students; with respect to the ICT environment, however, there will always be more to do to keep up with the pace of technology changes and changing expectations. “We will need to increase the services related to teaching and learning that are available to students on mobile devices,” says Schneider. “We haven’t even scratched the surface of pedagogical innovations like streaming lectures or course evaluations using mobile devices or exams on iPads.”