How StFX can keep up in the digital age
I’m sure that most faculty members and students can remember where they were and how inconvenienced their lives became when the wifi and campus network went down last fall. The situation highlighted that StFX may not be keeping up with technology.
To be fair, it’s incredibly hard to keep up with the fast pace of technological change today. Most of us carry around smartphones that are more powerful than the computers they used to get to the moon almost 50 years ago. While StFX has kept up with most of the technologies that people now expect, like wifi, they have many ways they could improve in order to stay relevant as a post-secondary institution.
As evident from the wifi going down last year and for brief periods this year, StFX should work on maintaining the quality of its network. With spotty connections in some areas of campus like near Bloomfield and sometimes will refuse even to let you connect, there are succinct areas for improvement. StFX’s network is also highly connected to everything from accounts to printers, which is why it went down so quickly when it was hacked through accessing the printing network. Given that, StFX should be investing in creating a more secure network that doesn’t go down with one attempt to mine bitcoin, along with increasing the overall quality of the wifi.
Email is also a technology issue that StFX has problems with. Many students and faculty are bombarded by the bulk emails that StFX sends out, and IT services has no idea who actually controls the account. There have also been incidents of targeted phishing and email ransom threats through the email system in the past. Email is an important means of communication for students and faculty alike, which means that StFX should be committed to making it secure and that the right information gets to the right audience.
StFX should also consider making an integrated platform for students that has access to all the services they need. The services to check account balances, register for courses or residence, check grades, and more are currently scattered across different systems including Banner and MesAmis. This makes it difficult to keep track of where to go for services and means having several different passwords to access the different sites. Many other Canadian universities offer an integrated student portal or platform, so StFX should seriously consider making one for the ease of convenience and to stay competitive with other post-secondary institutions.
One area that StFX has kept up with technological changes is by investing in a learning management system, or Moodle. Moodle, like systems such as Desire2Learn and Canvas, provide online tools for course material, grades, and discussions that help make courses more accessible and interactive. Given that more students are choosing to do online or distance courses, StFX has made an excellent decision by catering to that market through Moodle. However, from personal experience, not all courses are available on Moodle and some faculty members don’t use it, which is an area that StFX could improve upon.
Social media is also playing an increasing role in post-secondary education, which StFX has kept up with reasonably well. Having multiple social media accounts that provide information about the university to those on campus, along with prospective students, is a step forward. Events on campus are readily advertised on social media as well, which can be helpful for groups that may not have gotten the publicity otherwise. Adapting to social media can be beneficial for StFX, provided it is done constructively to build the university’s image or for publicity.
On the flip side, many things that the university would rather not showcase also get out through social media. It’s easy to find photos of parties and other damaging content to StFX’s reputation on social media platforms, which isn’t good for the university given they’ve tried to distance themselves from party culture. The university also posted pictures on social media from an open house earlier this year for prospective students, which conveniently covered up the protest that occurred at the same event over StFX’s sexual violence policy. StFX has every right as a business to curate the image they present on social media, but they should be aware that it’s simple to find inconsistencies in a digital world.
StFX may soon be having to adapt to new technologies as well, along with refining the technology they already have. As drone usage becomes more widespread, perhaps the technology could be integrated for security purposes at large events on campus. The university could also adopt bots or artificial intelligence to answer questions directed to their Facebook page, or create an app that has information for students. New technological innovations are always around the corner and should be considered as ways for campus to be a leader in the digital age.
StFX has adopted many of the technologies that we take for granted; however, they have a long road ahead when it comes to addressing the issues in their current systems and dealing with the complexities of social media. If the university wants to remain a relevant and competitive post-secondary institution, it should invest in their technological capabilities to remain on top of the game.