December 8, 2020

Chronicle Panel

As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining. The pandemic is not an exception. Beneficial outcomes for higher education operations were recently addressed in a Zoom-based panel discussion joined by Vice President of Information Technology and Texas A&M Chief Information Officer Dee Childs.

Hosted by the Chronicle of Higher Education, "Bringing Together the Remote University" also featured Elizabeth Bejar, Senior Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs for Florida International University, and Jean Morrison, Provost of Boston University. 

The biggest challenge faced by the panel was research continuity, since "it doesn’t happen in a vacuum, but in a community." When research activities were allowed to resume, technology was key.

"I think we have expanded the use of remote technologies in a thousand different ways so research and graduate seminars can continue," Childs said. "Without the technology infrastructure, we wouldn’t be doing as well as we are."

Microsoft Business Strategy Leader Bradley Tipp also appeared during the event and pointed out higher education has experienced over three years of digital transformation in just a matter of months.

Childs illustrated that point by explaining that in January 2020, there were approximately 5,000 Zoom sessions for that month. That number grew to 130,000 sessions per month by April and is currently averaging 1.7 million sessions per month. With this digital transformation, Childs said Texas A&M is working to optimize the experiences of all students since internet capabilities and speeds vary around the world.

"We've spent a lot of time on pedagogy, working with faculty to package material in advance so students can download at a more convenient pace,” Childs pointed out. "I don't think we're ahead of all those challenges, but we've made great strides quickly."