Sasi K. Pillay, Ph.D.
Vice President & Chief Information Officer
Information Technology Services
Washington State University
Letter from the CIO
Another year has passed, but this time I felt that it went by rather quickly. I expected the year 2020 was going to be one in which there was a clear vision on the many things we wanted to accomplish. As fate would have it, we achieved many of those, in addition to others. COVID-19, the pandemic, took not only all the plans that we contemplated and modified them, but also challenged us to do more.
As the university rapidly switched to remote instruction after the Spring break, many dependable services that were offered on premises were moved to online. However, not all of our students were able to make this adjustment. I attribute this to the 3 A’s: Access, Availability and Affordability. As I have said before, without Access to broadband connectivity, one cannot use the very many benefits that are online. In many places in rural Washington, availability of broadband and access to it is still a wish as opposed to reality. Even when one has access and availability to broadband, many of our students simply cannot afford it. The issue of the “digital divide” during these trying times became exacerbated.
To address this issue, working with the Provost’s Office we launched the loaner laptop and the loaner hotspot program. The laptop program served nearly 300 students, while the hotspot program served close to 500 students. The responses from students were overwhelmingly positive, as one student indicated, “I am really relieved …to still do everything I needed to do.” Based on these responses from the students, we have increased the number of students that we are serving in the fall semester.
Working with Academic Outreach and Innovation (AOI), we piloted the use of Canvas as our next Learning Management System. We will reach full deployment of Canvas in Fall 2021.
Working with the Registrar’s Office, we developed and now made available the ability for all of our students to utilize Academic Planner, which will help students keep track of their progress in their chosen field. This in turn will help them to graduate on time. We expect the use of the Academic Planner will improve the graduation rate of our students.
We deployed Microsoft Teams, a platform that integrates Office 365 with other tools for improved collaboration through the use of documents, alerts, messages, and videoconferencing. The adoption of Teams across WSU has been phenomenal. The President and Cabinet now only use this to conduct its business. Our videoconferencing service using Zoom now has become mainstay and is impossible to think of how we can conduct instruction and business operations without it. The use of Zoom continues to establish records daily.
Our contributions to deploying Workday is noteworthy and we are on schedule to do so in January 2021. This will set the stage for WSU to make more data-driven decisions and utilize predictive analytics.
This year marked the first time we were able to reduce the number of outstanding audit items to a handful. Several policies were published and collectively they have helped in reducing cybersecurity risks to the university. These will be put into practice in the coming fiscal year.
Another feature that we added to the Annual Report this year is the Quick Reference (QR) code. This will facilitate the reader to quickly go to the ITS website and request services covered in the report.
We were able to highlight only just a few of the items that our dedicated staff accomplished this year. I thank them for their continued hard work in serving WSU. Our measure of success is directly attributed to the successes derived by those we serve, our students, faculty, and staff. Often, this comes only through collaboration with these stakeholders. In other words, Innovating Together (IT) is our moniker.
We are very interested in your ideas and comments on
how we can serve you and the WSU community even better.
As always, we encourage your feedback and please do so by contacting
Jacqueline Southwick, ITS Communications Manager, at Jsouthwick@wsu.edu.
As always, Go Cougs!