Revolutionizing the Edutech Space
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Revolutionizing the Edutech Space

Cody Down, CIO & Associate VP, Hawai‘i Pacific University
Cody Down, CIO & Associate VP, Hawai‘i Pacific University

Cody Down, CIO & Associate VP, Hawai‘i Pacific University

1. How have you seen the evolution of digital solutions in the education space? Are there any impactful initiatives you are currently overseeing?

Hawai‘i Pacific University is committed to providing our students with the technology and systems necessary for them to enter a competitive global workplace market-ready. There has been an increasing shift in higher education from providing students with traditional campus computer labs to offering them mobile-friendly, access-from-anywhere technology. Students are accustomed to the freedom and convenience of portable technology such as laptops, tablets, and phones. Providing consistent network connectivity and a solid web presence has become essential to their learning and growth. Over the last year, a university-wide team overhauled the university’s web presence, making it completely mobile-friendly and transforming the class registration process, equipping HPU to move smoothly into the future.

At HPU, we are introducing advanced software such as TargetX/Salesforce, our new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program, to aid in the recruitment of new students. This software helps us to effectively communicate and strategize about how we target and interact with specific student populations based on their interests. As far as recruitment and retention of students are concerned, we believe we are providing something different than most universities, a data driven approach but with a personal touch.

HPU is also building Hawai‘i’s very first collegiate eSports facility. Competitive gaming, where teams of students challenge each other on-line, is becoming increasingly popular in higher education. While many students still enjoy traditional team sports, a growing population of students identify more strongly with technology and gaming. We are offering eSports as an attractive alternative activity for students considering HPU. Being involved with an eSports team allows students to enhance their university experience with leadership opportunities, important teamwork skills, and may even lay a path towards potential careers once they graduate. We are working to increase local recruits by inviting high school students with an interest in eSports to campus, where they may see our university and interact with HPU students. We envision hosting summer certification programs where people from all over the world spend their summer term at HPU learning how to design and test games in our cutting-edge, high-tech facility.

2. What are the efforts being made to cater to the differing needs of students?

HPU’s prioritization of student-centered instruction and real-world experience gives each student the opportunity to personalize their curriculum and individualize their learning experiences. HPU also recognizes that not all students are able to fit the model of traditional, in-class instruction, and is proud to offer a wide variety of instructional methodologies including hybrid classes with in-class and online teaching, and an option for students to enroll in fully online courses.

  We strive to promote an environment where students are empowered to approach the faculty, or college deans, with ideas that enhance and improve campus life  

HPU has also begun offering college courses to secondary schools where students can earn college credits while still in high school. HPU professors instruct remotely from the university using teleconferencing and extended classroom technologies in which students can ask and answer questions, and interact dynamically with their instructors and peers. This not only significantly increases the likelihood of these students embracing higher education, but also greatly reduces the investment of time and money required by a degree.

Along with face-to-face learning, students may login online to complete homework and take tests via the university’s Learning Management System (LMS). HPU is also implementing lecture capture as a tool for our faculty to pre-record lectures, allowing students improved preparation for classes, which fosters more interactive discussion and less lecture. Recordings made by the lecture capture system are also available for review at any time, which aids studying and test preparation.

Because not everyone at HPU is a traditional student, it is necessary to have various methodologies delivering our curriculum. HPU has an enormous virtual infrastructure and we’re one of the first schools in Hawai‘i to offer a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) environment. Every single student receives a VDI, a virtual desktop containing all the software they need for their school work. This technology enables students to work from virtually anywhere in the world and have the same experience as being on campus. The VDI initiative has been very successful for us and now we’re working on extended virtual classrooms.

3. How easy is it for educators to adapt to trends? Are there any steps being taken to help them out?

As I mentioned, HPU is very student-driven. Students these days have different expectations when they come to class, they want to be able to access videos and to do class work from their phone and to use applications to keep track of their homework and other duties. We strive to promote an environment where students are empowered to approach the faculty, or college deans, with ideas that enhance and improve campus life. Once the faculty understands students’ point of view and why they desire particular services, it really drives their willingness to evolve. The pressure from logical student expectations leads the faculty to the IT department, where we help them implement a system that works for them. It’s really about a partnership between students, faculty, and IT.

4. What are some of the emerging trends that you foresee being used in the near future?

I’m very excited about Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). Much of the current content revolves around gaming, but we are beginning to see artists and engineers utilize it for teaching, development, and creation.

Many large tech companies are investing heavily into VR/AR, and soon the technology will be widespread. Augmented Reality superimposes a 3D computer generated graphic onto the users’ view of the real world. A user can then work in this environment to design mechanical components, interact and change out pieces within a model, and eventually 3Dprint their creation.

I foresee this sort of technology growing exponentially in the next few years and enabling university students to learn in innovative ways—not just in engineering, but in nursing and business classes as well. The costs for the technology are coming down to a point where it’s affordable, and the potential for it to shift how teachers teach and students learn is unlimited. I truly believe it is going to transform the future of education.

See Also: Top EdTech Companies 


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