We live in a digital world where people learn, work and play in the cloud. At Oral Roberts University (ORU) in Oklahoma, one of our goals is to create a global digital society through one connected campus. Toward that end, we are embracing new technologies and paradigms to make our “whole person education” program easily accessible to students on our Tulsa campus—which serves students from all 50 states as well as 90 countries—and to students living all over the world.

Here are 3 ways we’re creating connections to make campus life easier to navigate and more enriching for our students — whether they are on campus or not.

1. Forget the helpdesk. Create an IT concierge service.

Because we live in a digital society, students don’t just arrive on campus with multiple devices; they arrive with their own cloud. As CIO, it’s my mission to help them survive and thrive in the digital world. Yet, we found that students only visited our IT helpdesk when they had a technology issue or something was broken. We wanted to improve our customer service and, more importantly, find new ways to creatively leverage technology to benefit everyone.

So, in 2014, we transformed our IT helpdesk into a “concierge” style of service to make our services more visible and accessible to students as well as faculty and staff. Our IT Concierge Service is now open every day during normal operating hours, and it is staffed by members of the IT department as well as ORU students. The interactions we have with our customers — and our student workers — provide us with valuable insights as to how we can use existing and emerging technologies to better serve their needs.

(Next page: Engagement tips for off-campus students 2-3)

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2. Add a digital concierge for 24/7/365 access to campus services.

As part of this transformation, we also wanted to empower students to find and discover ORU’s campus services, technologies and degree programs outside of regular business hours. So, in 2015, we rolled out OneCampus from rSmart as our “digital concierge” platform. OneCampus is a cloud-based portal that allows us to organize our web-based campus services in one location, such as curriculum, academic calendars, email, events, athletics, counseling, maps, degree plan sheets, and dining services. It also has a Google-like search tool that allows students, faculty and staff to quickly connect with the services or resources they need from any computer or mobile device.

The result is that our digital concierge is now taking the 93 billion data transactions we do every semester and making them seamless and engaging for our students, whether they are in their dorm room or across campus or anywhere in the world. Further, because our digital concierge is accessible 24/7/365, we can make sure students’ needs are met even when the IT Concierge Service is closed.

Since launching our digital concierge, we have improved productivity and efficiency in our IT department by 40 percent. In just two years, we are managing 20 more applications with seven fewer people–and much of that is because everything is now centralized within our OneCampus portal.

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3. Use telepresence robots to bring current and prospective students on campus.

In addition to organizing traditional campus services, our digital concierge serves as the portal into ORU’s Geovision technologies, which include telepresence robots, virtual-learning management systems, and wearables such as smartwatches and FitBits. The outcome is a streamlined technology ecosystem that allows students to more easily engage in our digital networked campus and complete their degrees.

Using our telepresence robots, for example, students can use real-time, streaming, mobile telepresence technology to take campus tours, attend classes, and even participate in graduation.

The telepresence robot works like standard web-conferencing but through an iPad mounted on a Segway. From a Mac, Windows PC, iPad or iPhone, students can wheel the robot around campus and interact with students, faculty and staff via live two-way video and audio streaming. For prospective students and current students, it is the closest thing to being on campus without actually being here. It is important to note that the robots, which weigh approximately 8 pounds, do need a human chaperone because they can’t go up or down stairs, and they can occasionally tip over.

Delivering education at the right place and time

At ORU, we use an array of technologies to accelerate the delivery of education while connecting students around the world to our whole person education program. No matter where someone is, we can teleport education, nano-byte style, to the right person at the right time. In addition, because students have easy access to campus services, resources and events, they are more engaged in campus life, which makes for a richer experience all around.

About the Author:

Michael Mathews is Chief Information Officer for Oral Roberts University (http://www.oru.edu).


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