How universities are using technology in their COVID precautions

Across the nation, higher-ed leaders are grappling with the question of how they will ensure a continued safe on-campus environment for students, faculty, and staff in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact tracing and location technologies play a large part in universities’ ability to monitor adherence to safety protocols such as social distancing and track potential COVID cases.

Fall marked an uncertain time for colleges and universities—and while some made it through face-to-face and hybrid semesters, others were forced to abruptly return to virtual learning following pockets of COVID-19 outbreaks. With winter break imminent, university officials know their handling of COVID safety protocols will be under a microscope.

When evaluating how they handled campus reopenings this fall, most colleges and universities acknowledge that they have not earned high marks, according to a Kaplan survey of admissions officers at more than 300 institutions of higher learning across the United States.

When asked to grade to their industry’s ‘reopening’ performance as a whole, taking into account factors like implementing new safety precautions, delivering courses, and communicating with students and parents, only 4 percent gave an A; 36 percent gave a B; 51 percent, a C; 9 percent, a D; and 1 percent, an F.

Innovative technologies for COVID—and beyond

At Dominican University (DU) in Illinois, university leaders have thought hard about how to manage the campus in order to keep commuters and resident students safe. DU normally houses 600-650 students, though this semester, all residences have been mandated single-occupancy, lowering the number of on-campus residents to about 400. Most of the university’s approximately 3,200 students are commuters.

Part of the DU’s COVID strategy includes a mask mandate, issuing social distancing guidelines, and using the #CampusClear app for self-monitoring and reporting. Another key part is Kiana Analytics‘ Contact Tracing and Facilities Management cloud-based digital platform, which leverages an institution’s existing Wi-Fi network (DU’s Wi-Fi partner, Extreme Networks, helped ensure a smooth launch) and uses device-based detection and location-based analytics to help stop the spread of the virus.

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How can leaders promote change within their institutions?

The higher education industry continues to be immersed in change, with institutions navigating increasing competition, diversifying student populations and dwindling financial resources, according to the Huron Consulting Group. Amid this upheaval, college and university leaders face a growing sense of urgency to prepare for the future and transform.

Leaders will not be able to solve for every economic, political, social or technological variable reshaping the industry. But by rooting transformation in tangible changes to the management approaches, processes and structures that have long defined their institutions, leaders will prepare their teams to educate and impact as many students as possible – regardless of what the future holds.

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Using talk therapy to improve student mental health

As a result of and the global COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine orders, the U.S. is facing a concurrent epidemic in mental health, and we’ve seen that college students are one of the groups feeling the effects. This makes student mental health an absolute priority at institutions across the country.

Roughly 46.6 million Americans suffer from a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder, which represents nearly 20 percent of the total U.S. population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. For young adults between the ages of 18 and 25, this figure jumps to 25.8 percent. Even more concerning is the fact that 7.5 percent of young adults suffer from a mental illness serious enough to cause meaningful functional impairment on a daily basis.

Related content: Critical actions to support student mental health

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating this issue. According to an August poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 53 percent of American adults say their mental health has been negatively impacted due to coronavirus-related worry and stress. Younger college-aged students are undoubtedly impacted similarly in regard to their mental health as they experience significant financial strain and face a higher level of uncertainty about their futures, while also isolating from friends and loved ones.

In fact, 70 percent of college mental health counseling directors recently noted there has been a significant increase in the number of students living with serious psychological conditions over the last few years. At the same time, only 19 percent of those counselors said their campus has the student mental health services adequate to meet this growing need.

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Using AV to create engaging learning experiences—even remotely

This summer posed some unique challenges for colleges and universities across the country, as many needed to act quickly to implement the right AV technology solutions to help faculty create collaborative and engaging learning experiences, regardless of whether or not students would be physically present in the classroom.

Here at Pepperdine University, we were already planning an upgrade and needed to make sure our latest deployment factored in the possibility of all learning models – in-person, hybrid, and online– given the uncertainty of the upcoming academic year.

Related content: The right tech, along with faculty PD, are essential to online learning success

We needed a solution that was easy to operate, could provide faculty with engaging learning environments, and could accommodate any combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning. In the end, we decided to implement ClearTech’s EduFLEX solution with Panasonic’s AW-HE38H Pan/Tilt/Zoom (PTZ) cameras for their simple installation and maintenance, ease-of-use, and compatibility with our existing AV equipment.

Overall, the research and deployment process gave us some important insights into how we will need to think about AV upgrade plans for the coming years.

Adhering to a wide range of faculty input

We found it was critical to begin our research process by seeking input from the faculty who would be using the technology on a daily basis. Because faculty typically teach in different classrooms, we needed to make sure the technology was consistent from room to room, allowing for easy set-up and minimal technical disruptions to the student learning experience.

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Reimagining the school help desk

The impact of the pandemic on educational programming has created what will more than likely be fundamental and foundational changes to the traditional classroom environment. In general, the traditional classroom simply is not visible in today’s milieu.

The physical hallways connecting traditional classrooms that have been present since education left the open air of Socrates’s Agora, when Plato established an academy, have been replaced with the fiber, copper, and Wi-Fi of high-speed networks. That has significantly reduced the stress on academic buildings but has put significant stress on the electronic connections within educational institutions.

Related content: Improving the student experience on campus

Many cabinet-level leaders are asking how institutions can ensure that they are managing an effective school help desk operation. Although cabinet responsibilities have not changed, the reliance on help services have increased exponentially in the last several months. At first, educational institutions were in an emergency “band-aid” mode in many cases, but just as patients transferred from the ambulance to the hospital will be reevaluated, it is time for help services to be reconsidered given that the current virtual environment will need to be sustained for at least the next year in many cases.

One of the primary considerations should be if the school has a consolidated help desk. The most frustrating issue for many users is being bounced around between more than one help service. The first-line school help desk staff should be either able to address any issue or at least directly connect the user to the proper person for assistance. Being told by a help desk staff member, “No, we don’t support that, please contact the LMS support system for that issue,” or something similar is always frustrating.

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Three ways campus CIOs can support high-quality instruction

When the pandemic emerged, IT and academic leaders at Bucknell University worked closely together to make sure faculty had everything they needed to succeed.

IT and faculty leaders formed a remote learning team that offered training in how to teach effectively online. Tech support staff extended their availability to answer student and faculty questions. The university expanded its WiFi coverage to outdoor locations over the summer to support faculty who wanted to teach outside when students returned to campus.

Related content: How campus CIOs can keep up with rising network demands

“I think the pandemic in some ways transformed our relationship,” says Vice President for Libraries and Information Technology Param Bedi. Although IT and academic leaders have always collaborated well at Bucknell during Bedi’s 12-plus years in this position, “it became a true partnership,” he observes.

One of the few positives to come out of the global pandemic is the integral part that campus CIOs have played in planning and supporting high-quality instruction at their institutions, says Kathe Pelletier, director of the Teaching and Learning program at EDUCAUSE.

At the most successful colleges and universities, CIOs have always played this part. But, that isn’t the case at every institution. Taking on a larger role in academic conversations amid the shift to remote teaching and learning could allow CIOs to demonstrate their value in contributing to instructional decisions, Pelletier says.

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4 higher-ed IT predictions for 2021

The year 2020 has proven to us all that it can be quite difficult to anticipate how a year, let alone a month, will look for any industry. For the education industry specifically, students of all levels have been drastically affected by COVID-19, resulting in learning opportunities transitioning to mostly online. In fact, 97 percent of students who were already enrolled in college before March 1 of this year have switched to online instruction.

Higher-ed IT leaders and educators recognize the tools needed to succeed in a virtual environment and how the need for virtual instruction will continue to grow.

Related content: 6 higher-ed management challenges leaders face today

We’re encountering a world that is thriving primarily by online services – email, messaging, Zoom meetings, and news consumption. Our success as a society is very much affected by an online environment that has minimal glitches and provides security. As we look toward 2021, I’m sharing a few of my higher-ed IT predictions.

IT education is needed to supplement a spike in IT jobs

What I’ve witnessed in the higher-ed community, especially since the onset of the pandemic, is a spike in higher-ed IT needs. With the nearly 20 percent surge in demand for cybersecurity jobs, students are seeing the potential of job security for those skilled in information technology. Professionals in nearly every industry are finding that many positions can be done remotely – but that can also open the door for unintended data breaching.

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Universities are having to adapt for the student experience

Students once gave more weight to a higher-education institution’s name or classroom content, the grandeur of its grounds or its social life, but today’s prospective and current attendees increasingly consider everything when they decide where to study, according to Fierce Education.

Dubbed “student experience,” the combination of art and science mirrors customer and employee experience, which also continue garnering huge investments of money and time as organizations seek ways to attract and retain the best clients and staff.

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University of Wyoming Foundation Strengthens Fundraising and Development Efforts with Ellucian

Ellucian, the leading provider of software and services built to power higher education, today announced that the University of Wyoming Foundation has upgraded to CRM Advance, a cloud-based solution that helps institutions cultivate, manage, and grow donor relationships.

Ellucian CRM Advance provides integrated, data-backed insights that will enable the UW Foundation to enhance fundraising efforts, more effectively engage constituents, and streamline workflows for advancement personnel.

The University of Wyoming Foundation previously leveraged the Ellucian advancement solution, Ellucian Advance. With this upgrade to CRM Advance, a software as a service (SaaS) solution, the foundation is seamlessly transferring data to the cloud, with nightly backups to better support security, business continuity, and real-time data access. The UW Foundation will also use the Ellucian Ethos platform to connect data across the organization to make better informed decisions across the donor lifecycle.

The new CRM Advance implementation automates processes to reduce much of the manual management and data manipulation, thereby allowing the advancement team to quickly launch and track initiatives that address the immediate needs of their community. The solution also provides greater visibility into campaigns and constituent information with reporting and analytics capabilities.

“With CRM Advance, our team will deliver more real-time information that will help to align priorities to the university’s mission and drive more effective interactions with our supporters,” said Nancy Brizuela, University of Wyoming Foundation Director of Information Services. “Ellucian’s deep understanding of the complex needs of advancement has made them an ideal partner and we look forward to continued success.”

“CRM Advance will further empower the Foundation to grow a data-driven, donor-centric approach and lead more successful campaigns. We look forward to building on our strong partnership with UW Foundation as they further invest in technology and inspire the UW community through the power of philanthropy,” said Laura Ipsen, President and CEO, Ellucian.

COVID-19 Resources from Ellucian 

As institutions, educators, students, and staff face great change and disruption during the coronavirus outbreak, those who serve higher education are working together to help continue the delivery of vital services and ongoing education to students everywhere.

In support of customers, partners, and the higher education community, Ellucian is continually updating available resources, including webinars, articles and community discussions on business continuity, the CARES Act, online learning, student well-being and more.

 

About Ellucian

Ellucian is the market leader charting the digital future of higher education with a portfolio of cloud-ready technology solutions and services. From student recruitment to workforce analytics; from fundraising opportunities to alumni engagement; Ellucian’s comprehensive suite of data-rich tools gives colleges and universities the information they need to lead with confidence.

Working with a community of more than 2,700 customers in over 50 countries, Ellucian keeps innovating as higher education keeps evolving. Drawing on its comprehensive higher education business acumen and suite of services, Ellucian guides its customers through manageable, sustainable digital transformation—so that every type of institution and student can thrive in today’s fast-changing landscape. To find out what’s next in higher education solutions and services, visit Ellucian at www.ellucian.com.

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Epson’s Brightest Laser Projector Ever is Now Available – Smallest 3LCD Projector with 30,000 or More Lumens

As people continue to keep a safe distance from one another, big, bright displays are essential in providing better visibility in today’s more spread-out venues and auditoriums. Epson, the number-one selling projector brand worldwide,1 today announced its brightest projector – the Pro L30000UNL – is now available. Delivering 30,000 lumens of color and white brightness,2 it is one of Epson’s most technologically advanced projectors. The Pro L30000UNL offers native WUXGA resolution with 4K Enhancement technology3 for a high contrast, true-to-life image. It is ideal for events, rental and staging, auditoriums, lecture halls, and other large-venue applications. Compact and lightweight for its brightness, the Pro L30000UNL is a powerhouse projector that enables users to confidently project content and captivate audiences with exceptional image quality and incredible brightness.

“The Pro L30000UNL joins Epson’s extensive large-venue projector lineup, combining extreme brightness with the innovative projection technology and robust feature-sets for which Epson is known,” said Ramzi Shakra, product manager, Epson America, Inc. “We’ve included a full suite of premium features, some of which take advantage of the projector’s unique built-in cameras to make complex applications such as edge blending or stacking of multiple projectors faster and easier.”

The Pro L30000UNL features a solid-state laser light engine and an electrostatic air filter for up to 20,000 hours of virtually maintenance-free operation,4 and is compatible with the same eight optional interchangeable lenses as Epson’s Pro L25000U. The projector also includes a host of premium features to withstand the rigors of staging and live events, such as a mechanical shutter and sealed optical engine. The projector comes equipped with a built-in camera enabling powerful tools such as Stacking Assist, Tiling Assist and auto-color calibration for seamless multi-screen images of networked projectors. These tools are accessible through the free Epson Projector Professional Tool (EPPT) software.

Offering virtually worry-free operation coupled with stunning visuals and impressive projection tools, the projector is designed to deliver awe-inspiring experiences while withstanding some of the harshest environments. In addition to the black Pro L30000UNL, Epson offers a white Pro L30002UNL model, for blending into virtually any setting where big, bright images are required. Additional features include:

  • 3-chip 3LCD laser projector with 4K Enhancement3 – 30,000 lumens of color and white brightness2 delivers vibrant, true-to-life images
  • Exceptional Full HD widescreen display – Native WUXGA resolution with 4K Enhancement3 provides up to 4.6 million pixels on the screen
  • Worry-free operation – Solid-state laser light source and electrostatic air filter provide virtually maintenance-free operation for up to 20,000 hours4
  • 4K-ready lenses with powered lens shift and memory – Eight optional interchangeable lenses available (sold separately)
  • Mechanical shutter – Protects the projector from damage during laser light shows
  • Designed for live events – Features a sealed light source and optical engine for outstanding durability in harsh conditions
  • Stacking Assist – For fast, simple stacking of two projectors
  • Tiling Assist for projecting large images – Enables fast setup for edge blending in multi-projector applications
  • Built-in cameras – Easily facilitates Stacking Assist, Tiling Assist and auto-color calibration of networked projectors
  • Supports High Dynamic Range (HDR) content – Includes HDR105 (PQ) and Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) connectivity
  • Frame interpolation – Helps ensure image clarity when projecting scenes with fast-moving objects

Availability and Support

The Epson Pro L30000UNL and Pro L30002UNL projectors are available now through authorized resellers. The laser projectors come with a limited warranty of three years or 20,000 hours, whichever comes first. For additional information, visit www.epson.com/largevenue.

About Epson
Epson is a global technology leader dedicated to becoming indispensable to society by connecting people, things and information with its original efficient, compact and precision technologies. The company is focused on driving innovations and exceeding customer expectations in inkjet, visual communications, wearables and robotics. Epson is proud of its contributions to realizing a sustainable society and its ongoing efforts to realizing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Led by the Japan-based Seiko Epson Corporation, the worldwide Epson Group generates annual sales of more than JPY 1 trillion. global.epson.com/

Epson America, Inc., based in Los Alamitos, Calif., is Epson’s regional headquarters for the U.S., Canada, and Latin America. To learn more about Epson, please visit:  epson.com. You may also connect with Epson America on Facebook ( facebook.com/Epson), Twitter ( twitter.com/EpsonAmerica), YouTube ( youtube.com/epsonamerica), and Instagram ( instagram.com/EpsonAmerica).

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