In September 2012, while speaking at a global conference on educational transformation in Toronto, I predicted that I would witness two computational miracles in my lifetime. The first of these miracles had already occurred. Over the span of just 15 years, I had watched the power of a Cray Research Supercomputer be placed in the palm of a student’s hand via a smartphone. The second miracle, I said then, would come in the next few years: Student information systems (SISs) would be placed in the palms of all students’ hands, allowing them to personalize their educational experience and navigate their own pathways to success.
I had a front-row seat to that first miracle. I started my engineering and computer career at Cray Research and spent 12 years mesmerized by the power of supercomputing while training others how to run and operate such computational power. Next, I worked at Sungard Higher Education, now known as Ellucian, where I watched supercomputing move inside classrooms and eventually to smartphones.
In 2014, I made one more transition–to Oral Roberts University (ORU). The Board of Trustees and president quickly made clear that we had a mandate to use technology to provide the entire world with “whole-person education,” educating students in mind, body, and spirit. Just a few years later, ORU celebrated the grand opening of its world-class, state-of-the-art Global Learning Center. The center will provide mobile connectivity from anywhere in the world to ORU’s whole-person education initiatives and our SIS.
Since then, it’s become clear that the second miracle I predicted has come true: Students have incredible access to all critical academic and campus services through their smartphones. A student at ORU today can use their mobile phone to check the availability of all washing and drying machines–or even be alerted that their laundry is done–while they are studying at Starbucks or shopping at the mall across town. At the same time, an online student in Singapore can watch their course content or review their grades while talking to their classmates or teacher through videoconference tools. A student on spring break in Nigeria can wear their Fitbit and have their health data uploaded to a gradebook anytime their smartphone or wearable watch connects to a hotspot.