Instructional and Information Technology Services (IITS) plays a pivotal role in supporting Concordia’s position as a digitally driven, next-generation university. In 2022-23 the unit once again aimed to equip the community with reliable IT infrastructure, applications, and services while protecting the security of institutional data. IITS works collaboratively within the university as well as with external partners to secure Concordia’s digital environment, enhance its data-driven capacities, and facilitate a smooth and modern employee and student experience.
In its efforts to support Concordia’s evolving digital learning and working environment, IITS continued to provide the possible service to users. Service desk interactions increased last year largely due to the Project UNITY integrated information system as well as new security measures like multi-factor authentication for students.
IITS also collaborated with Hospitality Concordia to provide tech support for 375 hybrid events, including such large-scale gatherings as Fantasia, Homecoming, and Open House.
“We have expanded our expertise and task force to accommodate large hybrid events since the pandemic,” says France Bigras, associate vice-president information and instructional technology services and chief information officer.
Across the board, IITS ensured continuous improvement to the university’s IT landscape by successfully implementing more than 1,000 changes to university applications this year.
Bigras says IITS is proud to deliver new or enhanced digital solutions to transform and improve student and employee experience and simplify Concordia’s processes in line with university priorities.
In 2022-23, a new institutional survey solution was introduced that will benefit researchers as well as specific units such as Human Resources and University Communication Services. “With the Qualtrics software, researchers can do a lot more than with the legacy survey tool, Bigras notes. “It’s modern, anonymous, and has robust analytics that allow us to better analyze responses.”
IITS also piloted a new course-evaluation platform to replace the manualized process previously in place. The capacity for solid analysis of results will enable Concordia professors and teaching and learning experts to make the most of student.
Accessibility is also a top-level priority. Through a new accessibility tool, last year IITS was able to improve user accessibility to the university’s websites, in compliance with WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) standards, so that all users can navigate and access information on the web regardless of disability, device or technical constraint. This allows IITS to meet and maintain Concordia and Government of Quebec current and future accessibility requirements.
Cybersecurity continues to be a central focus for IITS. In 2022-23 IITS aligned Concordia’s cybersecurity program to the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework and refreshed the university’s cybersecurity roadmap with a three-year plan. One aspect of the new plan is a commitment to developing a new digital asset management policy, reports Bigras.
“This will afford us more rigour in how we manage Concordia’s IT assets — computers, applications and so forth — throughout their life cycles, so we can better secure them.”
IITS has also committed to developing an enhanced, state-of-the-art cybersecurity training platform for employees and students. This will replace the manual training content that it currently provides the university community and will instead be refreshed by the service provider on a regular basis.
“It will be more comprehensive, fun and user-friendly,” Bigras says.
Of course, cybersecurity is not an issue that can be addressed in a silo. Concordia collaborates at both provincial and federal levels in higher-education institution networks tackling the latest challenges in this domain.
For example, alongside 13 other research-intensive universities, Concordia is helping to develop a benchmarking solution.
“Every month we receive data on how Concordia is doing compared to other universities across Canada and areas we should improve,” Bigras reports.
Alongside its institutional partners, another initiative IITS has invested in is a solution to better monitor the dark web — to flag data breaches or other nefarious material obtained by hackers that could put the university at risk.
Finally, IITS supports Concordia in becoming a data-driven institution that makes business decisions based on real-time data.
In collaboration with the Office of Institutional Planning and Analysis, IITS delivered a new strategic Applications, Admits, Confirmations and Registrations Dashboard. This allows undergraduate admission, graduate admission, recruitment and senior leadership to track and analyze Concordia’s incoming students and provide oversight and strategic guidance to the community.
“This is a strategic, self-service dashboard where, in real time, you can get access to data and see what’s happening from an admissions perspective,” Bigras explains. “The university can then act based on the data and predictions offered on the platform.”
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