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Information technology must support academics, says report
July 27, 1998

Information technology planning must be a part of overall academic planning, says the final report of the Academic Information Technology Planning Committee, a strategic planning sub-committee.

The committee recommended that UConn develop an overall vision and identify leadership to develop information technology to support the academic mission.

"It's about technology in the classroom and in the research lab," says Fred Maryanski, vice chancellor for academic administration. "It's about access to data and people around the world, how students and professors communicate, and how faculty are supported in their use of technology."

The committee was charged by Chancellor Mark Emmert last year with investigating how far the University has integrated information technology into the academic mission. The 20-page final report offers 11 recommendations, including developing a funding strategy.

"We expect the report to be a critical guide to the decisions that we make about the University's strategic use of information technology," says Paul Kobulnicky, director of University Libraries, who headed the committee.

Kobulnicky adds that so far the use of information technology at UConn has largely been led by individuals. "Academic information technology has grown without structure," he says.

Kobulnicky says technology should be seen as a tool, not as the driving force. "Excellence in our missions of instruction, research and service are still primary," he says. "The real issue is, are we able to accomplish what we want to with technology."

Among the recommendations:

  • The chancellor, deans and directors should make investments in information technology infrastructure - both capital and support-services personnel - a critical priority.

  • A detailed analysis should be made of the current information technology environment within the University.

  • The chancellor should appoint a task force to develop and recommend a funding strategy for information technology. The classes of information technology services to be funded centrally and the types to be directly funded by schools and departments should be identified.

Kobulnicky says the issue of technology leadership is critical, but adds, "That leadership effort has as much to do with assisting deans and directors in planning how to use technology as anything else. It's not about investing in leadership to do instead what departments and schools do."

Maryanski says his staff have recently concluded interviews with the deans and regional campus directors on their information technology needs and have prepared a draft statement resulting from those reviews.

There is a great need for more support people to help faculty members in day-to-day use of technology, he says. Hiring staff support is particularly difficult, however, because of the highly competitive job market for computer support personnel. Maryanski says the University is working with the Human Resources department and the professional employees union, UCPEA, to address the issue.

The report is on the Web.

Mark J. Roy & Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu