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Bridgewater State University - Technovation for an Enriched Learning Experience

By Raymond Lefebvre, CIO, Bridgewater State University

Raymond Lefebvre, CIO, Bridgewater State University

Bridgewater State University is one of the most popular and preferred educational institutions of Massachusetts today. There's more to the 178-year-old university than its breathtaking campus that sprawls over 278 acres, a student strength of 11,000 and its highly-qualified staff. Technovation, a one-of-its-kind initiative started by the public-funded university is currently making waves across the education sector and has set an example for institutions to follow.

The Technovation Drive

The technovation drive, an amalgamation of technology and innovation, has yielded path-breaking results, cost-effectively and has made life on campus a lot more convenient for students. In the recent past, apart from imparting world-class education, Bridgewater State University has strived to improve service delivery and ensure students cherish the campus experience by offering the best of amenities at an economical price. The CIO's finesse in communicating his vision clearly among team members is crucial for the accomplishment of technological milestones at the right time and an optimal budget.

Braving Challenges Intelligently

One of Bridgewater State University's greatest triumphs in the past three years has been engineering several innovative solutions, despite the lack of a reasonable budget to support research & development efforts. In my opinion, the CIO must essay several key responsibilities such as project management, telecommunications, training as well as revising the policies and procedures of the IT division of the university.

"Bridgewater State University's smart parking solution is a groundbreaking achievement manifested cost-effectively"

The fabulous ideas implemented on the Bridgewater campus currently are a result of frequent ideation sessions among information technology experts within the confines of a room called the technovator – technology innovation incubator. These meetings, usually conducted once in every two-month period are aimed at discussing current shortcomings on campus and how technology can be employed cost-effectively to mitigate the hurdles to make the institution a pleasant place to study and work.

Noteworthy Accomplishments

One of the prime challenges Bridgewater State University wanted to solve was the inefficient utilization of the parking space on its premises, which needs to accommodate 8,000 commuters optimally. The university's technovation efforts have helped it make great strides in smart parking over the years and is one of its many noteworthy accomplishments. The university started with a low-cost, highly-scalable prototype involving surveillance cameras to observe regular parking patterns and decided to move forward with RFID parking stickers to ensure optimal utilization of the available space; the Bridgewater smart parking solution has evolved significantly. Initially, the parking lot data captured by the cameras were compiled into a database and uploaded on a mobile application exclusively developed for the students of Bridgewater State University, to keep commuters updated about the availability of parking space. Starting in the fall 2018, all students will be required to append RFID parking stickers to avail spots to park their vehicles. This move helps the authorities accurately know the frequency of car arrivals and exits over a period of time to determine parking space availability, while maintaining anonymity as the data captured is not stored for future use.

The achievement is quite remarkable and groundbreaking because Bridgewater State University is a public, state-funded institution and manifested its goals at shoe-string costs and by braving budget cuts, as compared to schools with absolutely no dearth of funds. Apart from smart parking, Bridgewater State University managed to successfully stream live recorded 360-degree videos at 4K resolution during its recently held graduate and undergraduate commencement events. This accomplishment, a result of a six-month-long cost-effective technovation, enabled viewers, especially parents to carefully observe every minute detail of the venue remotely. Lefebvre adds that the university also recently deployed several Amazon Echo Show devices to facilitate communication between students and members of the IT division, thanks to the product's unique drop-in feature which allows instant video chat through the use of voice commands. Bridgewater State University plans to install an Amazon echo kiosk, aptly called ALEXA@BSU, powered by the Amazon Alexa platform, to help students seek assistance from IT staff almost effortlessly.

One of the recent accomplishments of our team was the introduction of the IT Outcomes magazine to compile technology success stories and acknowledge the efforts of individuals who emerged problem-solvers in their respective areas across campus, thanks to their smart technology adoption strategies.

Other Recent Milestones

The organization has collaborated with DubLabs, a leading software enterprise for the development of mobile applications to improve student communication via the highly used and rated BSU Mobile app. Bridgewater State University also leverages the benefits of Team Dynamix, a product and portfolio management, as well as IT service management tool, for its operational support needs. We believe in building significant relationships with the solution providers we work with, which eventually helps in engineering cutting-edge solutions and introduction of new features. These fruitful collaborations have improved the educational institution in the implementation of several marvels on its campus.

Computer refurbishment at a subsidized cost is yet another task carried out recently, which deserves special mention. Obsolete computers were replaced by palm-sized microcomputers with embedded solid state drives with exceptional computing capacity at greatly reduced costs. The university recently started another initiative called BSU - IT CARES, the abbreviation of 'Community Assistance Raises Everybody's Spirits' under Lefebvre's leadership to promote volunteerism and the response garnered has been mostly positive with over 1,300 hours volunteered to date. Thus, Bridgewater State University has frequently been setting trends, and we firmly believe the technovation drive is going to propel the institution to great heights.

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