University to Replace Blackboard, Implement New Technology Initiatives

Georgetown will introduce Canvas as its new learning management system in the fall semester and eventually replace Blackboard in an effort to improve the university’s technology infrastructure, among other new initiatives, according to information released at a meeting between University Information Services and the Georgetown University Student Association Technology Advisory Board on April 27.

The university will also continue efforts to upgrade to a faster and more widespread Wi-Fi router service and develop a new anti-phishing program.

The meeting came after a network hacking attempt in late March, which caused pervasive network outages. After the hack, GUSA reformed the Technology Advisory Board to improve communication between students and administrators on issues related to technology.

Next semester, Canvas will be offered as an alternative learning management system to Blackboard. Professors can opt in to use Canvas, allowing for a gradual transition from Blackboard.

According to Interim Vice President for Information Services Judd Nicholson, Georgetown was the first institution to adopt Blackboard, a learning management system co-founded by Michael Chasen (GRD ’95).

Nicholson said Canvas was chosen as an alternative to Blackboard for its user-friendly platform and tools for collaboration.

“Over the last five or so years we’ve seen a real slow in Blackboard’s development. It’s not as emergent or technologically savvy,” Nicholson said. “So all the things that you would expect — the openness, the collaboration — all the things that the faculty need are not being delivered by Blackboard.”

Senior Director for Administrative Applications Linda Buckley said the university has been making efforts to improve internet connectivity on campus.

According to Buckley, UIS has been working to replace the old Wi-Fi system since January.

“We’re working right now with the hope to not only replace the Wi-Fi again within two years, but what we’d love to do is even make it a three-year cycle on the Wi-Fi,” Buckley said. “We made some changes to our network configurations and firewalls to rebalance those, which we think made an improvement pervasively across campus. But it’s not all the way there yet.”

Buckley said the system in Lauinger Library is an example of improved internet connection due to recent reforms.

“In Lauinger, we got new equipment. We’ve recently changed to a minimum connection speed, our initial tests showed that initially improved the experience, but we may create dead spaces when we do that,” Buckley said.

Chief Information Security Officer Joseph Lee said UIS security is working to combat various hacks and to educate community members on phishing.

According to Lee, a potential tool for raising awareness of hacking involves sending students UIS-made phishing schemes. The program, Phish Me, is being developed in response to the estimated 70 phishing hacks on NetIDs this year.

“Our goal is to send you attachments you shouldn’t open. If you fall for them then it’ll take you into an educational site. Some of these things are really sophisticated. They look just like something you might get from us,” Lee said. “We’re trying to use social engineering to entice you to do what you’re not supposed to do.”

Interim Deputy Chief Information Officer Beth Ann Bergsmark said UIS’ new constituent-relationship management system will serve as a framework for improving customer service and attune UIS to students’ needs.

“CRM is a big project. Customer service is key. In order to be a good customer service-oriented company you have to know your customer,” Bergsmark said. “So this helps us understand what students are interested in and what they’re doing.”

The CRM system will begin providing service to students in the School of Nursing and Health Studies, with the intention to grow to include all Georgetown students.

UIS is further developing a feedback system in which users can report connectivity issues, according to Buckley.

UIS Chief Engineer Marty Johnson said UIS is also brainstorming future projects, including expanding Georgetown’s Snapchat presence. Johnson proposed a daily program on Snapchat’s discover feature concerning food options at any on-campus dining location as well as student recipes for O’Donovan Hall’s meals.

GUSA President Enushe Khan (MSB ’17), who attended the meeting, said she supported the idea of a Georgetown Snapchat discovery story, which she hoped would include more aspects of campus life.

“It would be cool in general to have something like that, but it doesn’t have to necessarily be just food hacks. It could be things like health and information services, information about different resources or general updates,” Khan said “I think that sometimes people are more active on Snapchat than other outlets so they would be more inclined to look at a Georgetown discovery Snapchat channel.”

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One Comment

  1. Current Student says:

    I really don’t care what GUSA does regarding these issues. They “reformed” an advisory board? GUSA has little impact on this school, and reporting on their ineffective reactionary behavior distracts from the real issues.

    To start, let’s see some cost projections from within the administration about how much overhauls will cost, where the money is coming from, and how they reached the decisions they did.

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