Flexibility: The Key to Success in Technology
- by Deirdre Woods
Wouldn’t it be great to have a crystal ball? Knowing in advance about future technologies—and how applicable they will be to business education—would be ideal. However, since we aren’t fortune tellers, a major theme for us at Wharton Computing is flexibility.
As we plan strategies in our group, we strive to remain as flexible as possible in our choices and solutions to remain nimble. We can’t assume to know what the next “big thing” will be, so we constantly research and analyze new technologies to determine the best-of-breed for our environment.
To this end, we’re rigorously experimenting with new technologies and innovative approaches to teaching, learning and research. For example, we’ve loaned out iPads to students in several courses and we’re planning more comprehensive tablet programs for our Executive MBA and Executive Education students. We’re building a beta set of mobile-ready tools to provide another channel for interaction in class, and we’ve implemented a touch-enabled seating chart for attendance tracking and class participation.
As for our facilities, we’re diligently working to ensure that they remain flexible and open to new technology. While the opening of Jon M. Huntsman Hall may not seem like that long ago, the building is actually more than seven years old, and much has changed in the world of technology since then . Just look at the spaces originally built for payphones that we’ve converted to pods for Skype calls, or the old square monitors that are being converted to high-definition displays. We’re investing significant effort and resources to ensure that our facilities are “future-proofed.”
Part of this involves a focus on immersive video, which can span the globe to connect faculty and students. Increasingly fast mobile speeds combined with sophisticated and compact mobile devices enable instant access to content. Our teaching and learning spaces need to keep up with these advances in technology and allow for future designs in teaching. Recently, we’ve invested in high-definition videoconferencing—including three portable Cisco Telepresence units—as well as a high-definition camera with a 103-inch plasma display on the top floor of Huntsman Hall, providing a great space for remote guest speakers, presentations and other meetings. By focusing on video and networking technologies, we also strengthen our ability to connect with Wharton | San Francisco and the School’s constituents around the world.
Another area that requires flexibility is our support of the School’s faculty. We’ve seen a dramatically increased demand for data warehousing, computational power, custom development and advanced parallel processing architectures. In addition, the proliferation of cloud-based platforms and the availability of extremely large data sets make it essential that we increase our focus on this area to attract and retain the best faculty. While we have significantly upgraded our Wharton Research Grid environment to increase processing capability, we’re constantly evaluating new technologies in research computing.
In the absence of crystal balls, it’s clear that all of our efforts must involve flexibility. We need to constantly evaluate cutting-edge technology while leaving ourselves open to what the future brings. We need to act like technology evangelists to encourage the use of existing technology as well as testing new technologies. And we need to balance the need for operational excellence with experimentation. The bottom line: We need to aggressively promote the best technology that is here today while always looking ahead to ensure that we remain the standard by which other schools measure themselves.