Technology at Laurier under review

A contentious topic and point of frustration for many – technology at Laurier – is currently being assessed as the Information Communication and Technology (ICT) review is finishing up the first phase of the multi-year strategic planning project.

A steering committee has been tasked to oversee the review of computing services at Laurier; they are currently reviewing the preliminary ICT review report, which was completed by CGI, a Canadian firm specializing in IT strategy.

“The intention of the first phrase was really to inventory where we’re investing,” said Tom Buckley, assistant vice-president of academic services and project sponsor.

“It’s really a chance to stop and take a look at what we’re doing and identify where there are some challenges or vulnerabilities and decide what are we going to do about them.”

Though the findings will not be released until mid-September, Buckley noted that there are several re-occurring themes, specifically regarding the “reliability and availability of key systems.”

Buckley said that WebCT, Laurier’s online learning system, which crashed on two separate occasions last year leaving students without access to course materials for over a week, was one of the issues brought to the forefront.

“There was a fair amount of frustration conveyed about some problems during the last academic year, with some pretty high-profile unfortunate outages,” he said.

Buckley noted that this summer a major overhaul of WebCT has been completed, including replacing hardware and database servers, to ensure functionality for this academic year.

Adam Lazzarato, a second-year political science student, expressed his frustrations with last years “WebCT fiasco”, as well as other technologies, such as the e-mail platform, campus wireless and Laurier Online Registration and Information System (LORIS).

“I haven’t talked to one person who hasn’t had at least one major complaint from these systems,” said Lazzarato.

“To be honest, it’s a little embarrassing. The methods that we have for signing up for courses and even getting course materials … is really fragmented,” he added.

Third-year business student Gray McCarthy echoed Lazzarato’s concerns, adding that as a university in a technology hotbed we should be more forward thinking with how we approach IT.

“Not only are we far behind … we’re not innovating,” said McCarthy.

“We should be learning and thinking of ways to bring [technology] into the classroom as opposed to just bridging a gap or just being as good as somebody else.”

A recent report released by SRI International for the Department of Education in the United States, found that “on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction,” a finding that highlights the importance of integrating technology in the classroom.

Peter Tiidus, acting dean of science, professor of kinesiology and ICT committee member noted that embracing technology in the academic environment is very important for the future of the university and education in general.

“We can have the students do more things online and learn a lot without necessarily having to go to the classroom,” said Tiidus.

“I don’t know how quickly things are going to be implemented, but how we deliver lectures and how we interact with students online is certainly important in how courses will develop in the future.”

Project Goal
To develop a multi-year strategic plan for Laurier’s ICT.

Strategically assess and review:
– Governance models
– Infrastructure
– Technical platforms
– Standards and business processes that support Laurier’s ICT needs

Throughout June and July, over 100 people were interviewed, including senior administration, representatives of various student organizations, administration and faculty.

ICT Committee
Comprised of 11 individuals from various departments at Laurier.

The group meets regularly, receives updates from consultants and makes recommendations.

“The committee is specifically looking to identify deficiencies and things that [the university] can be doing better in how we supply computing services to faculty, staff and the researchers,” Peter Tiidus, ICT committee member.

Project Timeline

April – July 2009

Phase 1: ICT Strategic Assessment
Assessment and inventory of ICT resources, standards and practices. Benchmark ICT investment and effectiveness against similar organizations and best practices.

July – Fall 2009

Phase 2: Outline ICT vision, strategy and governance and operating models.


Phase 3: Develop and execution of a multi-year implementation plan.

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