Vice President and Chief Information Officer Mark Staples is responsible for implementing Wentworth’s information technology strategy, which means he has a hand in everything from computer networking to telecommunications systems to video streaming programs. As he prepared to wrap up his first year at the Institute, Staples shared his thoughts on technology trends, the future of learning, and big rocks.
1. What are a few of your top-line goals here at Wentworth?
I like the demonstration that Stephen Covey used to do with some big rocks, some pebbles, some sand, and some water. He asked a participant to fit them all in a container. If you start with the big rocks, everything fits. If you start with the pebbles, or the sand, not everything fits. So, what are the big rocks here at Wentworth, from my perspective? One is making sure that we fulfill our academic mission—what’s going on in the classrooms and ensuring student success. Equally important are ensuring that we have a good revenue stream, and making sure that technology is not a barrier for us, but an enabler.
2. What is one recent trend in technology that you are excited about?
You have kids sitting in elementary and junior high schools today who have never touched a textbook. The iPad was such a game-changer. Students are engaging in tablet computing both inside and outside the classroom. How do we prepare to receive this new group of students? Every institution is struggling with this culture change, and it’s going to be an exciting time over the next three to five years.
3. Looking five years down the road, what would you like to see at Wentworth?
I’d like to see a technological profile that is seamless, and that people have confidence in. When you get into a car today, it’s all technology. Most people don’t think of it that way. They just get in and use it. When students and faculty walk into a classroom equipped with technology and just use it, or students collaborate using technology, it’s no different from getting in a car and putting it in gear and driving it. This next semester we’re introducing several technologies, like lecture
capture, audience response system, video creation and distribution, and other tools. None of these are novel, but all are foundational to moving us to a new way of thinking about teaching and learning—meeting the needs of our students today and preparing for the next generation learner in a few years.
4. What are your thoughts on the future of online learning at Wentworth?
Some would say you can only teach theory online, and you can’t have a tactile experience. The Art Institutes have taught almost all of their courses online, including welding art. If welding art can be taught online, the barriers for teaching anything online are lifting. We have some opportunities to hit a niche, and some unique programs that will enhance our course offerings and put us in a category where we stand with very few.
5. What are some new technology tools at the Institute?
In the classroom, we’re implementing lecture capture. We are piloting that this fall. Coupled with that are some learning tools so that students can engage with their professors actively, online, and in the classroom.