Information Technologies will play a mission-critical role in helping the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign become the preeminent public research university with a land-grant mission. The creative development and use of cutting edge IT resources must help transform all dimensions of our academic enterprise, including research, teaching and learning, and public outreach.
Identifying six major themes in the Visioning for Excellence process, the Chancellor and Faculty have called for the University to address society’s most pressing issues: Economic Development, Education, Energy and the Environment, Social Equality and Cultural Understanding, Health and Wellness, and Information and Technology. Information technology is a critical key to facilitating discovery, transformation, and translation of all these themes into a new reality. Simply put, the effective use of information technology in education, research, and service can help this campus to change the world and make it a better place.
Building on its long and rich history as the birthplace of many frame-breaking IT innovations (including the development of the transistor, the LED, the first internet browser, and currently the home of Blue Waters, one of the world’s most powerful petascale computers), the campus will continue to push the envelope of IT-facilitated research. We will build and utilize a 100Gb research network infrastructure that allows researchers low latency, high-bandwidth access to world-wide high performance computing, vast sensor arrays and massive storage, allowing our faculty to become preeminent in the design and exploitation of such innovations as big data, machine learning, data mining, computational science, and digital social networks. Through a continued emphasis on cutting-edge IT enabled research, the intellectual resources of Illinois faculty will continue to influence and shape the world in a wide range of disciplines from Architecture, English, and Finance to Astronomy, Medicine, and Scientific and Engineering Computation.
Illinois will lead in redefining effective teaching and learning in the 21st century. Aspects of this IT Strategic Plan will help the faculty transform the learning environment (both on and off campus) to expand access, lower costs, reduce time to completion, and improve learning outcomes. We will use scholarly and applied research to inform changes not only in physical learning spaces but also the ways that IT tools and methodologies are used to extend the classroom into virtual spaces that have few if any boundaries. In addition, new advances in informatics and analytics will empower both teachers and students to create more effective and rewarding educational experiences.
Finally, since the very founding of the institution in 1867 as a land-grant university, Illinois has been deeply committed to sharing the latest research-based knowledge with the general public through outreach and engagement activities. Nowhere in the University will the transformative effects of innovative IT play a more major role than in public engagement. By its very nature, IT breaks down physical barriers of distance and makes possible the creation of informal learning communities that earlier generations of pioneering Illinois educators who spent whole careers in “extension work” could have only dreamed about. And, because many of these new end-user IT tools are rapidly becoming commonplace throughout society — and because society’s needs are so acute — we truly are at a unique historical crossroads where the resources of this great university can be brought to bear more directly in addressing the major problems of our time.
In transforming the “public outreach” of this institution, we will need to solve questions of not only how to bring the university to the people, but also how to bring the people into the university. In other words, we seek bi-directional exchange – and how better to achieve that than with new, frame-breaking IT tools and methodologies. This will have implications on not only how this University conducts what has traditionally been viewed as “outreach” but also how we conduct field-based research activities and a wide variety of life-long learning activities. This is an exciting time for this University, and one in which Illinois can provide national leadership in shaping the future of public engagement.
Looking to the future, the campus aims to make IT a competitive advantage for the benefit of all students, faculty, researchers/collaborators, staff and graduates. To achieve this vision of success, the campus must:
- Transform the learning environment
- Fully enable faculty and researchers to work with collaborators across and outside of the campus
- Help students develop broad digital literacy skills through seamless exposure to innovative IT throughout their Illinois educational experience.
- Be agile in supporting innovation, without compromising security and accessibility
- Provide ubiquitous services and resources that are usable by all stakeholders
- Create lifelong connections with students and other stakeholders