Rashmi Radhakrishnan – Arcadia University
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced students to leave campus, Arcadia University didn’t want to simply make classes remote.
University leaders and faculty wanted the courses tailored to the medium. With the help of administrators, professors and her IT team, vice president and CIO Rashmi Radhakrishnan helped redesign over 600 courses so the content would translate meaningfully to digital platforms.
In the past year, she also led the launch of a student engagement platform and is working on other digital resources for students. She says none of the work done during the pandemic would have been possible without everyone—IT and beyond—working together.
“I think the impact is so much more than course design,” Radhakrishnan says. “It brought us together as a community and changed our ways of thinking and solving problems.”
Arcadia University, located in Glenside, Pennsylvania, is a private university with approximately 4,000 students. According to Radhakrishnan, Arcadia started testing online classes in early March 2020 after seeing how students studying abroad were experiencing the pandemic. She says it was clear from the start that holding classes over video wasn’t enough.
While students had to finish the spring semester that way, teams were assembled to focus on logistics, design and technology. According to Radhakrishnan, each group determined that the courses needed to be flexible and accessible. She and the university provost then met with faculty to determine what each course would need.
“We didn’t just throw courses online,” Radhakrishnan says. “We wanted to make sure they were of quality.”
Producing online classes required professors to create videos and digital resources on Canvas, an online course management platform. The approach, which Arcadia calls “All-Modes Ready,” ensures courses are available in person, hybrid or fully remote. Some classes happen in real time while others are prerecorded and available for students to watch on their own time.
“When looking at projects through the lens of what students need to succeed, that becomes the focus,” she says. “It’s not about the tools themselves, but how students use them.”
Built for success
Radhakrishnan and her team are also launching an engagement platform for students and alumni . Using Salesforce, it will offer “a 360-degree view of the student experience,” she says, and will provide a portal for accessing resources, communicating with professors and other students, and staying informed of what’s happening on campus.
The initial release of the platform was in August 2020, and it’s now being extended through an app, which will be available this fall.
“There’s always been a desire to have a mobile app, so this is way overdue,” she says. “We’re using Salesforce for it because we didn’t want to use a difference interface. We want students to have a cohesive experience.”
The student engagement platform will have other features added on as well, including Advisor Link. The program will be used by incoming freshmen to keep track of tasks, stay in touch with their support network and communicate with peers. Radhakrishnan has been working with Advisor Link to customize it for Arcadia.
“None of these are strictly IT projects,” she says. “The whole university is behind this with multiple departments coming together and contributing.”
Radhakrishnan’s recent projects are all proof of something she learned early on in her career—IT is all about relationships. As she explains, “I was brought on to transform the tech at Arcadia. That starts with the people and forming meaningful and trusting relationships with faculty and staff.”
Radhakrishnan started her career in admissions at Philadelphia University (now Thomas Jefferson University) where she spent a lot of time working with data. She says this taught her the importance of IT and sparked her interest in the field. She started working for the university’s IT department, earning promotions before being hired as CIO at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania.
“As technology became less ancillary and more foundational, it became more important to be a partner and consultant,” she says. “Technology needs to come secondary so it can support the university’s larger needs.”
Radhakrishnan says she was drawn to Arcadia University because of President Ajay Nair’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion work. When hired in August 2019, she was part of the president’s commission on justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.
Leading DEI work helps Radhakrishnan be more deeply involved in the campus, she says, which only strengthens her other roles.
“I’ve always appreciated the opportunity higher education gives people to do anything,” she says. “In my position, I get to see the entire impact of what my team and I do throughout campus. I see the human aspect of my work.”
View this feature in the Fall I 2021 Edition here.
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