By Jake Tiger
After a year-long plague of bugs and befuddlement, Rider’s Office of Information Technology hopes to regain trust this fall with a new regime and a $400,000 plan to modernize dozens of classrooms across campus.
“We want to get our street cred back,” said Mike Reca, Rider’s vice president for facilities and university operations. “There was consternation with Ellucian for a while because it was a little rocky, but now I think we’re hitting on all cylinders.”
Since the administrative restructuring in July, Reca has been responsible for Rider’s OIT and has spearheaded the department’s upgrade project alongside another new face, Chief Information Officer Moe Rahman.
Rahman was announced as Rider’s new CIO in April 2023, becoming its first in the position since fully partnering with Ellucian in 2022.
Rahman, who joined Ellucian in 2013, worked previously at Kean University, his alma mater, Brookdale Community College and Yeshiva University, fulfilling a variety of roles throughout his career.
“Now we have an invested CIO,” said Reca. “It’s making it a lot easier to transition into, ‘Let’s get stuff done.’”
Fifty-five classrooms across campus were approved for technological upgrades, with most classrooms having their new equipment installed prior to the first day of classes. The upgrades include new smart displays, projectors and processors, which Reca called the “brain” of the classroom.
In all, the project’s total will fall somewhere in the $400,000 range, according to Reca.
“We vetted this with an organization that’s part of the faculty union called the facilities monitoring committee,” said Reca. “We had some faculty engagement, we had administrative engagement, so there was a lot that went into choosing what we chose, because you didn’t want to have it be too technical either, where you have to have a Ph.D. in astrophysics to use it.”
The Fine Arts building and Bierenbaum Fisher Hall were the two main beneficiaries of the advancements, seeing new technology in 18 and 17 classrooms, respectively.
Of the 55 approved classrooms, 32 have already been outfitted with smart displays that feature a writable surface and adjustable mount, with screens of 86 or 75 inches. Each new display cost the university approximately $9,000 for hardware alone, Reca said.
According to Rahman, rooms 207 and 208 of Lynch Adler Hall are also slated for upgrades in the coming weeks, being the final two rooms to receive new screens.
“So far, it’s been good. I was a little worried at first because I’m not a tech person,” said professor Joel Feldman, who has been lecturing with a smart display. “The projectors would always stop halfway through, I’m not having that problem. … I haven’t found it that complicated.”
The remaining 21 classrooms were approved for new projectors and/or processors based on the needs of each room.
Some of the more high-end projectors cost around $3,000, but most were on the cheaper side, Rahman said.
“We have toured every room, we figured out, ‘OK, that projector is not really made for that kind of room, so your experience is going to be crappy to begin with,’” said Rahman. “This time it was like, ‘What is the right size projector you’re gonna need for this?’ I don’t want to overkill it, I don’t want to undercut it, so that kind of thing came into it too.”
OIT’s goal in the process was to not only modernize classrooms, but ensure that professors could utilize the new equipment without rigorous technical training; however, the department does have educational resources available regarding the new classroom equipment.
The Teaching and Learning Center and OIT have created a handful of training videos that explain how to use the newly installed smart displays and projectors. The tutorials can be found on Keep Learning, the TLC’s YouTube channel.
The TLC also hosted three optional training sessions for faculty before the start of the semester, and, during the fall, OIT plans to offer training on a case-by-case basis.
“[OIT] didn’t host sessions,” said Rahman. “We actually open it up to faculty saying, you tell us what you want it to be, when you want to meet us and where.”
“A concierge service,” Reca added.
Along with OIT, Reca acknowledged facilities as a key cog in the process — for example, any new projector or screen requires new holes in the walls and ceilings.
Reca now oversees both facilities and OIT, and both Reca and Rahman claimed that the overlap between departments has made it possible to discuss, plan and take action in a way that was not possible a year ago.
Reca confidently said Rahman was “the best CIO” he had ever worked with.
“Mike has been extremely supportive with anything that we needed so far,” said Rahman. “Him and I have a very good synergy going on, so I’m really, really rooting and banking on that, because that’s going to be needed.”
Originally printed in the 9/13/23 issue.