IT Department changes coming to Pierce

The IT departments across LACCD schools are being reorganized under a shared services model according to Vice Chancellor and Chief Information Officer Carmen Lidz.

Lidz said this new model will improve Wi-Fi connectivity and make “core systems” such as the student portal, financial aid, and learning management more reliable.

“I made it my priority to review the current state and fully appraise the pain points and needs of our students,” Lidz said.

This shared services model will allow for easier implementation of district wide changes, according to Lidz. Instead of having different programs at every college, some systems including email, wireless networks and storage will be standardized.

Standardization is also expected to lower information technology costs and make training easier, according to Vice President of Administrative Affairs Rolf Schleicher. Schleicher said having multiple programs across the LACCD colleges is hurting efficiency.

“We’re not even close to optimizing our systems yet,” Schleicher said. “Everything’s related to IT one way or another.”

IT Manager Mark Henderson said this plan is expected to make IT systems at Pierce more effective and that the change impacts both IT functions and personnel.

These changes were proposed in 2018 after a study that assessed Pierce’s IT systems, according to Schleicher. Huron Consulting Group, the consulting company who assessed Pierce, found that more investment is required to deliver a shared services model, according to Lidz.

Schleicher said much of the cost of these changes is because of the updates that need to be made in the infrastructure of every college. Physical buildings need to be updated before hardware such as fiber optics can be installed.

Schleicher said Pierce’s IT department is performing better than the other colleges because it had undergone a restructuring of its own in 2018 before the district’s plan. The IT department was “flipped upside down” to increase performance, according to Schleicher.

“We invested more than any other college heavily into IT to fix it,” Schleicher said. “We knew it was an important tool that we use on a daily basis but also makes the experience in the classroom more engaging.”

Some of these changes, such as improving Wi-Fi infrastructure, are already underway and are expected to be completed by July 2020, according to Lidz. Changes that moved some financial aid communication online were completed in August.

Other planned changes include a mobile application for each school to make student portals and information on school websites more easily accessible, said Schleicher.

One change Schleicher said he is excited about is increased student engagement with audiovisual systems in classrooms where students can project information from their smartphones.

“We’re trying to do more in terms of engaging students in the classroom and getting into the content more than just dictation of information,” Schleicher said.

Lidz said she will be at Pierce on Dec. 9 to inspect classrooms and to learn more about issues students care the most about as she plans the timeline for these districtwide changes.

“We will need to work together, lean on each other’s strengths, and build a team culture of inclusiveness, trust, and transparency,” Lidz said.