Jagan Gudur – Regis University
When you think of a typical college classroom, a very particular image comes to mind: the professor standing at the front, with rows of students sitting attentively.
For all the ways in which technology has transformed learning, this dynamic remains the default setting at most universities.
As chief information officer of Denver’s Regis University, Jagan Gudur doesn’t suggest doing away with this model. However, he does believe the “sage on the stage” approach can and should make room for other models that better engage students.
To that end, Gudur and his colleagues introduced Regis’ Engaging and Adaptive Learning Spaces (REALS) in 2016. Inspired by concepts of active learning, the initiative is designed to encourage more engaged, “multi-mode learning,” with students and teachers encouraged to work in various, flexible settings.
Instead of one professor teaching a single lesson or module in its entirety, the REALS design allows for another professor to digitally tap in, teaching through an LCD screen at the front of the classroom. Meanwhile, remote students can be seen on a second, separate screen at the back, allowing for more fluid one-on-one engagement with the instructors.
Alternatively, a group of 30 students might be broken into five distinct groups, each with its own assignment, with the classroom being reconfigured instantly to support that mode of learning.
While Gudur says challenges abound with the traditional college lecture hall (immovable seats, gradient seating, etc.), as colleges design and adopt new ways of learning, university groups like his must provide solutions.
“The goal is to bring people together in a digitally enhanced environment that’s as seamless and intuitive as possible,” Gudur explains. “The underlying principle is that the more human the engagement, the more likely it is you’ll remember what you’re being taught.”
Following the success of two pilot classrooms, the school plans to expand the REALS initiative this summer. Part of the program’s initial success, Gudur says, stems from cross-functional collaboration throughout the process, conducting training sessions, and one-on-one follow-ups and so on.
By way of other people-centric technology solutions, Regis also is implementing two major platforms. The first, a human capital management solution, will help the university streamline and better manage its business processes in HR and payroll.
“If you’re here as a faculty member or administrator, it’s because you’re passionate about something,” Gudur explains. “What this software does is remove the unnecessary manual work that gets in the way of doing what you came here to do.”
Meanwhile, a recently purchased, software-based service-management system creates the possibility of putting the University’s myriad back-end services—from HR to legal services to IT itself—on one, easily accessible digital storefront. The aim, Gudur says, is to make it easier for students, faculty and staff to request and receive internal services.
As instrumental as these and other initiatives are in transforming Regis’ IT posture, Gudur is equally proud of another accomplishment: tapping into the University’s longstanding inventiveness to help higher-learning peers.
Building on its many years of online education expertise, Regis launched the Online Consortium of Independent Colleges and Universities (OCICU) in 2005. The goal: to give students access to a broader, more robust curriculum by partnering with like-minded institutions throughout the country.
To date, more than 100 colleges and universities have used OCICU to offer dynamic, collaborative courses for thousands of students. Not only does the consortium give students an opportunity to shape their own educational experience, it allows schools to pick and choose the courses that fit their curricula.
Better still, because these institutions are leveraging one another’s resources—technological and otherwise—it drives efficiencies for the institutions.
“Our goal is to drive inter-institutional collaboration in unique ways,” Gudur explains. “The more results we see, the better we’ll all be at increasing awareness about new modes of learning.”
Plenty of CIOs have an extensive IT background, with scores of LinkedIn bullet points to prove it.
For Jagan Gudur, that experience is buoyed by a greater belief: No matter where they come from—in place, politics or religion—when you encourage people to collaborate, progress is possible.
Gudur’s resume is nothing to scoff at: He holds a pair of degrees and spent about 14 years at Fortune 100 companies. But Gudur has found his clearest sense of purpose in this latest role at Regis.
“The school’s mission was one that really spoke to me,” Gudur says of the school, founded in 1877 by a group of Italian Jesuit priests. “There’s a real commitment to creating an environment that brings people together for a greater objective.”
Five years into his tenure, Gudur is spearheading some of Regis’ most ambitious projects to date. While the scope and specifics may differ, the initiatives all put cooperative learning front and center.
Midway through an already impressive career, Gudur looks back proudly on what he’s learned—though never pausing for too long.
“I’ve worked with people from every continent except Antarctica,” Gudur jokes. “It’s certainly given me a broader perspective. But it’s also given me a greater appreciation for the future that’s possible when we work together.”
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