Ryerson Digital Strategy Consultation (2020)

Ryerson is embarking on creating a digital strategy informed by a series of community consultations.

Consultation and strategy development

As the 2020-2025 academic plan is finalized, it’s a good time for Ryerson to take a strategic view of how we want to work with and manage digital technologies so that they align more closely with our strategic goals. 

We’re now embarking on a community-wide consultation that has five main themes:

  • scholarly research and creative activities (SRC)
  • student experience
  • learning and teaching
  • enterprise services
  • cybersecurity

The consultation is sponsored by Ryerson’s Vice President Research and Innovation, Chief Librarian, and Chief Information Officer. We are interested in exploring what people need in order to do their academic and administrative work at Ryerson.

We want to better understand: 

  • the services available and service gaps across the university regardless of whether those services are provided by CCS, the faculties. or individual departments. 
  • how decisions are made regarding funding, creating, managing, and retiring systems and services 
  • what would help all of us make the best possible decisions regarding digital services in the future. 

The consultation will include looking within and beyond the university. We plan to gather information using surveys, town halls, email and the digital.blog.ryerson.ca blog.

Why now?

Since the 1970s and the early days of Xerox Parc, there has been much discussion about how “ubiquitous computing” would become the norm in the future. Today, Ryerson’s students, faculty and staff now live and work in a world where computing services are pervasive and routinely mediate our work and social relations. Despite the many problems that come with the internet, and the establishment of very large-scale commercial services, including security and privacy failures, the drive to digitally mediate everything is only continuing.

Much has changed since the early predictions of ubiquitous computing. For instance, during the period 2009 to 2017, daily peak simultaneous wireless connections increased 1,200% while enrolment grew by 25%.

Line graph showing total students versus daily peak simultaneous wireless connections from 2007 to 2019.
Graph summary: Daily peak simultaneous wireless connections in 2009 was 2500, and increased to 37, 212 in 2019. Total students in 2007 was 34, 315 and increased to 46, 400 in 2019.

Most courses at Ryerson now use some form of technology to enhance learning and teaching. Today, over 90% of all course sections have a course site in our learning management system (LMS) compared to approximately 20 courses when Ryerson adopted its first LMS in the late ‘90s. The initial LMS server was a relatively small system hosted at Ryerson. Today, the vendor (D2L) hosts the LMS on Amazon’s cloud computing service. 

Blended and online learning are increasing as modes of delivery here and in all other universities. New tools and platforms are being adopted regularly, institutionally and by individual faculty members. Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality (AR/VR), test-taking software, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine-learning systems for learning use student data to provide personalized feedback or identify potential learning challenges. Publisher platforms, that run in parallel with Ryerson’s LMS, provide tests, examples, and simulations are now regularly bundled with textbooks. As the prevalence of these tools grows, a digital strategy can assist us with decisions that ensure that technology adoption aligns with Ryerson’s goals for teaching and learning.

The Library’s work is now primarily in the digital realm of information discovery, creation and access, with the academic and scholarly information and communications now created and purchased in digital formats and managed through online platforms. Students and faculty require increasingly robust technology infrastructures to improve pedagogy and SRC innovation.

Since 2018, Ryerson’s students, faculty and staff were storing or updating an average of 160,000 files per day in Google Drive or about 28 million files every six months. 

The growth in undergraduate enrollment and adoption of mobile devices and collaborative services has not been the only significant change at Ryerson. The new academic plan points to other changes since just 2014, such as:

  • graduate enrollment increasing by 23 per cent;
  • co-op programs doubled;
  • a new law school was established;
  • digital Media Zone (DMZ) was ranked as the world’s top university incubator;
  • applied research centres such as the Institute for Biomedical Engineering, Science and Technology (iBEST) and Centre for Urban Energy (CUE) were created;
  • Ryerson was named as the lead institution of the Future Skills consortium; and
  • Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst in Brampton was established. 

Information technology service at Ryerson

Much has also changed since the late ‘90s for the people who provide IT services throughout Ryerson. They have worked to meet regularly changing demands for more widely available services, worked with changing technologies and vendors; seen the explosion in cloud service offerings and social media; faced ongoing budget challenges and more. Within Ryerson, service providers like Computing and Communications Services (CCS) and faculty and department IT teams have worked together in a loosely-federated model. Often, CCS has provided utility-like services that are leveraged by other IT teams. 

Two committees have provided ongoing oversight and made recommendations related to providing IT services at Ryerson. The Advisory Committee on Academic Computing (ACAC) meets monthly and includes representatives from each faculty, the Library and other key areas. It primarily makes recommendations to the provost. The Enterprise Resource Planning Advisory Committee (ERP-AC) meets less frequently and is composed of the CIO, Registrar, AVP-HR and CFO. It makes recommendations to the macro budget committee which includes the provost and vice-president, administration and operations. 

Budget changes

The IT budget review process used to run in parallel to Ryerson’s budget process, and was managed by the CIO in partnership with the ACAC and ERP-AC. There were several goals of the process: 

  • Discover opportunities to collaborate in building or renewing IT resources across the university.
  • Ensure IT projects align with Ryerson’s Academic Plan.
  • Improve the accuracy and usability of data across the university.
  • Help ensure the protection of confidential information and privacy.
  • Ensure that IT security and accessibility are part of every IT project and operation.
  • Ensure the cost-effective provision and long-term maintenance of IT systems and services.

Changes to Ryerson’s budget process and recent revenue reductions brought the process to an end after the 2018-2019 academic year. Nevertheless, defining and developing a strategy for overarching common goals is important for the university to consider.

Recent changes related to research

The changing landscape regarding privacy and cybersecurity have also demanded more of our attention. The draft Tri-Agency Research Data Management Policy will require the creation of a university research data management strategy and research data management plans for funded research projects. The federal government’s changes to Canada’s Digital Research Infrastructure will also change the landscape for researchers at Ryerson.

Ryerson recently released its 2020 – 2025 Strategic Research Plan which provides important context for the digital strategy consultation.

Learning and teaching

Additionally, a new focus on blended learning was one of the factors in establishing the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching.

Looking outside Ryerson

The working group will also perform a higher education environmental scan by reviewing published materials including the strategic plans of other Canadian Universities.

Preliminary schedule 

If all goes well, the bulk of the consultation process will occur in the winter term so that the preliminary results may be presented at Ryerson’s IT Conference in late May.

Initial planningJanuary and early February 2020
Surveys and focus groupFebruary through April 2020
Town hallsFebruary through April 2020
Preliminary findings presentation and discussionMay 2020
Draft reportJune through August 2020
Final reportSeptember 2020

Consultation committees

A steering committee and working group are being established to undertake the consultation. The current members are listed in the tables below. The working group is likely to expand in the near future.

Steering committee

Brian LesserChief Information Officerblesser@ryerson.ca
Stephen LissVice-President, Research and Innovationsteven.liss@ryerson.ca
Carol ShepstoneChief Librariancshepstone@ryerson.ca
Catherine MiddletonProfessor, Interim Director, Ted Rogers School of Information Technology Managementcatherine.middleton@ryerson.ca 
Malora FernandesManager – IT Projects & Portfolio (CCS)malora.fernandes@ryerson.ca 

Working group

Catherine MiddletonProfessor, Interim Director, Ted Rogers School of Information Technology Managementcatherine.middleton@ryerson.ca 
Stephen OnyskaySenior Research Associate, University Planningsonyskay@ryerson.ca
Robyn ParrChange and Opportunity Lead, Office of the Vice-Provost, Studentsrobyn.parr@ryerson.ca
Wendy FreemanDirector of eLearning and the Interim Director of the Learning and Teaching Officewfreeman@ryerson.ca
Brian LesserCIOblesser@ryerson.ca
Malora FernandesManager – IT Projects & Portfolio (CCS)malora.fernandes@ryerson.ca 
Jennifer ParkinManager, IT Business Analysis (CCS)jparkin@ryerson.ca
Fangmin Wang Head, Library IT (TBC)fwang@ryerson.ca
Laurie StewartDirector, Communications, Administration and Operationslaurie.stewart@ryerson.ca
Branka HalilovicExecutive Director, Operations
The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education

We look forward to hearing from the Ryerson community in the months to come.


– Carol Shepstone, Chief Librarian
– Steven Liss, Vice-President, Research and Innovation
– Brian Lesser, Chief Information Officer

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