Bradley University Technology Investment Announcement

Dear Colleagues,

First and foremost, thank you for all the work you’ve done and continue to do to ensure the success of our students. What we all experienced this past semester is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Yet, in true Bradley fashion, you all did an amazing job putting the curriculum online quickly in the middle of the semester. It is an incredible accomplishment and I want to recognize and appreciate your tremendous efforts.

We have another tough year ahead of us. In addition to addressing the financial challenges we face, it’s critical we position the university for long-term success. I am specifically interested in investing in ways that allow you all to do what you do best, be it in a face-to-face or online environment.

Bradley University received $4.2 mil in CARES Act funding. The Department of Education has directed half of these funds ($2.1 mil in our case) must be given to students (which we are in the process of doing). The other half ($2.1 mil) is to be used to cover the cost of responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Our plan is to use these funds and raise an additional $2.1 million to invest in online learning. To be clear, the funds we are raising for this effort are funds that would not otherwise be available to the university. These are coming from donors interested in investing in the future of the university and have waited for a compelling reason to do so.

The advantages of aggressively investing in our online capabilities are multifaceted.

While we plan to be on campus this fall, it would be irresponsible for us not to consider the need to return online in the fall or even spring if we see a resurgence of COVID-19. Stronger online capabilities will allow us to be better prepared. At least part of the curriculum will likely need to be delivered in a hybrid format this fall, so we intend to work with the faculty to identify additional tools that allow us to provide an online experience that meets the excellence expectations of a Bradley education.

These online capabilities will allow us to expand offerings, such as our highly successful online nursing and counseling programs. Our online programs are an important part of the university’s financial engine. Moreover, interest in high-quality online programs is likely to increase in the future. Making these investments now positions us to take advantage of future possibilities.

Our plan is to move quickly and announce our plans publicly. Our students and their families are determining whether to attend Bradley in the fall. Although we have stated we will be back on campus if possible, I believe students and their families will be more likely to commit to Bradley if we can show that we can provide a high-quality online experience. This could impact our ability to attract and retain students for the fall semester significantly.

We are working on a comprehensive long-term online strategy for the university that includes several investments we plan to make immediately.

Our current Learning Management System (LMS) is not optimal for online learning. As a result, we are introducing Canvas as an alternate LMS. To be clear, we will not require anyone to convert to Canvas immediately. Under normal circumstances, we would spend considerable time as a community exploring various LMS options before introducing a new platform. Sakai will be available in the fall for those who wish to continue using it. We chose Canvas based feedback we’ve received from a number of campus individuals who’ve had an opportunity to test this learning system.

We’ve also received significant feedback we need better tools for online testing and are currently exploring options. One is to expand our Zoom license to make it available for things like online class discussions. We do plan to purchase additional document cameras based on feedback. They’re essential for creating a more interactive online experience.

Thank you again for the tremendous efforts associated with the shift to online this past semester. My hope and expectations are that, if we need to go fully online for part of the fall semester, the tools we introduce this summer will help us continue to deliver a high-quality Bradley education.

Stephen Standifird
Bradley University