Virtual Reality: Innovation in Higher Education

Innovation and digital transformation in higher education means using technology to address core strategic goals of the institution. On this episode, we talk with the CIO of Oral Roberts University about their multi-million program to use virtual reality and mixed reality to create a global educational community and foster the educational agenda.


Jan 06, 2017

Innovation and digital transformation in higher education means using technology to address core strategic goals of the institution. On this episode, we talk with the CIO of Oral Roberts University about their multi-million program to use virtual, augmented, and mixed reality to create a global educational community and foster the educational agenda.

Michael L. Mathews has over 24-years of experience as a senior-level IT executive bringing creative solutions that value the end-users of technology and business process management. These solutions have benefited the end-users of higher education, manufacturing, and high technology company products.

Mike has held positions as a chief information officer, general manager of CIOs, chief strategist for innovation, business development officer, trainer, teacher, and vice president of academic services for leading corporations and higher education. Mike has been a CIO within higher education for over 12 years.

Mike has a deep and rich work history including 12-years at Cray Research as an instructor and global training manager; as well as 10-years at SunGard Higher Education where he served as chief information officer, and vice president of academic services. In these roles he has influenced 100s of research, energy, chemical, and manufacturing companies, as well as over twenty community colleges, universities, and statewide systems. Mike’s dual experience in business and education along with working knowledge of seven Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems has allowed him to quickly assess business process and technology innovation that creatively impacts products, process, students, and society.


Michael Krigsman: Welcome to Episode #210 of CXOTalk. I’m Michael Krigsman, an industry analyst and the host of CXOTalk. CXOTalk brings together the most innovative people in the world, who are doing just the most fascinating things; and we talk about leadership, we talk about the impact of technology. Before we begin, I want to say a thank you to Livestream, which is a company that provides our video infrastructure and they allow simultaneous streaming to Facebook, and email capture, and Livestream makes CXOTalk possible. So, thank you to Livestream, we love you guys. You guys provide a great product and a great service.

Today’s show is really interesting. We’re going to be talking about the impact of technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality; and we’re speaking with Mike Mathews, who is the Chief Information Officer at Oral Roberts University. And we actually are going to do some technology demos today. Mike Mathews, thanks for being here!

Michael Mathews: Hey Michael, thank you for having me. What a delight to join you from Tulsa, Oklahoma on the most wonderful campus of Oral Roberts University at our new Global Learning Center facility.

Michael Krigsman: Well, I’m so excited. Mike, tell us briefly about Oral Roberts University, and just set the stage and give us context for what we’re going to be seeing today.

Michael Mathews: Absolutely. So, Oral Roberts University is celebrating its fiftieth year. And, we are more known internationally, so we draw students form ninety-five different countries from around the world, we have a hundred different programs, we have six colleges within the university, and we believe in something called “whole-person education,” where we develop the body, mind, and spirit and we call that “whole-person education.” And so, we are in Tulsa, Oklahoma on a wonderful campus, but we want to reach the world. What you’re going to hear today: we really believe that education can be transformed; transformed from not just saying “We did it,” or “digitized it,” but that we can reach millions of people around the world because there’s seven billion people around the world, not just 330 million in the United States.

Michael Krigsman: Now, I know that your goals are educational, and pedagogical, and community; and you use technology to support those mission goals. How does technology fit in? How does technology help you support your learning and educational goals, for example?

Michael Mathews: You know, one of the things I’ve done is to get rid of technology, and that may sound shocking to many people, but oftentimes on a college campus, at a university, there’s too much technology. And so I call it the merging of both the science of technology and the art of technology coming together. The science of technology, smartphones and anything you can imagine, is almost a commodity today and anyone can buy it, anyone can service it. But not anyone can actually imagine what it can do when it’s used effectively.

Michael Krigsman: Your use of technology; virtual reality; how does that fit into this picture?

Michael Mathews: You know, virtual reality and augmented reality is phenomenal from this standpoint. It took the telephone 75 years to reach 50 million people. It took the television 38 years, it took the internet 7 years, Facebook 3.5 years; but suddenly this year, when the internet in July hit its ten thousandth day of invention, augmented reality - Pokemon Go reached 50 million people in 38 days. And so, we’re trying to reach millions of people, and we understand that the digitization, the smartphone device engaging the learner is critical. So we decided to invest in the whole enterprise edition of augmented and virtual reality. We’re not about playing with classes, and technologies, and this brand, or that brand; we’re about, “How do we take something systemically, and make it available to millions of people around the world from a smartphone?” And you can see the virtual glasses that we have here, and you can see on the screen our full-immersion room that we’ll go into momentarily.

So we bought the whole enterprise edition. And Michael, what makes it exciting for us is this: Gamification has not benefitted education very much at all. In fact, it hasn’t made a dent. However, game casinos have made a fortune off of it. And why, is simply this: You cannot step in with the technology and ask faculty to change everything they do, the way they do it, how they teach, what they’re good at. However, augmented and virtual reality, from a pedagogical perspective, allows faculty to do what they do well: teach! Be experts in their field. And now, virtual reality is beyond flipping the classroom - we call it “flipping the university” - around the world. In supplement, what a faculty member wants to do versus replace.

Michael Krigsman: So, in order to have to present this virtual reality experience that we’re going to see in a moment, tell us what was needed behind the scenes to get it all set up?

Michael Mathews: You know, behind the scenes, it doesn’t take a genius. The technology, whatever you own, better work well. I challenged our staff, “Hey, we’re smart people, I’m not taking that away from anyone, but let’s be good at what matters.” And so, we followed some great partners out there who almost [did] the same business we did, of reaching the world. Wireless companies, we’ve decided, “Hey, let’s not us be experts in wireless. Let’s let a true wireless expert manage the campus.” Because, we’re dead in the water if the campus doesn’t function from a wireless perspective. In the first two years of a three-year initiative, it works flawlessly. And now we can take on these big initiatives and be broadcasting wide from our facility, reaching people with virtual and augmented reality. So, the infrastructure had to be flawless, and so we found the right partners to help make it flawless.

Michael Krigsman: So, let’s take a look at your virtual reality room, and put that on screen and so … What are we looking at right now?

Michael Mathews: You know, what you’re looking at, and I’ll turn it over to our employee Steven Guzman of Moment; you’re looking at two different things in one, big room. You’re looking at a catcher screen where we can bring in fifty students, and train them in multidimensional mixed reality, but then we also have a full-immersion room where people can actually go in and walk inside combustion engines, go out in the ocean, walk on an offshore oil well, go on an archeological discovery, fly over to France, whatever the case may be. We’re talking about half a million different learning environments that are backdrops to help the faculty member explain that which the textbook has always been trying to explain.

So at that, I’m going to give you the live example by turning it over to Steven Guzman. You want to introduce yourself, Steven? And let’s go live!

Steven Guzman: Hey guys, Steven Guzman here from Oral Roberts University. We are inside of an i-Cube, and we’re going to give you an example of what’s going on here. So first of all, just below me if you will, turn your camera around.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. So, yeah, what is this? That headset with the white bubbles?

Steven Guzman: So what Jesupalumi is wearing is a pair of glasses that have nodes on them that interact with the infrared lasers from inside the cube. There’s lasers that actually beam down from all the four corners. As he moves his gaze, the entire jet engine’s actually going to move, as you’re going to see in this example.

Michael Krigsman: And, how does this work?

Steven Guzman: So, what happens is the infrared lasers actually shine onto the nodes, and then the nodes react with smart technology. They say, “Okay, movement is going to happen so just move me if you wouldn’t mind? Go ahead and step outside the cube, and you’re going to see it happen as he moves his gaze.”

Michael Krigsman: So he’s moving his head. And, the lasers in the room are connecting, picking up the movement of his headset.

Steven Guzman: That’s correct. So, just go ahead and show them the lasers in the corners. So that’s one infrared laser. If you scan the camera, you’ll see the other lasers that are on the corners. Jesupalumi, go ahead and take off the infrared glasses, and move them around, just so we get  a feel for how they can move the model… So that’s him moving the infrared glasses around. Alright, go ahead and put them back on. Just so we’re doing that with about eight thousand learning objects that we have here on site.

So, we step inside this cube. Jesupalumi, I want you to come around the front of the jet engines slowly, and we’re actually going to take a walk inside this jet engine. The idea is we want to get people off of paper and doing 2-d, and we want professors to actually step inside this cube with their students and say, “Okay. Student A, point out the different abnormality in this jet engine?”

So, let’s go back to Jesupalumi first. Jesupalumi, go ahead and step on into the jet engine… So, come around, keep going… keep going into it… So, he’s going to say, “Student A, go ahead and pause.” Jesupalumi “Student A, what’s the abnormality in this pump manifold?” And Student A is able to identify that. “And Student B, what is an abnormality in this pump tank manifold?” And, you get the idea. Students can get a larger concept of what’s going on, what these extreme technologies, and they’re that much more valuable whenever they go and try to apply for jobs in companies like Boeing or American Airlines. They’re that much more valuable.

Michael Krigsman: What are some of the primary application areas? Or maybe can you talk about different application areas and how this impacts the learning?

Steven Guzman: Sure. So, initially, we see electric engineering with a jet engine but we’re also able to do things with surgery. So you can pick apart an entire body and that’s the value for our pre-med students, and our nursing students. We also can take you to an offshore oil well, or a derrick, where we’re able to see how the structure is created, and see how the drill goes down into the Earth, and how they’re able to pull that oil up. You think about architecture. You can go on-site, any building. We actually build the Global Learning Center in 3-d and we’ve taken a virtual walk through that as well.

Michael Mathews: If I could, Michael. [...] What’s important to know is that we’ll put faculty in front of the engine like this, or in front of a neuron, and they’ll actually jump into their expertise within seconds. We’re not asking them to change their curriculum or what they know, and that’s what they love about it, to say, “Put something behind me, and let me be the expert that I believe I am.” And as you see right here, the same exact thing. So, we have a professor who is a cancer research specialist. And he’s stepped in front of a neuron, and sixty seconds later, he’s telling everybody exactly how the sheath of the nerves work, and how cancer is caused, and how they believe that there’s a cure for it. And we have six colleges, and every discipline is able to take parts and pieces of this and leverage it to further advance the cause of building whole-person education at Oral Roberts.

Michael Krigsman: What’s the response from students? How do students react to this?

Michael Mathews: You know, the funnest part of the job lately is to actually bring students and let them speak about it. And, to the letter, to the T, they’re saying, “Somebody cares about our education now.” That there’s an investment in not in plasma screens - and again, this is no offense to any companies selling plasma LCD screens, or analytics, or something like that, because that’s a waste of a lot of people’s money and time, to be honest; it’s that LCD panels only make the presentation look better and sharper in focus. But when you can put learning objects in front of people, that the faculty own, and students can actually speak to it, it’s a whole different world. So the students are loving it.

Michael Krigsman: And how has it changed the learning outcomes? Have you correlated this yet to grades or test scores, or job placement, things like that?

Michael Mathews: You know Michael, we haven’t because we’ve only started this about three months ago, six months ago. However, we did all the research along with Eon Reality, who happened ironically to do a study right out of Tulsa, Oklahoma and found out that the time decrease in learning subject matter is 1400% less. When you can actually take something that someone needs to perform, it could be operating a power plant, it decreases it to that percentage. Now we’ve been conservative in that we’re using the number 400% improvement. And it doesn’t take a genius to realize it’s very doable and very possible. What we’ve watched now are faculty and students just jump into it, at the opportunity.

Michael Krigsman: And how about the learning curve for faculty to make use of this technology in the most effective way?

Michael Mathews: You know, the learning curve is … Pokemon Go did us a huge favor. Let’s face it. When you can see that many millions of people leveraging Pokemon Go, and we happen to come up with virtual reality glasses that look like this for smartphones, and have eight thousand learning object on them, the learning curve is about three minutes. And that’s incredible.

Now, we talk about changing the way pedagogically how do you start the introduction week of a class, all the way to 13 weeks and you’re testing students, that’s going to take a little bit of time. But the optimism here on campus is tremendous and wonderful. If ten brand new classrooms focused around reaching the world, including virtual and augmented reality, and the classes are filling up as we speak.

Michael Krigsman: So you are broadcasting these classes, then, around the world.

Michael Mathews: Absolutely. You know, when you think about education, only 6% of the world has a post-secondary degree. And there’s four thousand universities and colleges in America, and there’s seven billion people. If you divide the numbers of people being trained or educated, each university across America only has five thousand students. That’s embarrassing. That’s unacceptable. But when you can start broadcasting pieces of intelligence around the world on a card, through a computer, you’re changing the world. You know, and it’s time that we stop talking about analytics. Imagine me talking to a parent and saying, “Here’s a handful of analytics. Hopefully your son or daughter has a blast here.” Rather, we’re able to say, “Here’s a Fitbit, enjoy the ride. It has intelligence that integrates with the student information system. Here’s a pair of glasses that allows you to access intelligence.” We’re all about intelligence, because we’re training intelligent people to be intelligent around the world. Analytics is old news, and hopefully every vendor out there starts realizing and stops boring CIOs to tears with that conversation.

Michael Krigsman: So, you’ve got a set of metrics that you calculate very carefully related to digital transformation. Can you talk about that? What are the types of metrics that you’re looking at?

Michael Mathews: Absolutely. So we came up with a digital transformation index, three years ago. And part of the index was, “Are we considered world-class?”, and we knew the answer was “no” at that particular time. And what would give us “world class recognition” really was applying for awards around the country from a digitization standpoint. In other words, can every student have an online concierge service from their smartphone? And the answer today is “yes.” In fact, you’ll see a publication come on on January 18th, on e-campus, and it’s good to talk about that. Let’s not call something “Helpdesk,” because that sounds like it’s broken. Let’s call it “concierge service”: How do we meet the needs of the digital world? Even in my role as the CIO, and now Associate Vice President of Technology and Innovation, isn’t to try and impress people and change education, it’s really to try and help people who are in a digital world not only survive, but to thrive. And that we believe will help change the paradigm of reaching the world with whole-person education.

Michael Krigsman: So we have a question from Twitter. From Alan Berkson, who asks: “What expectations do you have for how educators will change their curriculum, based on this technology?”

Michael Mathews: You know, great question, Alan. But I’d say, we have no expectation whatsoever. And that was the breaking point. That’s the threshold you want to reach, because of this. The worse thing I could do it expect the faculty never to even push one button. As soon I expect them to push a button on teleconference, or telepresence, it shuts down the show. And so, we’ve literally automated the classrooms when somebody walks in a dark room, all the equipment senses somebody step in, and it fires up all the equipment automatically, and all they have to do is have an IT person present to enter a nine digit code to reach the world on their behalf. And at archives, the content, it puts it into the learning management system, which is D2L in our case.

Same thing with virtual reality. We don’t want them to change anything! That expectation is why gamification has never worked, nor will work. But, augmented and virtual reality will literally change the way they can enhance that which they already do very well.

Michael Krigsman: So, it’s such a natural extension of what they already are doing, that people just naturally, immediately get it. They grasp it.

Michael Mathews: Absolutely. What we have faculty members already watching NBA games or NFL games in virtual reality, or reading the New York Times with virtual reality. It’s a foregone conclusion. This is part of our society. And if we put the things in place that allow faculty to benefit, and don’t expect them to change anything, we’re home free. But on top of that, icing on the cake is students begging for it, and saying, “This is part of our world now.” So imagine being a student, you’re a senior in college or a university, and you’re going to get a job and you can stand in front of this engine and explain what it means, and you’re applying for a job at an aircraft company, your resume is going to look slightly better than everyone else’s.

Michael Krigsman: But, you know, to what extend do you say students are loving this, I mean, it’s fascinating, I can see why. But to what extent is it just because it’s kind of the cool Pokemon toy? In other words, does the blush kind of leave the rows, or is there a sustained benefit?

Michael Mathews: Good question, Michael. You know, it’s not just a novelty really when you think about it. What it’s doing is engaging a learner. You know, I wish I could have said fifteen years ago that we’ll never use smartphones in a classroom for studying, or grades, or accessing health information. But it’s a foregone conclusion we do it. And I believe the same thing: that what is called “mixed reality” in the future, “augmented”, or “virtual” is not the point. The point is that our society is changing in technology, Moore’s Law far exceeded years ago already, is changing the way that we can enhance our life. We can speed up the connection points around the world to educate everyone. And when we do that, suddenly we hit a tipping point. Three years ago, when I stepped on the campus of Oral Roberts University, the goal that got me here was really to come up with new paradigms to reach millions of people around the world. I fell in love with that. And, true to their form, Oral Roberts University has had the funding behind that, they have the support behind that, and here we are reaching millions of people instantaneously now. Now the only thing holding them back is paying their tuition, and I believe one day that may change as well across the world.

Michael Krigsman: Okay, let’s go back to Steven and Jesupalumi, who are standing by. And by the way, I have to … I want to say a thank you to Mark Orelen and to Zachary Genes on Twitter, because I tweeted out, “Can somebody take a screen capture of this, because it looks so cool!”, and they both did. So, thank you very much.

Michael Mathews: Let me add, it’s much more than cooler. You’ve got to come on campus here, and you’ll be more than impressed.

Michael Krigsman: I believe that. Okay, so take us inside that jet engine. Just take us into this thing that we’ve all seen the outside of, on planes, and take us inside.

Steven Guzman: So when we go over to the front, we’re in the jet engine… To the very front…

Michael Krigsman: I love that phrase, you know, “Can you bring the jet engine over here, please?”

Steven Guzman: [Laughter] Take a few steps to your right… And let’s go to the very front… Alright… Going to ease us on in…

Michael Krigsman: And I just want to tell everybody who’s watching that what you’re seeing here on the screen at the moment, on the right-hand side, is a kind of stop action on one screen of the outside of the jet engine, and then on the left, Jesupalumi is walking us through the inside. And you can see he’s got his iPad controller… So I guess I’m picking it up pretty quickly! It’s looks pretty easy because now I’m doing your job! [Laughter]

Steven Guzman: [Laughter] Yeah. So, Jesupalumi is playing professor right now. This is when we get into the education spot. It’s so special and what really makes us next-level with virtual reality is no longer do students have to try to conceptualize things they’ve never seen and only read about, but we can bring them there in virtual reality. And when we’re talking about jet engines, something so complicated, the professor can point things out that they couldn’t necessarily point out on paper because it just wouldn’t make sense. And we’ve actually had an engineering student worker come up here and test-pilot this jet engine. He said, “You know, the last three years in engineering have been fantastic, but being here inside of a jet engine brought it all together,” and it just put a nice capstone on what he’s been learning. So it’s really special to be able to get inside those jet engines.

Michael Krigsman: Again, you know, just think about the terminology. Mike, it’s really cool to get inside those jet engines. I mean, five years, ten years ago; five years ago, that terminology would be… It wouldn’t exist!

Michael Mathews: Unheard of! But now, imagine this: when you have a learning object, you’re buying it from some company, and you’re putting it into your learning management system. Now a faculty member can step in front of any backdrop; a jet engine or archeological finding; and create their own learning objects. Three minutes later, they have their own video and now they send this out to the students ahead of time if they choose to.

Michael Krigsman: So these learning objects, or maybe tell us a story of how you get these 3-d models that you can walk through, and how you adapt them? How does a professor adapt them for use in your environment?

Michael Mathews: Absolutely. So, what we decided to do was to make, again, enterprise-wide, “Let’s purchase enough of these [...] from the get-go, so no-one’s saying, ‘Is this the same as taught? I can see how this works for an engineering school or a nursing school, but not for a math class,’” or whatever the case may be. So we purchased eight thousand of them through Eon Reality, and they’re all on the smartphone. There’s a whole library of them now, so we can actually experiment, put them on a smartphone first, and then start playing with it: voice over the learning objects, save it to the learning management system, but then it also plays into the cube, or onto the iCatcher screen as well.

So the platform across every device that we own, we have eight thousand. Now, we’re already seeing faculty step up to the plate and create their own. We now own the software, so you have to think of it this way: Devices will come and go; iPads, tablets, whatever the case may be. But the operating system sticks around, so the Microsoft operating system has been around for thirty years. So we purchased the whole operating system or platform for virtual or augmented reality creation. We can do anything we want now, and faculty put their segmenter on it. Every time somebody clicks on their learning object from this day forward, they get credit for it. That’s pretty powerful.

Michael Krigsman: We have another question from Twitter, from Mark Orelen, who’s asking, “Is there an application for this type of virtual reality technology in business-related courses?”

Michael Mathews: Absolutely. You know, we’ve had numerous challenges just like that, and I’d say, “Give us a day, and we’ll walk you over; we’ll walk you into an Excel spreadsheet.” And it comes up on a screen, an Excel spreadsheet. And then, somebody says, “Hey, what about a PC? Could you walk us into a PC?” I’d say, “Yup! Come on over!”; walk them in and show them where the power supply is located. Somebody else comes and said, “Could we teach somebody in an international business class how to eat properly when they go to South America?” I said, “Yes, come on in. We’ll show you that as well.” And so we’ve not been challenged on any type of environment, because again, virtual reality is creating a new environment to walk into and it’s an amazing day to watch creativity and innovation come alive.

Michael Krigsman: What are some of the challenges associated with this? You know, when we do a demo, it all comes together in the smoothest way, but I know behind the scenes, nothing comes together in the smoothest way! So, what are some of the challenges that are involved for school to set this up?

Michael Mathews: You know, the challenges really are this: Have support from the executives. And I’m telling you: that when you invest a good amount of money in something like this, you need that support. But more importantly, you have to have the reputation. So the challenge really is build the reputation by taking the right partners that work with you, the right software. So we picked a company that already brought together education, entertainment, and industry with augmented and virtual reality for twenty years. We weren’t about to go buy a pair of Oculus glasses - no offense to Oculus or Vive - and think that that’s going to change anything. The technologies will come and go, but we wanted to own something so you can see exactly what you’re seeing now live. And, this isn’t rehearsed or anything. This is live. We’re showing you learning objects, but now imagine the students come in there.

So the challenge is really credibility. So, over the last three months, we’ve had faculty come over, students come over, and they’re becoming believers. But if we said, “Hey, we want you to change your curriculum and we want you to change Week Two so that you impart this, or import this into your curriculum,” it would have failed. So the challenges are: You know them all as well as I do, but if you build credibility, and you invest wisely, and you can deliver the goods, people become believers.

Michael Krigsman: So there was essentially a change management and buy-in issue that you had to gain the buy-in. Gain the buy-in from whom? Who are your stakeholders in this kind of situation?

Michael Mathews: Our stakeholders; our Board of Trustees, our president; they’re visionary people. But remember that before I came three years ago, they already laid the groundwork by having a globalization case statement that had a comparative number six that says this: Using new paradigms in technology, reach millions of people, with whole-person education. I love that. Now, it’s T’d up. They support it, they have the vision, but now they expect me to come up with the kind of technologies that would truly reach the world.

I’ll be honest. We had the Board of Trustees come in there and look at the facility recently, and two of them were in tears. Literally, as a first time as a technologist I’ve seen leaders like that in tears, because they saw it; they could touch it. And this is a different day, a fabulous day that we’re doing this kind of stuff.

But I will say one funny thing that happened, because when people are ready to sign a contract, that’s when they get, “Oh wow. That’s a lot of money.” And that’s true. And I said, “Hey, Six Flags down in Dallas just gave out the virtual reality glasses. Now when you go on a roller coaster, that’s the experience.” And it works to a certain degree. And I said, “Why don’t we put a roller coaster in our parking lot, and let people experience virtual reality?”, and they got the picture to say, “Okay, well that doesn’t make any sense. The insurance policy will be high.” I said, “You know, let’s do it right.” Again, the support was there; I appreciate our president Dr. Billy Wilson so much for casting the vision to reach the world.

Michael Krigsman: And I want to remind everybody that you’re watching CXOTalk, and we’re speaking with Mike Mathews, who is the Chief Information Officer of Oral Roberts University, and he’s describing ORU’s foray into virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and what you’re seeing on the screen right now, aside from Mike and me, is a live image of their virtual reality - what do you call it? Virtual reality cube?

Michael Mathews: Yeah, the screen on the right’s the eye catcher. It’s got a 3-d projector that catches fifty people can be standing there watching that, but the iCube has five people that can be immersed right into that, and it’s called the iCube.

Michael Krigsman: And, once again, if we can take a look at the Ethos glasses that Jesupalumi is wearing…

Michael Mathews: And Michael, I should note that Jesupalumi is a student from Nigeria, and he’s picked up this like you wouldn’t believe, that most students are. And Steven Guzman, who’s there as well is a graduate from two years ago. So these aren’t people that have been in the business for twenty years, they’re fresh, but this stuff is exciting for them, and they pick it up really easy.

Michael Krigsman: And I would imagine that from the point of view of getting a job when they graduate, having these kind of skills puts them way out in front of others, I would think.

Michael Mathews: Absolutely. I’ll have Steven talk to that a little bit.

Michael Krigsman: Steven, please, yeah.

Steven Guzman: Yes, absolutely. I’m insanely fortunate to have been able to work at Oral Roberts University right after I graduated in 2014. But, if you look online at the different job opportunities that are out there for virtual reality, they’re all out in California with Google, Facebook, I mean a lot of the big hitters, NVidia; so I have an amazing opportunity to be a part of what Oral Roberts University is doing, and really having the opportunity to change a generation is what I’m fired up about; just how everything that we do, from three months ago, a year ago, and on is going to change the next generation of Oral Roberts University students is really what I get excited about.

Michael Krigsman: Now, what kind of glasses are you wearing? You’re not wearing the glasses that look like they came out of a science fiction movie from the ‘60’s. You’re wearing something else.

Steven Guzman: So, my glasses: they don’t have the fancy nodes on them, they actually are for the other viewers to step inside of the cube. So, when I step inside of the cube, my glasses are good for a change of perspective, but I’m still going to be able to view the virtual reality; because that’s where you get four or five people that can go alongside the professor. So, if a come inside here with Jesupalumi, his perspective is still going to change the environment of my glasses to allow me to see it.

Michael Krigsman: So you …

Steven Guzman: So you don’t have to be inside the cube to view it. You can stand outside. So, you can have ten, fifteen, two more people outside the cube viewing the virtual reality.

Michael Krigsman: I see. So, he’s controlling the virtual reality view with his glasses, and these are 3-d glasses I’m assuming.

Steven Guzman: Yes, sir. These aren’t your typical Ray-Bans.

Michael Krigsman: Yeah. [Laughter] And so, when you think about this, to what extent is your participation because it’s fun, or because you think you’ll learn more, or because you’ll get a better job, how do you evaluate it, in your mind?

Steven Guzman: So, the way I see it in my head is it’s a few things. So one, impacting a generation. But it’s also really fun to do. You know, I ask the question all the time, do you work at all? You know, but there’s the common slang, “Well if you have fun at your job, you never work a day in your life,” you know? And I have a great time working with Mike, and Mike is an amazing leader, amazing mind, brilliant, and we’re all so fortunate to have him here. But, it’s passion that drives us, it’s a group effort, it’s not just me in the VR room day-in, day-out. Mike’s here, and our entire IT team.

Michael Krigsman: And Mike, to what extent is this an IT-driven project, versus a more educational or institutional-led project?

Michael Mathews: You know, this is a campus-wide-led initiative. You know in fact, one of the greatest compliments I get from [the] President is this, “You know Mike, it’s interesting. You don’t even like technology.” Now I like that because it’s not about technology. It’s really about how do you align, not just from a strategic point, but just align good business sense with mission? And so, we’re able to now fulfill mission by just doing simple things that other people can do. And that’s one of my passions, really is to say, “Wait a minute. It’s impossible to be able to track Fitbit data and do all the stuff in life, athletics and so-forth that we can’t do in education.” So simplification equals multiplication. If we can simplify things and make it campus-wide, we’d multiply things.

Michael Krigsman: And how do you align the business goals with the mission; the business demands and requirements? You have to stay in business, you know, you require income and so-forth, how do you align that with the mission?

Michael Mathews: An absolutely good question. And we really do it by being simply aligned over, and over again, and repetitively, iteratively… So when you think of a president who has a strategic plan, most presidents would say, “You know what, I’m tired of a strategic plan.”, you know, because it changes, it sits on a shelf, so our president and the Board of Trustees has approved an adaptive plan, the University Adaptive Plan; it means it’s flexible, it’s nimble. We live in a nimble world that’s ever-changing, and how do we change with that? And so, as the IT leader, I have to be nimble enough, and wise enough to say, “Hey, I’m not going to do something that doesn’t make sense. And let’s be adaptive.” It’s like putting people in a digital world, to not only survive, but thrive. And when you can help the leaders on campus, you can help your students, you’re changing the world. You’re impacting in a way you never thought possible.

Michael Krigsman: We have another question from Twitter, from Zachary Genes, and his questions is similar to the one that we received earlier, which is… He’s asking, “What about applications in areas such as storytelling and marketing?”

Michael Mathews: Absolutely. Again, a great challenge is we have that. In fact, somebody challenged [us] and said, “Hey, is there an application for public speaking?” Can you teach somebody to public speak? In fact, one of the faculty members, Denise Miller, has 325 students wearing VR glasses, [who] can actually practice speaking. It’s one of the most fearful things people have done to take.

And marketing is a phenomenal one, because you want to talk about helping people understand marketing. Take them to a couple places that failed in real life. We now have Google Earth and virtual reality connected together. We can take people right inside - I’m a Green Bay Packer fan - so we’ll say Lambeau Field, Green Bay Wisconsin, and say, “What would you do if you were a marketing person, and you want to market this better?” We can take them to McDonalds. We can mock-up almost anything in this real life and let people start experimenting without doing the travel. In fact for our athletes, we’ve got a professor Kerry Shannon using the same connectivity sim virtual reality, to use it for athletes who aren’t on campus, or off at a basketball game or a soccer game.

Michael Krigsman: I would imagine, and maybe this is an obvious point, but I would imagine that modeling physical locations, objects, architecture, is far more easy than somehow modeling concepts. Like, when Zachary Genes asked about storytelling, can you model abstractions like that in some way?

Michael Mathews: I believe, so … In fact, if we brought up an image, we could show you the music playing along with the image. So when you go underneath water, you can hear “Jaws” start playing from the movie “Jaws.” But we could have changed the music, we could have played some different multisensory. But talk about storytelling: how do you create a story? Well, there’s a place involved, there’s maybe some sensory behind it, but you’re starting to create it. And so we have it now where we can take you out to the planets, and actually create the right story behind how the planets were created. We can tell the story about how fast the planets revolve around the sun. We can create stories and modify and apply it. Why? Because we own the software, the platform in order to do that.

Put it before us, and we’ll find out if we can create it. In fact, Steven Guzman said he’s two years out of college, the university here, and it took him all of four hours to create a whole story for our donors about what our new dorms will look like. Never done before. I say it’s eight hours, he says it’s only three hours. So, somewhere in between there.

Michael Krigsman: And what are the technical skills needed to create this type of environment?

Michael Krigsman: You know, boy it’s a tough one to answer. I’ll say this, is that 35 years ago, the genius of the day was somebody who knew enough to take Xerox files and be able to port them onto different operating systems and devices. Today, the genius is the person who can take almost any object, infrared scans, videos, pictures, and start recreating a story and movement in virtual reality. And so we seem so far a little programming skills are required, a lot of imagination, a little bit of script writing; but the good news is, we own the platform that has a document this thick to say, “Here’s how you start moving things around.” And we now have it where we can actually reach into a body in front of the mirrored virtual reality screen and pull out my heart, pull out my brain, and turn it around. It’s pretty phenomenal. And that’s all created probably within days, and we will actually be having a school here starting January 23rd to allow people to learn how to program both augmented and virtual reality.

Pokemon Go, hey I get it, I know why so many people use it, but it’s pretty useless to me because it’s a bear in the air, it’s placing something, geofencing. But, what if we could put all learning objects on a card, or in space, and start leveraging it that way?

Michael Krigsman: So, the goal is for subject matter experts to be able to create these realities, rather than a dedicated programmer or technologist?

Michael Mathews: Right, but think of the subject matter expert. People become a professor because they believe they’re a subject matter expert, and there are professors, I understand, who maybe regurgitate other people’s information, but there’s a lot of professors who actually create their own content. And those are subject matter experts. So, we already have a professor, one of the deans, a department chair, sitting on the computer creating their own experience, and they’re creating something so their students can do clay modeling in virtual reality.

Michael Krigsman: We have about five minutes left, and I’d really like to go back to the digital transformation metrics that you use, because I think that one of the challenges of digital transformation in any environment is how do you measure the outcome, and can you talk about some of these metrics? It has certainly come a long way from traditional IT metrics of, you know, latency or system uptime; and in fact, your metrics have to do with the exact intersection of the technology adoption, and achieving the business goals.

Michael Mathews: Absolutely. And so, we did a baseline. Again, no measurement matters at all if you have no baseline. And your baseline may even not be accurate at first, but the fact is over time, you can find out and tweak it to make sure it is accurate. And so, we took a look and I’ll give you an example: If I have a miracle happen in my life, I’d tease people. They say, “Mike, do you believe in miracles?” I say, “I never really believe in them, but I rely on them. In order for my career to go places, I’ve got to rely on miracles. And if a miracle happens in my lifetime, where I get to see something put on a smartphone, was I prepared digitally to take advantage of it?” And so we did that in numerous cases, to say, “If there just so happens to be something from an academic perspective the equivalent of Pokemon Go, is our infrastructure, and our capability to leverage it ready to go?” And the answer’s yes. And so, 100% of everything Oral Roberts University owns from an electronic standpoint, is all accessible and integrated on the smartphone. That’s transformation.

Three years ago, that was not the case. Three years ago, we weren’t given work with good partners. Three years ago, we didn’t have the infrastructure, but suddenly that index starts putting carrots in front of people in a place that starts thriving to become. And again, this isn’t to brag, but it is to say we’ve been fortunate and we won global and national awards for our IT invention, and innovation. In fact, we’ve just trademarked the name Geonetics, which is to say if technology is so powerful that it can implode a country like Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya because young people are waking up with it and saying, “We don’t have to live like this anymore.” That’s pretty powerful. Are we ready, and can we actually take everything and leverage it in the same way, and use that power for the betterment of humanity? But who understands it? If technology companies’ only interest is to keep selling more products, we’re all in trouble. But if our job as leaders and innovators is to say, “Wait a minute. Let’s not just worry about selling more technology, let’s actually implement less, but do it wisely,” and that’s exactly what Geonetics is about. What can people learn and take advantage of not just so they can own a smartphone, or another big plasma screen? Wisely investing and aligning for the betterment of humanity?

Michael Krigsman: And in the last couple of minutes that we have left, can you talk about adoption? How do you think about adoption? How important is adoption? How do you encourage adoption? How do you measure it?

Michael Mathews: You know, adoption …. You know, I’m fortunate. I’ve been through helping the university four cycles in my lifecycle already. But by the fourth time, I’ve learned a couple valuable lessons. One, don’t mess with faculty. Encourage them, leverage them, let them do what they do well, and support what they do. And so, that’s not even a showstopper for us, okay? So they adopted because they know my interest is their interest. If I can help faculty save seven hundred hours every semester by taking educational data off of Fitbit watch and putting it into our gradebook, I’m a hero. And that’s what we’ve done.

Now, I’m a hero not because I’m smart, it’s because I’m listening to them, “Help us be more efficient.” Don’t just make yourself look good, don’t just brag about technology. Hey, if you won a couple awards along the way, that’s great. And so, adoption happens by winning awards, that’s for sure. But, when you can be advertised in over 500 newspapers and magazines in one years because of innovation, you’ve just adopted everyone; because now they become believers and say, “Wait a minute, we thought that was just a vision. We thought that was just part of the strategic or adaptive plan, but it’s become reality now.” And so, after a three year period, let’s say, we’ve been successful with the help of our partners to be successful on five major initiatives that have changed the way people view things. Now, three years later, that index keeps growing, the digital transformation index in the right direction, but it also makes believers who if they want to be a part, get more people on your boat and you’ve got a better boat.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. We have been talking with Mike Mathews, who is the Chief Information Officer of Oral Roberts University. What a fabulously interesting show this has been, but we have to say thank you to Steven and Jesupalumi. So guys, why don’t you come over and just … we just want to say, “Thank you.” I see Jesupalumi is there in the background.

Steven Guzman: Jesupalumi, come over! [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: And, what an image of these two guys with their glasses. Thank you so much, we really appreciate your time today.

Jesupalumi: Thank you! We thank you for having us!

Steven Guzman: Thank you sir. It’s been a pleasure.

Michael Krigsman: Thanks a lot. And, Mike Mathews, thank you, we really appreciate it! Everybody, this has been Episode #210. Next week, we have two shows, so check out and you can see the schedule. Have a great week everybody, and we’ll see you next time.

Published Date: Jan 06, 2017

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 408