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The IT Center Picture Puzzle: Department of Process Management and Digitalization Learning & Teaching

November 23rd, 2022 | by
Interview photo with department head Christoph Becker and Bernd Decker from the Process Management and Digitalization Learning & Teaching (PDSL) department

Source: Own illustration

#MeetMeWednesday

With our last picture puzzle for this year, we introduce you to yet another department of the IT Center. On our social media channels, we called for guesswork and searched for a certain word to go with the four pictures, which stands for the department Process Management and Digitalization Learning & Teaching (PDSL). Well, which of you came up with the solution word “digitalization“? You can get more exciting insights into the PDSL department in the interview.

 

Who Is Behind the Process Management and Process Management and Digitalization Learning & Teaching (PDSL) Department? How Many Employees, How Many Teams or Groups Are at PDSL?

PDSL stands for Process Management and Digitalization Learning & Teaching, and this actually already makes it clear in which area we operate as a department. Behind the PDSL department is a team of dedicated employees, trainees and student employees. The employees come from a wide variety of disciplines ranging from computer scientists, UI/UX experts and communication scientists to educators and philosophers. The diversity of skills brings a good mix of perspectives to the work and is reflected, for example, in the fact that processes and applications are not only considered and implemented from a technical perspective, but also from a user perspective.

PDSL consists of three groups: the Process and Application Consulting, Process and Application Development, and Process and Application Integration group. The department comprises a total of just over 40 people, currently 36 employees, five trainees and three student employees.

Many employees use the possibility of part-time employment in several cases also with parallel studies, whereby we always also get to know the problems and needs of the students and can take them into account in our solutions. Mathematical-technical software developers (MATSEs) are trained in the department.

 

What Makes the PDSL Department Special? Why Is the PDSL Department Essential at the IT Center?

Spontaneously, I would say that the diversity of disciplines and the commitment to providing good solutions, especially for students, as well as to continuously scrutinizing processes and achieving optimizations, make the department special. It is precisely this diversity and the different perspectives that make the department indispensable in the IT Center, which is nevertheless very technically oriented. The fact that we have united both the user perspective and the technical perspective under one roof helps us to find pragmatic but also sustainable solutions. This is what sets us apart.

We often have the task of acting as a “translator” between the developers of the technical solution and the everyday practical implementation by the users. Furthermore, the development of sustainable and consistent software solutions for all participants and not only for small groups is an important concern. Our focus is thus always on the overall process and we thus try to recognize and consider dependencies and effects at an early stage. This often leads to the fact that the often demanded quick solution takes more time, which unfortunately does not always meet with the understanding of all parties involved. Nevertheless, we consider this path to be without alternative in order to be able to operate applications in the long term. We also try to communicate this to RWTH via the Student Life Cycle Management (SLCM) coordinator of the IT Center, who is based in our department.

What Are the Main Tasks of the PDSL Department?

As mentioned at the beginning and as the name of the department also expresses, we deal with processes and digitization efforts in the area of studying and teaching. Specifically, the focus of the department is to support students, faculties and central departments of RWTH Aachen University in process design, requirements analysis, development, implementation, integration and further development of efficient and sustainable IT solutions for cross-user and cross-institutional business processes of RWTH in the area of study and teaching. The process support and digitization covers the entire student life cycle.

The main tasks of the department are the management and further development of the central applications such as RWTHonline, RWTHmoodle, QM-System Lehre, RWTHApp and numerous other applications in the area of study & teaching together with the SLCM coordination, the cooperation partners in the Central University Administration (ZHV), the Center for Teaching and Learning Services (CLS), the faculties and the students. In addition, the department is actively involved in projects and initiatives on (inter)national data exchange to improve student mobility and the changing forms of teaching and learning due to digitalization.

Resolution of the picture puzzle with the solution word "digitalization“

Source: Own illustration

 

What Are the Current Projects and Developments?

In addition to the digitization push in the area of teaching due to the pandemic phase, which has placed great demands on us in the last two years, the support and further development of the aforementioned major applications are of course perennial favorites. With so many other tasks, it is difficult to single out the most important projects without neglecting the others. However, I would like to focus on three topics in particular:

  1. local in-house developments in RWTHonline: In the last few years, we have been working together with Graz University of Technology to create the conditions and infrastructure for local in-house developments in the RWTHonline environment. First applications are e.g. the generation of module manuals or developments in the context of the projects to support the recognition processes, keywords MyScore or PIM. The first visible application with user interface has been in pilot operation since August this year, namely the digital submission of theses.
  2. relaunch of the RWTHApp: For students, employees and visitors of RWTH, the RWTHApp has been offering specially tailored functions for many years to make everyday university life easier. Over time, the app has grown and has been continuously expanded and optimized with features. Extensive modernization is now necessary, both technically and in terms of user experience. More info on the alpha and beta phases that have already been completed can be found on the IT Center Blog.
  3. greater consideration of UI/UX expertise in SW development:

The requirements for user interfaces of an application have become more diverse and complex due to mobile devices. In every conceivable screen size, users should be able to easily find their way around the functionalities while receiving a comfortable user experience (UX). Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to include UX/UI design early in the development process. Thanks to agile methods, this is easily possible. Whereas in the days of the waterfall model, UI and user tests were only taken into account relatively late in the development process, today we want to think about UX/UI design from the very first sprint and firmly anchor this in the development process.

In addition, there are very practical changes in everyday life with the new forms of work such as home office, situational mobile work and the holding of hybrid meeting sessions. Despite one or two challenges, it can be said for our department that the new options have been very well received and are working well, leading to significant employee satisfaction without compromising the efficiency and quality of the work. So, for us as a department, this is a very positive development that has resulted from the pandemic phase.

 

What Does the Future of the Department Look Like?

After many very turbulent years during the introduction of RWTHonline and RWTHmoodle, the Rectorate’s commitment to long-term funding of personnel resources for the SLCM area in the IT Center has also created a solid foundation for the PDSL department to meet the challenges and constantly increasing demands in the area of digitization of processes in studying and teaching. In particular, an established and harmonizing team that is familiar with the complex processes in this area and has an insight into both the professional perspective and the perspective of students and teachers is of great importance for the development of good solutions. Over the next few years, we will continue to expand the applications that support studying & teaching. In addition to digitization efforts such as the Online Access Act, eGovernance NRW and the optimization of internal university processes, the focus will likely be on increased support for student mobility and related requirements for cross-university digital solutions.

In this context, we are counting on the further establishment of the SLCM organizational structure at RWTH decided by the rectorate and the joint development of coordinated harmonized processes. Because only such processes can be meaningfully digitized.

 

We hope you enjoyed these insights into the PDSL department. Then feel free to leave us a heart! 🙂 The year may be coming to an end, but the IT Center still has more to offer! Look forward to the next puzzle –  we’ll continue next year.

 

Responsible for the content of this article are Christoph Becker, Bernd Decker und Lina-Louise Kaulbach.

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