New Version of Web-Student System with More Options for Our Students
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Rosen Kirilov, Vice Rector for Digitalization and Cybersecurity of UNWE: "Our ambition is to create our own application which will be our Digital Student Book".
UNWE is one of the leading universities in digitalization so what new technologies you will offer to your students this year?
We have promised to launch a new version of Web-Student electronic system by the end of 2022 which will be a technologically updated version, it will upgrade the current version with new functionalities. A special feature of the new version of Web-Student is that it can be directly compiled as a mobile application for the different repositories, for Apple Store and Google Play. A new and improved way of paying fees is being created, a way to link between the dormitories fees and the semester fees, i.e., to come up a total comprehensive obligation, by type for each student. Then we will create the new services for students. In fact, we build a completely new software environment, modern in terms of technology, which will present student data in a completely new and simplified way.
In a few weeks, I expect the Digital Student Book to be on students' phones as a mobile app. Our ambition is to create this app ourselves for several reasons. Firstly, students already massively prefer using a phone not a plastic, secondly, this will eliminate problems related to delays in the production of the plastics and thirdly, it will eliminate the need to come to a counter and carry the Student Book when registering for a semester, because it will already be on the phone. Signing up for a semester will be entirely through the student's phone.
The University already has 21 digital services for students online, do you plan anything new?
We plan new services to be added to the existing ones. One of the services that will certainly appear will be an electronic assurance, i.e. when a student registers for a semester, he/she will receive directly a PDF file with his assurance. If this assurance needs to be used as a document to an institution, we will plan the possibility of receiving it on the phone signed with an electronic signature by the administration which make it a valid electronic document.
Besides the digitalization of student services, you are also very active in digitizing the learning process?
Yes, for the winter session we will try to create a new way of signing the protocols with distance signing. Currently, the protocols cannot be signed off the university campus and if we get back to the old pandemic year or for example, if we need to turn to online mode of training, the lecturer will no longer have to come on site to sign the protocol which creates a lot of inconvenience.
UNWE also started the implementation of a project for digitalization of economic education entitled Economic Education in Bulgaria 2030 under the EU procedure Modernization of Higher Education Institutions with EU funding and with the participation of 3 other universities - the Economic Academy - Svishtov, the National Sports Academy and Burgas Free University as well as the Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria /KRIB/.
Within the frameworks of this project we already offer 15 joint academic programmes with our partners basсing on the principle that the students study some subjects at our university, some subjects at the partner university and thus the students have a common environment for development. In this project, we have also created six digital classrooms and two digital laboratories, which are very modern, with holograms, with 3D glasses and in general with very modern equipment in them. So that's part of the whole development process. We know that our students expect and require from us to be more modern and we try to keep that going as a process all the time. This semester we're going to do training for lecturers on how to use the digital classrooms and they're going to start creating digital content to put in the repositories. Each of these digital classrooms makes a connection to a cloud that is a repository of such digital materials. Each lecturer has to create these materials, put them out there so that they can broadcast them to students in the classroom.
There is a growing need for adequate responses to threats in cyberspace. Is the university secured against them?
The issue is complex. For several years our university has considered that living in a digital space hides many risks and many challenges. We have made great efforts in this direction. We have taken a number of regulatory measures that we are obliged to take by law. Along with it we have also complied with many best practices that leading companies are doing. Generally in the area of higher education, because of the funding trend in recent years, these issues have not been resolved everywhere. So we work with a huge number of students, with a huge number of student data, and there are quite serious requirements to us.
Months ago, for the first time in Bulgaria, the UNWE held a live competition on an online platform to test and improve penetration and cyber security skills. Do you plan to deepen your partnerships with companies in this area?
Yes, we held a similar Conference in April. It is part of a European and global format of BSides cybersecurity conferences. As part of the Conference, for the first time in Bulgaria, a competition was also held - Capture The Flag. Competitors actually conquer certain systems, i.e. try to hack them and respectively to break them and on this basis they receive points.
A few days ago I spoke with the organizers of the Conference and they expressed their desire for UNWE to host the same format for the second time. They even plan to make it two days due to the very high interest. We have always been open and supportive to such initiatives. We also have Master's degree programme in Cybersecurity and we plan to expand it into Bachelor's degree programme. Training young people in this direction is extremely important. They go on and occupy leading positions in leading companies and they need to have a rich general culture of what is cybersecurity.
What do you wish for the new academic year?
I wish all the current students, lecturers and employees most of all good health, good luck and success in the new challenges ahead.