A range of issues and concerns, new developments and ongoing trends promise an interesting 2017 for higher ed tech. With the spring semester on the horizon and new funding and regulatory realities on the way with the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump, we reached out to four CIOs to get their opinions on what college and university tech chiefs should expect.
Count on an increased focus on the use of predictive analytics to improve student success metrics such as student retention and time to graduation. Although this has been the case for some time, as funding continues to be more challenging, campuses will seek greater efficiencies through automation to decrease operational/administrative costs.
During the U.S. Presidential campaign, both candidates cited cybersecurity as a concern. This may translate into an increased willingness by campuses to invest in cybersecurity.
There will be increased investment in assessment technologies. In this case, assessment doesn't just refer to tests/examinations, but includes technology services needed to collect/aggregate/analyze data needed for academic program assessments, accreditation, etc.
I don't think it will take off in 2017, but I'd personally like to see more use of the Internet of Things (IoT) combined with analytics to provide greater personalization and improved customer experience for our students, faculty and staff.
My top prediction is that technology budget pressures will continue to overshadow objective strategies at struggling institutions, and that those schools that fail to maintain pace, technologically (at the infrastructure level and at the execution level) with their peers, will find that their technology deficiencies will now be glaring decision points for prospects choosing to come or not to campus.
The challenge to sustain technology, at the levels of currency and service demanded by this (and future) generation of students, is the most immediate concern in 2017. Demographics and trends in enrollment won’t provide any “magic bullet” budget solutions for this problem, but rather, technology service and information technology departments at higher educational institutions must “renormalize” their resources, and marshal their existing capacities, to address their most pressing technology deficiencies, where they are needed most and needed, now.
This “renormalization” may take the forms of: (a) changing budgeting approaches, (b) changing the mix / inventory of existing personnel, (c) remodeling the deployment of technology on campus, and (d) reevaluating the use of technology, for technology’s sake. Business or education as usual won’t cut it.
The influence of consumer Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) on Higher Education spending and implementation will continue to broaden. More and more institutional technology spending and decision making will spread into areas like Marketing and Communication, because of the capability to deploy effective, affordable, cloudbased tools, without the intervention and support of campus IT. This will mean that Higher Ed CIOs must begin to model themselves as leaders, enablers, and influencers and not simply technology gatekeepers.
One of the most interesting categories of technology to watch in the coming year is virtual and augmented reality. Davidson is actively exploring both administrative and academic applications of VR and AR, but I think higher education as a whole is only beginning to understand and realize the immense potential of these technologies to enhance and even transform the educational experience. More administratively, I’m deeply concerned about the lack of diversity in the technology profession generally, both in and outside of higher ed, alongside a growing shortage of skilled technology workers. Our profession has made very little progress in addressing its gender and race/ethnicity gaps, and I think we have to get serious about this in the coming year.
New attention to privacy and fears of surveillance will force IT leaders to spend more time negotiating clear and transparent privacy and appropriate use policies. Campus IT will continue to get more comfortable with cloud hosting of services. Microsoft Azure’s aggressive foray into the education market will grow their market share in education and make more CIOs see cloud hosting as a mainstream choice.
Software to improve student retention and completion, such as tools provided by Starfish, Civitas, EAB and Blackboard, will move from the pilot and early-adopter phase and start to become part of the mainstream core services provided by IT.
Investment of time and energy in improved information security policies, processes, and tools will continue to grow, but despite this many campuses will face major and embarrassing incidents resulting from denial of service attacks, ransomware, and release of confidential data. A new generation of cloud-hosted tools, along with demand for security improvements such as multi-factor authentication, will drive the adoption of new identity management tools and systems.