Universities' best tech investments, according to CIOs
This CIO roundup is part of the "Mobility in Higher Education" survey underwritten by Sprint Higher Education Solutions and conducted by the Education Dive editorial staff.
A university's technological investments can make or break campus operations. From infrastructure and data warehousing down to learning management systems, the devil is in the details when it comes to the information systems meant to keep life at an institution running like clockwork.
In the wake of our 2013 "Mobility in Higher Education" survey, Education Dive spent the past several months interviewing a number of higher ed CIOs at institutions ranging from four-year public and private universities to community colleges and for-profit schools. We asked them to weigh in on their institutions' best technology investments during their time in the position, and this is what they had to say.
Tim Ferguson, Northern Kentucky University: "Ultimately, I think it ends up being the SAP platform and with the data warehouse and those things. We’re still working toward the ROI with a European implementation, and that takes time. But I think we’re in a situation now where all of our data is in a data warehouse and we’re now starting to reap the benefits of analytics—even in some cases predictive analytics, having access to all that data. So I think even though it’s a large project, and a major investment, that’s been the university’s smartest decision."
Joe Mildenhall, Grand Canyon University: “Grand Canyon partnered with LoudCloud Systems on our new learning management platform. It’s allowed us to provide a fresh and great experience to our students and give us access to a level of analytical data we dreamt about in the past.”
Andy Jett, Baker University: "Our investment seven years ago in our ERP would be my answer. Before then our campuses and schools were working of disjointed systems with no consistency of data or workflow. Even though implementation was painful and we still have things we wish would work better, overall the efficiencies we gained from consolidating operational services across all sites and schools and changed the dynamic of our institution forever and for the better. Now we are in that place of maturity with the product that we need to see it move into supporting of the mobile environment for our students and staff."
Stephen diFilipo, Cecil College: "Wireless infrastructure."
Fred Tarca, Quinnipiac University: "It sounds somewhat patronizing, but it really is the people. Underneath all of this technology, and underneath all of these wires, underneath the hardware and underneath all of the phones and underneath all of the tablets, there is really a good group of people that support it. What we really try to do is hire the best possible employees and have some fun. Clearly, the best technological investment has been in the people that support all of this technology. In regards to just hardware and products and so forth, we’ve benefited from having a very homogeneous data center operation. We have a great relationship with Dell—they have served us extraordinarily well over the last 15 years in our data center, as well as Microsoft. We depend on Microsoft and Dell for our data center operations."
Joanna Young, University of New Hampshire: “I can’t name just one. 1) The technology & related training & support, made available to faculty so they can in turn appropriately apply it to UNH’s high-quality educational product. 2) 100% WiFi access in the residence halls, in direct answer to student requests expressed in my first days back in 2009.”
Baz Abouelenein, Kansas City Kansas Community College: "When we made the bandwidth upgrade to 100mbps, we opened the door for more multimedia-based applications and better response time from our servers. Recently, we made the investment that really made a big difference for us by upgrading our core data switch. It enabled us to sail in the sea of technical possibilities: VoIP, prioritize network traffic, to name a few."
Kim Tracy, Northeastern Illinois University: "We've just migrated to Google apps, which I think will stimulate more collaboration between students, faculty, and staff. Given Google apps is provided at no charge to Universities, it provides a good ROI (just based on the email use). Another good investment is the cell site, where the service provider pays the University for the location and we get excellent coverage for staff and students."
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