Friday, August 2, 2013

Educause: Top-Ten IT Issues, 2013: Welcome to the Connected Age

Educause has released its 2013 Top-Ten IT Issues article and Top-Ten Issues Website. They are excellent reads, documenting many of the challenges to education related to the disruption and enablement of technology.
 
From the article:
 
"The EDUCAUSE IT Issues Panel has identified its annual top-ten IT issues for higher education. This year's issues reflect the increasing interconnections among external forces, institutional strategic priorities, and information technology in higher education.
External Forces
 
"Technological innovations occurring in the consumer space, e-learning, and middleware, software, and infrastructure are bringing to higher education institutions new personal devices, applications, and environments; new options for developing, sourcing, managing, and delivering enterprise applications and services; and new opportunities and source materials for designing, delivering, and taking courses. Advances in data- and text-analysis software, data visualization, processing, and storage are making it possible to easily ask and answer increasingly more complex questions with data.
 
"The enduring global recession and fitful recovery have made arguably permanent changes to the economics of higher education. Moody's 2013 outlook for all of higher education is negative. All revenue sources—from tuition, state appropriations, research, and endowments—are "strained." Moody warns that "the US higher education sector has hit a critical juncture in the evolution of its business model" and that most colleges and universities "will have to lower their cost structures to achieve long-term financial sustainability and fund future initiatives."1 Along with changes in the economy, student demographics have also altered: more students are part-time, older, and non-residential. American Council on Education (ACE) President Molly Broad's conclusion for higher education is that "business as usual is not in the future cards and we must innovate."2
 
"Business practices have been evolving as well, and those practices are increasingly viewed as both foundational to any well-run enterprise and highly relevant to higher education. Advances in and ongoing experience with process reengineering and management, continuous improvement, project and portfolio management, shared services, and service management have made these practices both more rigorous and more flexible at a time when higher education is looking for ways to reduce administrative costs without impeding the core missions of teaching and research.
 
New Strategic Priorities
 
"The boundaries between academia and the rest of the world have never been more porous. These external forces are shaping the strategic priorities of higher education institutions. Four priorities in particular are widespread and highly pertinent to information technology:
 
  1. "Contain and reduce costs. The bleak economic outlook and reduced funding sources are making it imperative to reduce or at the very least contain the growth of costs. Efficiencies are sought, and business best practices are often viewed as the best path to achieving efficiencies.
  2. "Achieve demonstrable improvements in student outcomes. The practice of measuring, improving, and reporting student outcomes is moving from highly desirable to imperative. The window of opportunity for colleges and universities to shape how they define, measure, and improve student outcomes—rather than react to external requirements—is shrinking.
  3. "Keep pace with innovations in e-learning, and use e-learning as a competitive advantage.3 Whether driven by the explosive interest in open educational resources (OERs), most notably Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), or by explorations in using technology to develop and implement new academic credentialing models like badging and competencies, presidents, chancellors, and provosts are eager to use technology to help inform and transform postsecondary education.
  4. "Meet students' and faculty members' expectations of contemporary consumer technologies and communications. Students and faculty not only expect that they will be able to use their smartphones, tablets, and consumer-based apps in their academic work but also expect that their institutions' services will work as elegantly and effectively as commercial services.
 
"These strategic priorities are achievable, thanks to intensifying connections among data, systems, processes, and services. For years, higher education institutions have been building systems that gather, process, and report institutional data on siloed functions such as finance, human resources, facilities, research activities, and student performance. Institutions have created siloes of themselves as well, rarely seeking to connect their data, systems, processes, or services with those of other institutions. It is only by connecting these siloes—within and across institutions—that we will be able to achieve our institutions' common strategic priorities.
 
Internal Transformations and Disruptions
 
"All these roads lead to information technology. As the thinking goes, costs can be lowered by automating reengineered business processes and moving applications to outsourced, open source, or cloud solutions. Information technology can enable state-of-the-art analytics with mature data warehouses and advanced business intelligence systems that provide real-time and accessible reporting, dashboards, and data visualizations as well as systems that provide just-in-time advice and alerts to enable students and their advisors and instructors to take action to improve performance or enable administrators to optimize services and processes. Information technology can help shape and implement new e-learning strategies.
 
"Whether we use the term disruption, transformation, opportunity, or simply change, the impact on IT departments and staff is enormous. IT organizations are scrambling to devise new strategies for security and support in response to explosive uses of data and the consumerization of information technology (and, with changing demographics and e-learning strategies, the consumerization of higher education). CIOs are struggling to fund, resource, and organize the numerous and simultaneous new initiatives. And IT managers and staff are trying to adapt their roles and skills to an entirely new environment.
 
Welcome to the Connected Age
 
"Higher education, meet the business world. Information technology, meet the consumer. Faculty, meet OERs. Siloed institutions, meet cost-cutting legislatures and financially strapped students. From every vantage point, independence is giving way to interdependence. Underlying all of this is the influence of information technology in multiplying connections among people, data, processes, and systems.
 
"EDUCAUSE President and CEO Diana Oblinger has identified higher education as entering a new connected age. In the March/April 2013 issue of EDUCAUSE Review, she noted: "Higher education has always been about more than information, no matter how quickly that information can be disseminated or how much of that information can be stored. Our institutions have always been communities driven by connections—connections among faculty, students, research, education, disciplines, communities, and the institutions themselves. In the connected age, it doesn't matter where the information is, where the student is, or where the faculty member is. What matters is the value that comes from the connection. . . . In the connected age, data, collaboration tools, and communities can come together in ways never before possible. . . . Technology makes the connected age possible."4
 
"The top-ten IT issues of 2013 illustrate these growing connections and our current responses to them. Some issues most clearly reflect external forces and how those forces are shaping institutional strategy. Some issues focus on the ensuing internal transformations and disruptions. Taken as a whole, however, this is a story of higher education's first steps into the connected age.
 
Top-Ten IT Issues, 2013
 
  1. Leveraging the wireless and device explosion on campus
  2. Improving student outcomes through an approach that leverages technology
  3. Developing an institution-wide cloud strategy to help the institution select the right sourcing and solution strategies*
  4. Developing a staffing and organizational model to accommodate the changing IT environment and facilitate openness and agility
  5. Facilitating a better understanding of information security and finding appropriate balance between infrastructure openness and security
  6. Funding information technology strategically*
  7. Determining the role of online learning and developing a sustainable strategy for that role
  8. Supporting the trends toward IT consumerization and bring-your-own device*
  9. Transforming the institution's business with information technology*
  10. Using analytics to support critical institutional outcomes*

*Also one of the 2012 Top-Ten IT Issues"
 More detailed discussion on each of these issues is available in the article and report.

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