A new study reveals a 20 percent improvement in IT integration and maturity with a focus on knowledge portals. Much of this has been fueled by a growing demand for educational services without a growing budget. Universities have begun to allocate more of their budgets to improving technology and functionality for while keeping costs down.
The TDX 2017 Study had several important insights into the state of IT in higher education.
Surveys indicated the most common challenges IT professionals in the higher education system are still facing:
- Lack of resources of resource optimization (49 percent reported).
- Transparency, visibility, and reporting (13 percent).
- Improving the student experience with IT (12 percent).
- Communicating the value of IT organization to stakeholders (11 percent).
- Security and compliance (8 percent).
- Formulating medium- to long-term visions (7 percent).
In the survey, respondents were asked to self-rank based on these levels of IT maturity:
- Level 1 indicates no system or processes are in place to manage service projects or requests. This environment still relies heavily on email and manual processes.
- Level 2 indicates there are some processes in place, such as those used for intake and tracking but they aren’t well defined or implemented.
- Level 3 indicates an environment with well-defined processes and effective support systems. Deviations are quickly detected and workflow is embedded with a level of control.
- Level 4 indicates a highly evolved organization with detailed systems, embedded workflow, and an advanced level of oversight.
- Level 5 indicates an environment that has been technologically optimized, responsive, and adaptive.
Technological implementation and spending are on the rise, but 47 percent of the study participants still ranked themselves at only level 1 or 2 of IT maturity. This is an improvement from the 2016 study, in which 59 percent respondents ranked at that level.
One of the ultimate goals of increased IT integration is creating a self-service environment where students are able to solve issues and find solutions using automated technological resources.
James Young is the chief learning officer for the Society for College and University Planning and formerly worked as the founding chief information officer for the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology. He discussed the most significant beneficial changes: big data, the internet of things, and the cloud.
“All campuses need to be in the data game!” he said.
Gathering data allows higher education institutions to successfully bridge diverse campus functions in a way that ensures the student learning experience is optimized and that the schools themselves are allocating resources efficiently.
The internet of things (IoT) has a lot of potential in the realm of higher education. According to Young, smart devices provide the ability to run the day-to-day operations of a campus more effectively and efficiently. Some examples of this are lights on timers or that are activated with motion or keyless locks that can be reprogrammed when new students arrive instead of requiring new locks.
Utilizing cloud technology has been another easy adoption for many schools. Higher education has been slowly shifting from locally housed networks to remote software applications for many of their technological needs. However, it is then necessary to balance software relationships to ensure seamless access and support to students, faculty, and staff.
Greater investment needed
With greater implementation of technology comes a greater responsibility for cyber security.
Young said, “Without a doubt, cybersecurity is a major concern and a critical investment for a collage.”
Universities are more exposed than they may realize, and technology is expensive to fix. Instead of allocating funds to increase cyber security, many IT departments are investing heavily in the systems, staff, and training needed to drive IT forward. Spending money on security is often delayed – especially when there has yet to be a security breach.
However, according to Young, “A database breach is always top on a chief information officer’s mind.” Funding might not be as readily available for this necessity, but it is still a priority and will ultimately require greater financial investment from universities.
Technology is playing an increasing role in the way higher education facilities operate at every level. Advising, adaptive technology, and distance learning platforms will all continue pushing this trend forward.