What's on Top of Mind of University CIOs

What's on Top of Mind of University CIOs

The continuous evolvement in the field of technology arises the need of CIOs in every education institution.

Chief Information Officers are the senior executives responsible for seamless information and communication technology within the education institute. The role of a CIO extends to IT Support Provider, Informaticist and IT Strategist/Integrator, IT Educator, and in some cases Business Partner as well.

In one of the conferences by EDUCAUSE some education CIOs shared their perspective on the emerging roles of these leaders wherein Thomas Hoover, CIO from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga says, “The whole focus of IT is no longer keeping the lights on, making the video go. It’s more helping the university fulfill its strategic mission, which is engaging in the classroom, which is helping the professors to utilize technology.”

While the job of a CIO has always been racing between using the best of latest technology and keeping it cost efficient it has been never this challenging before. The desire of the organizations to integrate the best technology and work seamlessly as to reinvent themselves digitally while maintaining strict business continuity and staying vigilant from the constant threats, both within and without makes it challenging for education leaders to step into the shoes of the CIOs.

It is important for the EdLeaders to understand that the role of the CIO is not to bring the best technology on the table but to make sure that the goals and objectives within the organization are being fulfilled with the best use of technology. To make this point clear, parallel to this point is best illustrated by a statement by James Duderstadt, former president of the University of Michigan:

Decisions involving digital technology raise very key strategic issues for colleges and universities requiring both attention and understanding at the very highest levels of institutional leadership. Technology is comparable in importance to other key strategic issues such as finance, government relations, and private fund-raising where final responsibility must rest with the president. The pace of change is too great and the consequences of decisions too significant to simply delegate to others such as faculty committees or chief information officers. The road ahead is littered with land mines and tipping points that require informed attention by the executive leadership and governing boards of academic institutions. Leadership on technology issues must come from the president and the provost, with the encouragement and support of the governing board.”

The Huffpost talks on Top 10 IT Issues in Higher Education with Joanna Young, CIO at Michigan State University and Stephen diFilipo, CIO and Strategic Digital Advisor to understand more about the Top Most concerns CIOs have. The article highlights the concerns to be in regard to the Security, Optimizing Education Technology, Student Success Technology, IT Workforce, Institutional Data Management, Funding Models, Analytics and more such.

Similarly, in a post by EdTech: Focus on Higher Education on Priorities Spotlighted by University CIOs, the data indicates that that security and privacy issues are their biggest concern, followed by staffing concerns and funding issues.    

Based on the posts mentioned above and other resources we have made a list of the top 4 concerns of the university CIOs. The following pointers highlights the same.

1. Security

The biggest concern of CIOs still remain the security in regard to the vulnerability of data and cybercrimes.  CIO are seeking creative ways to manage security and looking for IT security breakthroughs to help institutions spend more time leading other top-level priorities. Discussing the same Joanna Young speaks, “Security a priority in higher education is indicative of the reality of cyber security in 2016 exacerbated by the ongoing tension between institutional culture of openness and the need for standards and policies. Higher education CIOs and CISOs, who have to partner effectively, still have to influence individuals and departments to buy into common sense practices.

Stephen diFilipo adds “Security in Higher Education takes many forms. I want to focus on a high level view of security. I would suggest a ‘security council’, or some empowered group be convened to conduct a benchmarking assessment or maturity index assessment to determine the state of the organization against a national standard. From such an effort I would hope a role would be defined for a senior level position to be responsible for security (data, network, systems, etc.).

2. Online Learning Demands

In spite of a lot of buzz just a few years ago, the survey reveals that the number of colleges exploring massive open online courses (MOOCs) has dropped by 38 percent in the last three years.

One possible reason cited in an article on The Memo is a high dropout rate of students who enroll in MOOCs. The survey finds that online learning programs are largely considered the same as traditional academic ones — only 11 percent of universities have a separate support unit for online students.

In regard to online education and e-Learning Joanna Young says, “I’m not crazy about this apparent segmenting of “online education.” I think that’s a bit “five minutes ago.” We should be talking about digital learning pathways that can include a variety of experiences that could range from highly to barely online. However, all learning experiences and outcomes should be digitally-enabled at a minimal level, so that students can put together and portray the pathway that works best for them.

3. The Dependence On Cloud

The mass shift to the cloud has brought a revolution to the education industry. It is estimated that sometime between 2017 and 2018, most IT workloads will be in the public cloud, and plenty of data show that public cloud is right around 30% cheaper than private cloud in conservative terms, all costs considered. That's what the CIO will have to manage closely over the next two years. The majority of CIOs say their universities are using cloud for email, learning management, social networking, desktop tools and data storage.

Only about 15 percent report cloud being used for their data centers. A MeriTalk survey from late last year indicated that a whopping 81 percent of IT leaders planned to spend more on cloud in 2017. Tom Dugas, the director of security and special initiatives at Duquesne University, tells EdTechMagazine that cloud has a ton of cost-savings benefits for universities.

The biggest area that universities could use the cloud for is in infrastructure or platform as a service, but some aren’t there yet,” says Dugas.

4. The Budgets

The proportion of increase in the IT budget  concerned to the IT expectations still remain a big challenge for the CIOs. These leaders believe that the IT budget needs to increase. However, Joanna Young says, “This needs to be in context of the funding and business model of the institution, and it needs to pay attention to culture. CIOs need to understand the written and unwritten rules of how money is allocated in order to influence prioritization towards the right technology commitments. Money is just a tool. Know how to make it work for you.”

It seems that the University CIOs are facing a lot of challenges in a controlled world of IT that is being reinvented every hour. These leaders who are held responsible for taking care of the stakeholders’ happiness are continuously making choices that cater to the needs of the institutional goals along with tough challenges paved throughout their way. 

And at last don’t forget to get in touch with these Education CIOs over twitter to engage in the community and learn new things.

Share your insights in the comment section below. 

About the Author
Author: Priyanka Gupta
Priyanka is a blogger by profession and has an increasing interest to write about the edtech space. While writing she keeps in mind the educators to come up with right resources and ideas which might be relevant for them in relation to effective use of technology in their profession and institutions/classrooms.
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