Viewpoints – March IT Series – Part 2 of 5
Information security, student success technologies, IT funding models, data. It surprised no one that these trends were tops in EDUCAUSE’s “Top 10 IT Issues: 2000-2016” this year. Our experts weigh in on why and, perhaps more importantly, why are we still talking and not taking firmer action to solve these issues?
Our IT Series Experts
Read on for opinions and insights from Deborah Ludford, District Director, Information Services at North Orange County Community College District; Jason Pistillo, President & CEO at University of Advancing Technology; Catherine Riedstra, Dean of Student Services at Cuesta College; and Chris Chumley, COO at CampusLogic.
In this, the second of a five-part series, we asked: What did you find least surprising about the inforgraphic/trends?
Deborah Ludford: The top three trends in 2016 are least surprising. ‘Information Security’ has always been an issue, but I feel like higher education is spending on it now. Breaches at some big brands—think Target, Home Depot, the Government – ramifications from all of these external breaches are really impacting higher education. I’m one of the few Community College Districts that has a Chief Security Officer, but I expect there will be more hires in this area.
‘Student Success Technologies’ is also not surprising. It’s a big emphasis for NOCCCD. We speak of it in terms of bringing technology to bear to make students more successful. Eliminating the things that took students a lot of time before means we can maximize their time once they are here, face-to-face. Face-to-face really helps the counsellors. For example, you don’t need to have them sit through a physical orientation. We can do that online and then when they get here we can talk through their goals in person. Education planning tools where students can go out and discover ‘what if I was a nursing major’ as opposed to a dental major’ are a big part of this, as well. We’re also developing a single source for our students to schedule all of their community college appointments in one place. If you can go online to set your doctor’s appointment and can get the results online, why not higher education?
Jason Pistillo: I’m not surprised that three of the top ten issues are about data. Data management requirements for schools these days are astronomical. You have a gigantic demand for fairly complicated data. ‘Institutional Data Management,’ ‘BI and Analytics’ and ‘Enterprise Application Integrations,’ these are hard issues that no one in higher ed wants to deal with—or doesn’t known how to deal with, yet.
‘Institutional Data Management’ just appeared in 2016—that’s a bit surprising, that it didn’t show earlier. Institutions are being scrutinized closely and have to report on how they are collecting, protecting and using information—both academic information and business or e-commerce info. Where the data collection isn’t standardized, it’s likely raising issues. For example, just managing something simple like a student’s address can become really complicated. My average student has three addresses: His or her dorm address, billing address and original address. That data got collected and managed over four years and was handled by a dozen different employees. The likelihood that each update was handled consistently across a few thousand student records is low, not to mention that if we changed any processes along the way, you have to account for that in your reporting. That’s a really simple example, and it just gets harder to manage student-student detail for award years, enrollment status, program changes, etc. We’re dealing with data management like never before and have to account for the ever-increasing data demands of the Federal Government. It feels like every time the Feds add on new regulation I have to add new IT staff people.
Catherine Riedstra: Least surprising, historically, is the continued appearance of ‘IT Funding Models.’ I’ve been working with technology in education since 1998 and funding has always been a challenge. I’ve heard IT compared to electricity. Electricity used to be the height of luxury, but now it’s ubiquitous and predictable. No one questions the electricity bill. IT is still seen as a bit of a luxury, but faculty, staff, and students see IT as a necessity, a given. For them, having basic IT infrastructure, hardware, and software should be like flipping a light switch and having electricity. They want to go to class, sit down, flip a switch and have technology available to them. It’s a constant conversation for schools: how do we fund the ongoing costs to maintain IT at a basic and current (within five years) level? It’s a relentless battle to match faculty, staff, and student expectations within funding realities.
It’s a little surprising that the funding issue dropped from number one to number seven in 2011. But then, this was when the effects of the recession hit us. Budgets were slashed. How to fund tech became almost a non-issue; we were trying to limit layoffs and keep classes. My hope is that the dip in 2011 is due to many schools institutionalizing the funding of IT in their budgets… because it would be great to not have to revisit this over and over again.
Chris Chumley: I’m not surprised that in 2016 the top issue is ‘Information Security.’ The breach with the IRS, the numerous school breaches, it’s having an effect on higher education across the board. Recent policy/legislation out of Washington around usage of student data has likely driven this trend to the top as well.
Data is a thread through all of the top 10 issues in 2016—again, not surprising. I’m biased, I think schools spend too much for in-house software because they’re still trying to manage their own infrastructure. Why spend millions upon millions to try to be a technology company when that’s not a school’s core competency? Since 2010 other industries have been getting rid of infrastructure and downsizing, but not the education space. People are starting to question historic IT delivery models in schools—developing custom products, building and staffing data centers. That’s the old school mentality of “if you wanted data you had to build it yourself.” IT has to move to more of a vendor/manager/governance model, and soon.
About the infographic and rankings
EDUCAUSE, a non-profit organization, has been tracking rankings of the Top 10 IT Issues in higher ed since 2000. The interactive graphic highlights yearly trends and also maps those trends across the 16-year timeframe. The issues were selected by EDUCAUSE, “with help from the IT Issues Panel and a representative sample of IT leaders in the community.”
Watch for part three of this series next week, when our experts answer: Does a particular year stand out for you?