Educause lists top 10 tech problems in higher education

DENVER — In a packed ballroom Thursday at Educause’s annual conference, Susan Grajek, the organization’s vice president for collaboration, community and research, revealed the top 10 tech issues for higher education in 2023.

“The pandemic has sparked a great rethink, upending previous models of management and work,” Grajek said. “In 2023, institutional and technology leaders are ready to embrace new approaches.”

Grajek’s speech was filled with technical concepts like “cybersecurity” and “privacy,” while also referring to “empathy” and “humanity” several times.

Educause’s 2022 IT Issues panel and higher education institutions and technology leaders identified these trends and their implications for universities. The report is due to be released on Monday. This is a sneak peek that underscores the need for higher education to move from data insights to data actions, to develop learning-first strategies, and to lead with humility.

Ensure IT leadership is a comprehensive strategic partner

CIOs need a seat at university leadership to “facilitate the dialogue between institutional aspirations and digital possibilities,” Grajek said. When CIOs are involved in institutional decision-making from the start, they can help guide the digital transformation of business and academic affairs in a proactive rather than reactive way. They also learned more about the college’s mission, operations and culture and were therefore better able to support it.

Develop, adapt or lose IT talent

With unemployment falling to record levels, the industry has surpassed tertiary education for IT talent in terms of pay, benefits, flexible work options, and in some cases work-life balance. Going forward, university hiring managers may need to offer compensation that may not meet internal standards, Grajek said.

Work culture may also need to adapt to build community among hybrid employees. To retain employees, employers need to better adapt to shifts in employees’ personal and career goals and promote a healthier work-life balance.

Jonathan Hardy, Villanova’s deputy chief information officer, also wants to see more meaningful progress in recruiting that takes into account diversity, equity and inclusion.

“Hundreds of schools have signed on to Educause’s CIO commitment to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Statement. Where are the results?” Hardy asked, noting that more work needs to be done for large-scale systemic change.

Lead with humility and openness

Once IT staff is hired, they want to have clear expectations about the responsibilities they will have, and they want to be empowered to achieve that, Grajek said.

Brian Basgen, chief information officer at Emerson College, says outspoken leaders hold their employees accountable to certain standards, while humble leaders have empathy for their employees.

“These two things aren’t usually linked by anyone, especially at the same time,” Basgen says. A leader with too much empathy but not enough accountability may find their team is failing. Likewise, a leader who holds his team to high standards without empathy may face retention issues.

“Excessive workloads are exhausting employees,” Grajek said. “It’s time to align capability and commitment.”

Update privacy and cybersecurity awareness

Grajek said the privacy and cybersecurity landscape has changed from a decade ago, and higher education has fallen behind other industries.

Universities need to update their cybersecurity and privacy awareness and training, especially given that members of their communities often entrust their information to institutions without fully understanding how important it is or will be in the future.

Grajek said the university’s information culture needs to “shift from ‘the more information is better because you never know when it’s going to be useful’ to as little data as possible”. This is especially true when working with third parties and considering the threat of ransomware attacks.

The latest legislation for higher education will help, said Pegah Parsi, chief privacy officer at the University of California, San Diego.

“FERPA [the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act] From — so sad — 1974,” said Passy. “We need an update that meets today’s needs. “

Leveraging technology for a frictionless student experience

Students need on-demand access to campus resources in a secure, private and accessible way, Grajek said. This will require investments in technology systems and employees to ensure a smooth experience when and where they need service.

Individual students should be able to define what success means to them, which can challenge institutional understandings of the traditional student journey. Grajek said the experience of college students should be personalized, and technology can help meet their different needs for blending digital and physical environments.

Using data to expand enrollment

Data is at the heart of admissions strategies, but many college cultures don’t emphasize data, Grajek said.

Data analysts would benefit if they could query data from a single source, said Karen Warren, deputy chief information officer at Wesleyan University.

“We’re a long way from that,” Warren said. “Right now, there’s still a lot of work moving the data around, trying to get it into the right place, and then you can extract the data and do what you need to do with that data.”

UW Stout assistant chancellor for learning and information technology Sue Traxler said ubiquitous (or at least improved) access to broadband connectivity could help increase diversity and enrollment.

From data insights to data actions

When institutions translate data analytics efforts into institutional action plans, they create the foundation for improved operational efficiency and improved student success.

“The focus of data analytics needs to shift from a historical approach that uses data to understand what happened to a future-proof approach that uses data to predict where we’re headed,” Grajek said. Such an effort will require leaders to collaborate with stakeholders to determine the path forward.

Those who use the data need to feel safe about the experiment. In addition, universities may need to hire staff with specialized analytical skills for this intelligence, and these staff may be integrated throughout the university.

Develop an IT support strategy that works in personal and virtual environments

Students and teachers can now work together in-person and remotely. Employees can also work from home and on campus. That means “everything is anywhere,” Grajek said, and “pandemic measures are not enough.”

Such an environment requires its own IT support strategy to optimize results. Grajek said a willingness to change is needed if universities are to overcome the challenges of developing robust digital campuses and manage students’ high expectations.

Individuals across agencies need up-to-date cybersecurity and data management training. IT staff needs to optimize and simplify computer configurations for end users. Institutions need to create a productive and supportive hybrid culture that supports members of the diverse communities they seek to create.

“I want a college board-level CIO, CTO or other IT leader, so [the institution] Emma Woodcock, chief information officer at York St., said, “Treat digital investment and design the same way you would design a physical campus.” John University, UK.

Develop a learning-first strategy, no matter the format

The pandemic has given teachers a crash course in technology tools to support teaching. At the same time, edtech companies and universities are also innovating on new technology products. These developments can support new ways of thinking about teaching.

“Courses should be designed to allow students to achieve their learning goals using the technological tools that will best help them achieve their goals,” Grajek said. Flexible, interoperable options powered by technology can reduce barriers and engage more students. Institutions will need to invest in supporting teachers’ efforts to access, experiment, and implement practices using these tools.

Manage IT costs, risks and opportunities

Many universities are facing delayed technical maintenance, Grajek said. She points out that technology systems are not just about administrative efficiency. They can provide data that may inform and impact the agency’s mission and business. But to make progress on this front, institutions may need to change their culture.

“Technology leaders need to help develop an institutional culture that says, ‘Here are all the problems we need to solve — let’s find a good solution,'” Grajek said, noting that a lot of times, many people first find the technology and then let it go Define problem work.

As the Educause conference progresses, attendees seem happy to be together in person, even if the challenges ahead aren’t for the faint of heart.

“It’s hard to imagine a more heroic or exhausted professional than the people who make up the Educause community,” John O’Brien, president and CEO of the association, said during the conference keynote. “The biggest fires have been put out, but that doesn’t take away the burnout and stress that sometimes persist.”

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