What higher ed IT issue in 2016 is most important?

Viewpoints – March IT Series – Part 4 of 5

The Top 10 IT Issues listed on EDUCAUSE’s infographic under the 2016 column are weighty. But then, IT expectations on higher ed have never felt higher, nor more focused. We can all agree that the Top 10 IT Issues of 2016 are on the list for good reason. But which issue is most important to each of our experts?

Our IT Series Experts

Opinions and insights provided by 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 fourth of a five-part series, we asked: What 2016 issue is most important to you?

Deborah Ludford NOCCCDDeborah Ludford: I’m going to have to say there are two that are most important, for me: ‘Information Security’ and ‘Student Success Technologies.’  I’m currently acquiring a Business Intelligence System for student success. It will monitor student activities across the lifecycle and point to students who are at-risk and also identify students who are doing well. Tracking things like, are the students actively doing what they need to do? Are they attending class, are they participating? In our state, an education plan is required so each student has one. We want to be sure that they are doing what they need to do to reach the goals set out in their plan. The BI tool will help us track actions, and we’ll be able to give each student a score. Scores can be trigger points for counselors to take action to reach out to offer support, or to reach out to praise them for a job well done. Currently, counselors have to wait for students to self-identify for help, so this will enable us to be more proactive.

In terms of ‘Information Security,’ I just don’t think it will drop off our radar anytime soon. We always have new types of hackers, new problems, so until we have staff who just focus on security, it won’t be going away. For a long time, I think higher education thought we were exempt from hackers, but recent years have shown that’s certainly not the case.

Jason PistilloJason Pistillo: For me, the trend that ranked fourth ‘IT Workforce Hiring and Retention’ is most important on the 2016 list. Hiring in these fields is a bigger challenge than ever before. Thankfully, the need is a lot lower. Mine is certainly lower. I’ve reduced a lot of IT staff because we’ve moved a lot of infrastructure to the Cloud. In the years 2000 and 2001, higher education institutions were implementing new Student Information Systems to deal with the threat of Y2K. Right after that, the dotcom boom and bust occurred, but a lot of folks had these big, on-premises system solutions that they had to maintain. Around 2011 and 2012, higher ed began to realize that it needed better infrastructure to implement and maintain new learning systems and CRMs. A 2011/2012 mistake would have been implementing a big, on-premises data center solution rather than being pro-active and going to cloud.

I also think that trend 10, ‘E-learning and online education,’ is going to be the number one IT trend in five years. There has to be a new breakthrough in this space…. Mobi-interface, a storefront, app integration like Salesforce. In the future I don’t think there’s going to be an online and on ground, it will just be school. It won’t be threaded discussions; it’ll be more than that. Very light didactic, open source, mentoring, small snippets of info dissemination… that didactic shift will lead to a different LMS, a more visual interface, a different way of collaborating. We have the potential to do so much more than the threaded discussion model of online ed. Why hasn’t someone come up with a wearable for higher ed, like the FitBit craze?

RiedstraCatherine Riedstra: As an educator, ‘Student Success Technologies’ is the trend that is most important to me. Although we’ve implemented some really exciting technologies that are moving the student success needle, we certainly haven’t harnessed the power of technology to the fullest extent.  So I hope it’s on the list in 2017.  There are some exciting student success efforts in the works. One promising technology harnesses big data to provide students with immediate feedback when they exhibit the behavior of a successful student in their student portal.  A few others are improving the student experience by giving students the power to complete enrollment and financial aid tasks from their smart phones. It’s my hope that these upcoming technologies begin to have an impact on student success in a big way.  Only time will tell!


Chris Chumley: It’s hard to argue with ‘Information Security,’ but I think ‘Student Success Technologies’ is most important because of its potential impact on the mission of the Institution. There’s a lot of pressure on schools today to prove what the ROI of the degrees they are providing really is. There are also a lot of alternative models to higher ed starting to grow, and they’re challenging whether the higher ed model we have basically had for the last hundred years is the right model…now is a time for innovation that really makes a difference in students’ lives. If I were the CIO of a school, that’s where I’d spend my money.

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. EDUCAUSE’s “Top 10 IT Issues: 2000-2016” were selected by EDUCAUSE, “with help from the IT Issues Panel and a representative sample of IT leaders in the community.”

Watch for the final installment of this series in two weeks, when our experts answer: What 2016 trend is least important to you?

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