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Educause ’22: The Top 10 IT Issues for Higher Ed in 2023

Making sure CIOs have a seat at the leadership table and reducing staff turnover are both key IT challenges in higher education today, according to the ed-tech advocacy organization Educause at its annual conference.

A graphic shared at the Educause Annual Conference last week identifies 10 key challenges for IT related to digital transformation efforts at universities.
A graphic shared at the Educause Annual Conference last week identifies 10 key challenges for IT related to digital transformation efforts at universities.
Source: Educause
With students growing more accustomed to the flexibility of online and hybrid courses, higher ed leaders are grappling with how to give CIOs more say in institutional decision-making to better manage growing IT networks, as well as retaining professors who now teach more online courses than ever before.

These were among the chief IT challenges for higher education described by Educause Vice President of Partnerships, Community and Research Susan Grajek in a webinar panel last week — “Higher Education’s Top 10 IT Issues for 2023.” Featured Wednesday as part of the online iteration of the Educause Annual Conference, the webinar focused on a recent report from the ed-tech advocacy organization exploring solutions to challenges such as these.

“Things are different from the way they were before the pandemic. It sparked a great rethink that’s upending previous models of management and working, and higher education is no exception. In 2023, we’re seeing that institutional and technology leaders are ready for a new approach,” Grajek said during the webinar, which was recorded last week at the in-person conference in Denver.

The 10 challenges identified by Educause were:

  • Making IT teams and CIOs a “full partner” in institutional strategic planning.
  • Making privacy and cybersecurity education and awareness part of the curriculum and faculty training.
  • Giving employees the ability to move up, down or sideways within the institution in pursuit of professional goals and fostering a healthy work-life balance.
  • Ensuring a “frictionless” student experience through technology, data insight and IT agility.
  • “Enriching the leadership playbook,” using humility and candor to make employees feel comfortable, engaged and supported.
  • Using data analytics to identify academic programs with high potential for recruitment to combat enrollment declines.
  • Turning data analytics into action plans for improving institutional performance and student success.
  • Keeping IT services up to date in support of remote or hybrid work.
  • Creating technology-enabled learning strategies for in-person, online and hybrid models that consistently put learning first.
  • Managing costs, risks and investments in new enterprise resource planning software.

The panel placed much of its emphasis on personnel needs, as well as a need for collaboration between university presidents, governing boards and “IT leaders who can see around corners” to better connect IT with overall institutional goals and create strategies to guide digital transformation efforts.

“They need a seat at the table,” Grajek said, adding that IT leaders can often feel “disconnected” from their institution’s overall strategic goals.

Touching on faculty and staff-related concerns, the panel highlighted the need to recruit and retain instructors and other higher ed employees, in addition to implementing professional development opportunities aimed at onboarding and training professors for changing responsibilities that come with virtual instruction.

The topic of retention was also the focus of a separate Wednesday panel at the online conference — “You’ve Got Them, Now Keep Them: Transformational Leadership to Retain High Performers” — in which several higher ed IT leaders discussed lessons from the “great resignation” regarding leadership and organizational strategies, including new training opportunities for staff and ways that management can help combat burnout.

Both webinars stressed a need for universities to implement new professional development opportunities as part of broader recruitment and retainment efforts. Among other strategies, Grajek suggested schools may want to update benefit packages to match the growing workloads of faculty and staff, whose responsibilities have changed with the introduction of new ed-tech tools for instruction.

“Consider deploying professional learning platforms. They enable staff to enroll in training and track their professional development plans and progress,” Grajek said. “They also enable managers to invest more strategically in staff development.”
Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.