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Report: Higher Ed CIOs Must Increase Tech Adoption

A report from Info-Tech Research Group says CIOs will play an increasingly important role in keeping universities competitive and accelerating digital transformation as student demand for virtual options grows.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) concept. Business man using smartphone, laptop computer on technology background, 4.0 industrial technology development, remote control, blue tone.
With COVID-19 came an increase in student demand for virtual learning options, as well as a need for colleges and universities to accelerate ed-tech adoption with current trends in mind, a recent report from the IT research firm Info-Tech Research Group said.

According to the 2022 Higher Education Strategic Foresight Trends Report, higher ed IT teams will play a central role in helping make the most of new digital learning tools as student and faculty expectations continue to evolve, and as the increased use of ed-tech platforms continues to change the way learning and instruction take place. The report’s authors advised that CIOs must keep an eye on ed-tech innovations in artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, data management and security, which could prove a deciding factor in a university’s institutional growth and sustainability, instructional value and research efforts.

The report noted four strategic points for IT leaders to consider over the coming months, and as such changes unfold:

  • Learn from industry about new approaches to security. With a growing number of users and endpoints on university networks, IT teams must find new approaches to securing networks that are essential to daily operations and courses.
  • Stay informed about the latest in hybrid learning and work. In order to meet the evolving expectations of students and educators, IT must keep up to speed about changes in the technology preferences and options available.
  • Learn about cloud adoption. As cloud-based systems become more common, IT leaders should consider the costs and benefits of moving to the cloud, as well as if an institution is ready to do so. Currently, enterprise systems at many institutions are not mature enough to support cloud-based infrastructure.
  • Learn how digital technologies are creating institutional value. IT will have a critical role in helping the university stay competitive by adopting innovative technologies that add value to education and improve people’s ability to do their jobs.

“The role of the CIO in higher education is becoming increasingly important,” Mark Maby, research director for Info-Tech, said in a statement. “However, the traditional hierarchy of academic institutions still limits the stature of the CIO. During the pandemic, IT was called upon to maintain the continuity of the organization. Now, leadership is again turning to IT to support digital transformation. With the continual demands to do more, IT is gaining a seat at the table, albeit fitfully.”
“The Four Driving Trends to Advance Digital Transformation in Higher Education.”
“The Four Driving Trends to Advance Digital Transformation in Higher Education,” as covered by Info-Tech Research Group’s 2022 Higher Education Strategic Foresight Trends Report.
(CNW Group/Info-Tech Research Group)
The report noted that many institutions will need to adjust priorities in order to scale up tech adoption, calling it “imperative” for higher ed tech staff to work with students, administrators, educators and other stakeholders “on a shared vision of the institution's future and IT’s role in it” moving forward.

“I think the biggest challenge that higher education is facing would be around the changing instructional model of education,” Maby told Government Technology, noting the rise in synchronous and asynchronous online and “hybrid” learning models during the pandemic.

“Initially, it seemed that students and instructors were more reluctant to move to an online virtual modality for delivering instruction,” he later added. “Since the pandemic, they’ve become accustomed to that type of modality. There’s now more acceptance and preference for certain aspects of that [approach to] instruction, especially from students ... The faculty are still trying to figure out how to manage.”

Maby said some of the main challenges moving forward involve keeping IT up to speed with changes in student expectations, as well as an increased workload placed on IT departments tasked with adopting new tools and processes and maintaining network security amid a rise in cyber attacks against universities, among other IT “pain points.”

And while many of the tools needed for new learning modalities are fairly basic — such as video conferencing and learning management systems that can enable student-faculty collaboration — Maby said instructors, administrators and IT leaders must collaborate to address challenges related to instructional design itself in order to spur adoption.

“It’s going to be an increased emphasis on instructional design, to design the way in which these basic tools like video conferencing are going to be used effectively,” he said. “It’s easy enough to put video online or into storage and have it accessible. It’s easy enough to set up video conferencing and so on. The real challenge is doing it effectively.”
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.