The levers available to reduce costs and improve quality in higher ed are all dependent, to some degree, on technology.
Increase the Number of Students: We can increase the number of students we admit each year without building new buildings, and increase the quality of learning all students receive as well. The key to growing our student body size, and increasing quality, is blended learning. Blended learning will allow us to better utilize our precious classroom and lab space, while simultaneously investing in course design and delivery. Blended learning will allow greater flexibility in class times, allowing current non-consumers to matriculate. Admitting more students, while holding down spending per pupil by increasing the utilization of high fixed costs investments (such as buildings), is the key to improved educational productivity (and lower tuition costs).
Improve Retention: The analytics revolution is upon us. We are at the point where we can, and should, be measuring, modeling and predicting student success based on data feeds from campus learning and student information systems. At-risk students can be identified early, and the efficacy of targeted interventions tracked.
Increase Applicants: Contributing to the open learning movement is more than just the right thing to do. Sharing the teaching and learning produced on campus with lifelong learners, and potential applicants, is simply good business sense. We do not need a top football or basketball team to attract national attention. Stanford is offering a free online course this fall on artificial intelligence, and so far over 120,000 people have signed up (not to mention all the amazing press coverage). Why can't every university follow this model?
Increase Alumni Giving: I have a theory that alumni giving will be directly proportional to the degree to which graduates can be integrated back into the campus experience. Courses built for blended learning have the advantage of being accessible from anywhere. What alumni would not want to have access to the course materials (lectures, readings etc.) and professors from their favorite courses? How many opportunities do we have to create mini-courses for alumni, also delivered in a blended format?
Grow Exports: The U.S. has the world's best system of higher ed. The rest of the world is massively under-served by postsecondary education. We can export our courses and degrees to highly motivated international students. Again, blended learning could allow much of this exported coursework to take place in the international students' home countries. They could come to the home campus for shorter time periods, and do much of the other work online.
The executive and academic leadership of every university should be asking the technology leader to submit detailed plans for increasing revenues, decreasing costs and improving quality. Campus technology leaders need to have a seat at the strategic table.
What would you add to this list?
When will it be common for the next university president to be recruited from a CIO position?