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Tech as a Service

October 17, 2013

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Despite the buzz about cloud computing and massive open online courses in the last year, colleges and universities are either slow to adopt these technologies or skeptical of their potential to provide a sustainable future for higher education, according to the findings in the 2013 Campus Computing Survey.

Four of the top five issues chosen by the CIOs, CTOs and other high-ranking IT officials surveyed all relate to IT as a service, from helping faculty use technology in the classroom to leveraging resources to help students succeed. Those findings may indicate that colleges and universities are moving away from focusing on specific products and vendors and toward a more holistic view of technology. Institutions across the spectrum rate faculty training as the most pressing issue, with the lone exception of community colleges, which singled out student success.

Top Issues, 2013 Campus Computing Survey
Assisting faculty integrate IT into instruction 79%
Hiring/retaining qualified IT staff 73%
Providing adequate user support 72%
Leveraging IT for student success 72%
Mobile computing 67%

“The instructional integration of IT, user support, mobile computing, online education, and leveraging IT for student success are all service issues that support larger institutional goals and priorities,” said Kenneth C. Green, the founding director of the Campus Computing Project. “Although the numbers may vary by sector, there is a clear message in the new survey data that the top campus IT issues are really about enhancing and expanding IT services.”

The Campus Computing Survey, presented each year during the annual Educause conference, this year includes responses from 451 institutions of all classifications. Four-fifths of respondents participated in last year’s edition. (Disclosure: Green writes the "Digital Tweed​" blog for Inside Higher Ed.)

It’s almost been one year since The New York Times dubbed 2012 “The Year of the MOOC,” charting the rise of the new type of online education that promised to teach hundreds of thousands of students per course for a fraction of the cost of a face-to-face course -- if not for free.

The IT officials surveyed by the Campus Computing Project have only bought into half of that claim. More than half, or 53 percent, said they see MOOCs as an effective way to deliver online education, but only 29 percent believe MOOCs offer a viable business model.

That may be because many IT officials are skeptical about outsourcing online educational services to a third party -- a trend that has pitted faculty members against administrators at institutions like Duke, Harvard and Rutgers Universities. About one in every four institutions, or 23 percent, reported they already outsource at least some part of their online offerings, and one-third of respondents see it as a financially sustainable way forward. The main exception is private universities, where that number jumps to 62 percent.

Investing in online education is still seen as a less effective strategy than putting those funds to use elsewhere. Investments in the former were rated very effective by 42 percent of respondents, way behind library resources, administrative services and on-campus teaching, at 67 percent, 64 percent and 62 percent, respectively.

Effectiveness of Campus Investments in IT, % "Very Effective"
Library resources and services 67%
Administrative information systems and operations 64%
On-campus teaching and instruction 62%
Student services 54%
Academic support services 51%

The survey suggests cloud computing could become an area of tremendous growth in the next several years, with 66 percent of respondents saying they believe it will play an important role. Yet the move to the cloud is taking longer than anticipated. Only 7 percent of institutions have moved their administrative services systems to the cloud, and by 2018, only one in every ten institutions plans to do so.

Cloud computing providers have been more successful at attracting customers to move their learning management systems. About 42 percent of institutions either have moved their LMS to the cloud or are in the process of doing so -- a development that continues to challenge Blackboard’s share of the market.

Not counting the company’s stake in Moodlerooms, the survey estimates Blackboard controls about 41 percent of the market, a decline of 30 percentage points in six years. In addition to losing market share to companies hosting their services in the cloud, Blackboard now also faces a more crowded market. Instructure, the company behind Canvas, entered the fray in 2008 and now registers in the high single digits, while open-source alternatives like Sakai has established a foothold among private institutions.

Largest LMS Providers
Blackboard 41 %
Moodle 23 %
Desire2Learn 11 %
Instructure (Canvas) 8 %
Sakai 5 %

Blackboard's senior vice president of product management, Mark Strassman, said in a statement that the situation is less dire than the numbers would suggest.

"We're seeing good growth globally and our customer satisfaction levels are higher than ever," Strassman wrote. "But we're not just an LMS company. We're pleased that Learn remains the leading LMS in the U.S. and equally excited to be the market leader in multiple other product categories including mobile apps and mass notification and communication solutions, analytics and Web conferencing -- many of which are cloud or SaaS delivered."

One area that is seeing broad adoption is the mobile space. In three years, the number of institutions reporting that they have activated mobile apps has nearly quadrupled, from 23 percent in 2010 to 79 percent this year. The rise of tablet computing appears to be fueling that growth; 86 percent of respondents rate tablets as very important in IT planning, beating out smartphones (82 percent) and laptops (62 percent).

As students and faculty members substitute laptops for tablets and smartphones, the devices present an increasingly large security risk. Hacking still represents the most common security incident across most campuses, but device theft has nearly doubled since last year, leapfrogging past identity management issues as the second most frequent. In fact, the loss of confidential data by means of having a laptop, smartphone or USB drive stolen ranks as the top security concern.

The 2013 survey provides more evidence suggesting universities are rebuilding after the economic downturn. About one-fourth, or 24 percent, of institutions faced budget cuts this year, a slight downtick from 27 percent in 2012. Thirty-seven percent reported larger budgets, up 4 percent from the year before. While the numbers appear to be leveling off, less than half as many institutions are seeing their budget cuts this year compared to 2009.

 

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