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How can I persuade you to check the EDUCAUSE's 2016 Top IT Issues?

The reason that I’m hoping that you’ll check out the EDUCAUSE Top IT Issues materials is that I’m wondering what you think?

Here is the list of the top IT issues and strategic technologies:  

Top IT Issues:

  • Information security
  • Optimizing educational technology
  • Student success technologies
  • IT workforce hiring and retention
  • Institutional data management
  • IT funding models
  • Business intelligence and analytics
  • Enterprise application integrations
  • IT organizational development
  • E-learning and online learning

Top Strategic Technologies:

  • Incorporation of mobile devices in teaching and learning
  • Software as a service
  • Administrative or business performance analytics
  • Accessing online components of blended/hybrid courses from mobile devices
  • Mobile apps for enterprise applications
  • Service desk tool and management strategy
  • Learning analytics
  • Data collection and sophisticated analytics methodologies for information security
  • Application performance monitoring

My initial reaction to these lists is to wonder about audience. I’m pretty sure that edtech people will look at this list. We may use a publication such as this to compare our campus IT priorities with those of our peers and of the profession. We may cite the report to institutional leadership in the hopes gaining internal attention or resources to our initiatives. And we may use the report as a method to generate discussion and debate on our campuses about our own IT priorities.

But what about non-techie academic people?

What are your reasons for spending time reading (or not) reading the report?

EDUCAUSE did a really good thing this year in creating a terrific 2 minute video that synthesizes the highlights of the report. The video is well-crafted, and I think will resonate with anyone interested in postsecondary change.

The other thing that EDUCAUSE did that is really great is that they chunked the report into 3 themes (and I’ll cut and paste from the EDUCAUSE site):  

Divest— Higher education IT organizations are divesting of locally optimized and delivered technologies, architectures, and processes and moving to standardized, and cloud-based services and architectures.

Reinvest— Institutions are reinvesting in key areas to ensure readiness to manage a re-architected IT function and support mission differentiation with IT.

Differentiate— Colleges and universities are using IT as a strategic differentiator to enhance the institution’s particular culture, missions, and strategies, particularly in analytics and in teaching and learning.

The divest, reinvest, and differentiate mantra is one that, I think, will make sense to those both inside and out of higher ed IT.  It is easy to remember, meaningful, and actionable.  We should all be coming up with areas (no matter where we work in academe) to divest, reinvest, and differentiate.

My critique of the EDUCAUSE's 2016 Top IT Issues is much the same as my criticism of how our edtech profession connects with the larger world of higher ed. I keep wishing that the larger outcomes, goals, and problems of higher ed would be placed first.

Rather than a list of top IT issues, I’d rather see a list of top higher ed issues. Once that list is articulated it should then be possible for our technology community to explain how IT is relevant.

For instance, how would our discussion change about technology if the goal that we discussed is institutional sustainability / viability? Our days are dominated by the management of scarce (and often diminishing) resources. The demands on our departments, units, schools, and careers have expanded - while the people and resources to meet these demands have not kept pace. This is the story of everyone that I speak to in higher education.  Can we have a discussion of how technology can ameliorate postsecondary resource scarcity? How can we leverage technology to improve postsecondary productivity? How can we use technology to generate new revenues and/or reduce costs?

Or is the business problem of higher ed too narrow? Should we be discussing learning, educator support, student debt, and affordability? Do we start with challenges of access, costs, and quality - and only then turn to technology?

Whatever higher ed questions that we ask, and whatever problems that we seek to tackle, the answers may end up having nothing to do with technology. However, it is important that people with “technology brains” have a seat at the table for the discussion of big challenges in higher ed.  We offer not only domain specific expertise and experience - we also bring a way of thinking about problem solving that complements how are our non-IT colleagues think.

What would need to happen to convince you to read the EDUCAUSE article?  

How can this resource rise to the top of all the information and materials that are vying for your scarce attention?

How do you think that academic IT professionals can best contribute to the larger higher ed conversation?


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