11 leaders shaping the future of higher education


Name/Title: Paige Francis, Chief Information Officer for Fairfield University, CT.

Bio: Northwest Arkansan turned New Englander, Francis is a successful executive IT leader with a wide range of experience including the ability to clearly define and implement strategic priorities for applying technology in any environment; to rally consensus across diverse functional, service and campus wide interests; to foster teamwork and collaboration in order to maintain and implement new technology; and to create a constant learning environment in which various teams gain knowledge from failures using temporary setbacks to produce new and effective innovations. Recently named to the Top 50 Most Social CIO’s in Higher Education as well as one of Computerworld’s 2014 Premier 100 IT Leaders.

The game-changer: Exponential growth of accessibility/connectivity needs. As we move more and more applications online, unfettered access is the expectation, by design. So selling the budgetary reallocation from tangibles (PCs, software, etc.) to intangibles (storage, space, and bandwidth) becomes the challenge. People like to ‘see’ what they’re buying and our future doesn’t necessarily support that.

Future trend: Wearable technology seems almost outlandish now, but after one day with Google Glass, I can envision this concept being a significant player in sharing experiences, facial recognition and demonstration/teaching.

Passion: I’m an advocate for the Arts and Sciences. I see immeasurable value in a solid core as a foundation for future degrees as well as immediate employment. As a CIO, my undergrad degree was earned in Communication which prepared me for a wide variety of situations from presentation to communication through thoughtful discussion and the ability to dial out to big picture. In graduate school I fine-tuned by technology skills and presence. As the mom of young kids, I also rally for K-12 funding in public schools.

Hobby: I enjoy volunteering my time in my kids’ school district. I also enjoy our rowing matches, getting caught up on DVR’d Bravo shows and planning trips home to visit family.

Quote/Belief: ‘It ain’t show friends, it’s show business’ which I shamelessly stole years ago from my friend Howard, currently on the road with the band Seether. It makes it easier for me to separate out how I want to react from how I know I should react. Personally I don’t ever want to inconvenience anyone, but as a CIO, security and scalability needs to outweigh personal convenience.


Name/Title: Phil Hill, Educational Technology Consultant and Analyst

Bio: Hill (@PhilOnEdTech) has spent the last 12+ years advising in online education and ed-tech markets. As an independent consultant and analyst, Phil helps education institutions develop effective strategies to understand and implement ed-tech and online program initiatives. Phil’s clients have included Western Governors University, the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, UCLA, California State University, DeVry University, Colorado Community College System, University of Maryland University College, Pearson, Cengage, Poll Everywhere, among others. Hill is also the co-founder of MindWires Consulting, a strategic consulting company that helps higher education institutions, K-12 school districts, and the companies that support them to make necessary changes based on the new world of digital education. He is also co-publisher of the e-Literate blog and co-creator of e-Literate TV. In addition to e-Literate, Phil has also written for EDUCAUSE Review, EvoLLLution, Inside Higher Ed, 20MM blog and is a frequent interviewee for ed-tech stories.

The game-changer: Despite the hype of adaptive learning as an automated, black-box, magic-bullet solution, the broader field of personalized learning is likely to be a game changer in higher ed. For the first generation of online learning, the tendency was to replicate the factory model of education (one size fits all) but just do it online. For the second generation, the ability to use online technologies to create multiple pathways for students and to personalize learning will be a strength that can even go beyond face-to-face methods (for any classes larger than 10 to 15 students). We’re already starting to see some real improvements in remedial coursework based on students’ use of personalized learning tools, but this has been in pilot programs to date. As this usage spreads over time, personalized learning, including adaptive data-driven systems, will present real change to our educational system.

Future trend: Personalized learning.

Passion: Transparency in education. Like Laura Gibbs, I believe in the open syllabus concept where students should be able to see what is in a course without having to enroll; while ed-tech vendors and open source providers can be very supportive of education, we should have an open view of how well the products and companies are doing; when schools adopt strategic technology initiatives, the process should be open and inclusive; schools should have their results (including academic performance of students) open for others to view. I realize there are risks involved, such as the over-simplification of college scorecards, but the general need for transparency is one that I firmly support.

Hobby: Traveling with family and experiencing local cultures. Whether that is simply a different town or region of California, or different locations internationally, my wife and I enjoy seeing new places and trying to embed ourselves with locals.

Quote/Belief: “I have to laugh, because I’ve out-finessed myself. My foe, my enemy, is an animal. And in order to conquer an animal, I have to think like an animal, and—whenever possible—to look like one. I’ve gotta’ get inside this guy’s pelt and crawl around for a few days.” – C Spackler