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EDUCAUSE releases the top IT technologies for 2016

Annual report from higher education’s largest IT association discusses the top IT concerns and technologies for institutions this year.

educause-top-ITHigher ed IT is in the midst of divesting, reinvesting and differentiating its technologies and strategies for 2016, according to the annual EDUCAUSE report on the “Top 10 IT Issues and Top 10 Technologies for 2016.”

With the aim of providing a roadmap for colleges and universities navigating the opportunities and challenges IT presents, and based on data about members’ (higher ed IT leaders, CIOs and faculty members) actual plans, information security is the highest rated issue for 2016.

“In the digital age, threats come from all angles,” said Susan Grajek, vice president of data, research, and analytics at EDUCAUSE. “Because of this, information security is the highest-rated issue this year, as institutions seek to protect technology and data.

According to the report, college and universities still have a lot of work to do to secure networks, systems and applications; develop security policies; educate campus IT users; and reduce institutional exposure to information security threats.

Because the report describes the technology investments institutions are making in 2016 and not simply the technologies IT professionals are reading or talking about, the association hopes that institutions can use the report as a guide to consider which technologies they might focus on, where they might be lagging, and where they might be leading.

The report also notes that the focus is on “strategic” technologies versus “operational” technologies; or, rather, focuses on relatively new technologies institutions will be spending the most time implementing, planning for, and tracking in 2016 than mature, more commonly deployed technologies (such as financial information systems or networks) that may be among the mission-critical technologies.

This year, the 10 issues reflect 3 overarching themes: divest, reinvest and differentiate.

IT organizations are divesting themselves of technologies that can be sourced elsewhere and of practices that have become inefficient. They are reinvesting in information security and mobile; and they are differentiating by using analytics and other educational technologies to set themselves apart in student success, affordability, and teaching and research excellence, describes the report.

“In many ways, colleges and universities are mistakenly expecting the existing ecosystem—their people, processes and culture—to be able to support, without change, today’s new and very different technologies,” said Grajek. “The Top 10 Issues identify [these] three major takeaways for how higher education leaders can shift their approach to facilitate this need for transformation.”

(Next page: EDUCAUSE report’s key takeaways)

According to the annual report, the are many interesting findings for 2016:

  • Although mobile technologies appear frequently on the list, unlike last year, they do not predominate.
  • Analytics, however, is permeating many higher education functions, appearing on the list in relation to learning, business performance, information security, and application performance.
  • Institutions are paying attention to technologies that can refactor the management and delivery of IT services, as well as to selected mission-based or business-related technologies. The domains the report predicts will make the most progress over the next five years through technology adoption are analytics, cloud sourcing, communications/networking, and—only within doctoral universities—research and scholarship.
  • Three technologies that were among the 2016 Top 10 were moved to EDUCAUSE Core Data Service benchmarking because they are becoming more widespread (deployed institution-wide in more than 30 percent of institutions): Business intelligence/reporting dashboards (also the number one strategic technology of 2015), enterprise identity and access management solutions (number four), and unified communications and collaboration (number seven).
  • For the first time in three years, EDUCAUSE predicts that one of the Top 10 technologies—service desk tool and management strategies—will be “universal” (deployed in 81-100 percent of institutions) within the next 5 years.
  • Seven other technologies will achieve “mainstream” adoption (deployed in 61-80 percent of institutions): incorporation of mobile devices in teaching and learning, SaaS, business performance analytics, mobile app development, accessing online components of blended/hybrid courses from mobile devices, mobile apps for enterprise applications, and learning analytics.
  • Looking to the future, EDUCAUSE notes that institutions will devote most attention to tracking these technologies: next-gen LMSs, adaptive learning, mobile data protection, use of big data in learning analytics, uses of the Internet of Things (IoT), games and gamification, cloud-based security services, software-defined networks, open educational resources (OERs), and use of big data in institutional analytics.

The Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2016

[Numbers in parentheses are the 2015 rankings]

1.Incorporation of mobile devices in teaching and learning (7)


3.Administrative or business performance analytics (4)

4.App development—responsive design, hybrid, et cetera (2)

5.Accessing online components of blended/hybrid courses from mobile devices

6.Mobile apps for enterprise applications (3)

7.Service desk tool and management strategy

8.Learning analytics

9.Data collection and sophisticated analytics methodologies for information security (18)

10.Application performance monitoring (new in this survey)

“The bar is high: Students and faculty expect their courseware and academic systems and services to function like major retailers and content providers,” concluded Grajek. “Colleges and universities have made significant investments in their physical infrastructure and services over the past several decades to differentiate themselves from the competition and to attract and retain the best students and faculty. Technology now has the potential to offer an arguably even greater value by helping to transform, not the facilities and food, but the very experience and process of learning, scholarship and community.”

For much more detailed information, strategies, technologies, and the methodology, read the full report, “Higher Education’s Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2016.

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