CIOs: 5 campus IT priorities for 2016 and beyond

The Campus Computing Project reveals IT priorities and trends in technology adoption, faculty buy-in, resource allocation and staffing.

Incorporating digital curricular resources for instruction, becoming ADA compliant, and hiring and retaining skilled IT staff are some of the top IT priorities for this year, and next, as listed by CIOs.

These are just some of the findings from the 2015 Campus Computing Survey, conducted by the Campus Computing Project (CCP)—the largest continuing study of the role of computing, e-learning and IT planning and policy in American higher education.

The data, collected last fall by the CCP, includes the perspectives of over 400 CIOs across public, private, and two- and four-year universities, and is used to identify narratives and compare trends across sectors.

Though Casey Green, founding director of The Campus Computing Project, emphasized during a recent CIO Priorities webinar hosted by Sonic Foundry that one percentage or one data point doesn’t describe everything, the overall trends are very consistent.

“I’ve been talking about the aggregate number for all institutions, but when we disaggregate the data by sector and segment, the numbers may shift a little bit—the priorities and the rank orders may be a little different, but the consistency of the messaging is quite clear in terms of what are the top issues [across institutions].”

Clear and Consistent Priorities for 2016 and Beyond

When surveyed, CIO respondents noted that the top IT priorities included focuses on instruction, staffing, user support, advancing the campus completion agenda, and IT security–trends that will continue over the next two-to-three years:

1.Assisting faculty with IT integration for instruction: Though this focus is a top priority for 4 out of 5 institutions, only 17 percent of campuses recognize technology efforts as part of the review and promotion portfolio. Yet, faculty share interest in supporting OER, even if they’re not as “sanguine” as CIOs when it comes to the implementation of digital curricular resources in instruction, notes Green. 87 percent of CIOs surveyed report OER will be an important source of course content in 5 years, though faculty aren’t convinced that that degree, due to concerns about quality, instructor choice, ancillaries and updates. “It’s an issue of faculty autonomy, an issue of cost, and an issue of leadership,” explains Green. 6 percent of courses, reports CCP, now use OER materials.

According to CCP’s data, 94 percent of CIOs surveyed agree/strongly agree that digital curricular resources make learning more efficient and effective for students; 87 percent agree/strongly agree that these resources provide a richer and more personalized learning experience than print materials; and 96 percent agree/strongly agree that adaptive learning technology has great potential to improve learning outcomes for students.

However, current deployment numbers are low: only 10 percent of general education classes use courseware, and just 4 percent of general ed courses use adaptive technologies.

[Next page: More Campus Computing trends]

2.Hiring and retaining qualified IT staff: Though it’s never been more important than now [think: cloud implementation, demands in student services, and requirements for security] to make investments in highly-skilled IT employees, 74 percent of survey respondents report that IT salaries are not competitive, 26 percent report reduced staffing, and 18 percent report funding cuts for professional development.

3.Providing user support: According to CCP data, less than 3 in 10 IT officers say that they do an excellent job in training faculty—a number that drops to 10 percent when discussing students. “So we have this big gap between the priority in things that they have to provide and the things that they actually do,” Green noted.

However, CIOs do say that assessment of digital resources and services for disabled users are very important issues. For instance, in most cases, it’s individual faculty members who teach a course that are responsible for making it accessible; yet, they are not trained to handle these issues. And only 50 percent of institutions have a strategic plan for ADA, Sec. 503 compliance.

“Ironically, the day we announced these results, Penn State was sued by the National Federation for the Blind concerning ADA access related to its LMS,” said Green. “So this is an issue that’s not going to go away…IT officers should be in conversation with faculty and on-campus offices that help disabled students to best provide services, and in the right way.”

4.Upgrading and enhancing network and data security: 46 percent of those surveyed had experienced an attack on the campus network in 2015, and 50 percent increased their IT spending toward this priority.

5.Leveraging IT resources to support student success (The Completion Agenda): Though this was reported as a major priority, only 21 percent assess the impact of IT on instruction, and just 27 percent report IT investments in analytics to be “very effective.” CIOs also noted that though the software has been purchased, little training has been done.

For much more information about rating the IT infrastructure, movement to the cloud, waning confidence in MOOCs, the growing use of video lecture capture, institutional demography of LMS providers, and much more, read the full survey report here, and watch the webinar here.

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