5 considerations to realize the full potential of campus IT

Access is not enough! Why advanced technology supported by campus IT has become critical to a college’s future.

edtech777I’m a traveling man so I have the luxury of hearing views from institutions across North America on technology in education.  Soon I’ll be attending two higher education conferences in the same week (ACUTA and EDUCAUSE), sharing the insight I’ve gained from my travels. Sound exhausting? Well, it’s not as exhausting as it is exciting!

From my travels I see that higher education information technology has reached an inflection point—the point at which the trends that dominated thought leadership have motivated early adopters and are now cascading into the mainstream.

As I venture around all areas of the U.S. visiting various sizes of colleges and universities, I’m well aware of technology’s impact on the fundamental operations and success of these institutions–IT has become critical to higher education.

Today’s college students are some of the most avid digital natives you will ever meet. So you might say, “Yeah, technology on a college campus…It’s there, it has to be there. So what’s new? What’s the big fuss?” It’s no longer about a university having the basic technology capabilities. 60 percent of students said they wouldn’t even look at the college if it didn’t have free Wi-Fi everywhere–it needs to do more than that.

1.What is the school doing to keep ahead of the curve as students, faculty and staff are expecting more every day? What are you doing to provide a personalized and connected experience at that institution? Its all about balance. What are we doing to meet expectations of students and faculty? To either keep tuition down or at least show great value for money? Does our innovation retain the student longer, and does our innovation help guarantee that student a career? Or at least a good stab at getting one?

Higher education IT professionals have shifted their focus.  They’re looking less at tactical technical problems, but to more strategic business problems that make a difference to the bottom line. After all, cash is king!

2.Can the under-resourced IT departments of these colleges get a strategic voice? The good news, and as evident from the ACUTA and EDUCAUSE agendas, is that education technology (and the advances in blended learning, the opportunities offered by MOOCs, and the adoption of digital tools in the classroom) means the tide is turning.

There are three areas that higher education IT professionals should consider. These help prove the strategic value of the IT organization in the evolution of an educational organization:

3.Use innovative technology to deliver a personalized, connected (student/faculty) experience.  A personalized connected experience is the ability for students and faculty to seamlessly access content and applications using their preferred devices, from mobile phones to tablets, from anywhere at any time, connected to a new generation of intelligent networks and cloud courseware.

This is a perfect way for IT to help drive innovation and create value as it relates to a student’s reason for attending and a teachers’ reason to educate. A personalized connected experience can be the thing that differentiates your school from all other colleges.

For example:  A student arrives on their first day. Scans a QR code and the device is immediately onboarded to the college network, their records are automatically updated, and they receive a college app (complete with their personalized schedule, even their dorm information).  This allows them, and their parents, to focus on those first days of separation without worry.

4.Make IT strategic to the success of a college. By driving educational success and financial solidity through technology, IT becomes a critical factor to the overall operations of a university. Today’s technology-rich innovation offers support that meets the new expectations from students and teachers.

Technology through consumption models is one way to balance technology advancement and drive down costs. Solutions that are tailored to satisfy the unique needs of your education environments are what help fuel IT strategies that lead to student success.

For example, IT can be a premium product with an affordable price, and with an even lower total cost of ownership. This strategic change drives down the cost per student and helps your institution stand out as an option when a high school student is evaluating which college to attend. (Just ask California State University). Add to this new advancements in automated techniques, such as self healing equipment, SDN deployment tools, and interoperability with incumbent brands, and a college can make significant savings instantly which can help lower fees.

5.Drive real-time collaboration that leads to success in students’ education and learning experience. IT professionals should consider evolving the way higher education people communicate by leveraging the next generation information and communications technology (ICT) environment, thus lowering the total cost while improving the quality of education. ICT can be tied directly to the shared success for students’ outcomes (better connected) and lowering the cost per student (lower TCO). With an outcome-based approach, technology helps strengthen a college’s reputation and attract students and faculty in the process, while lowering tuition by being tied directly to the success of the IT project.

For example, using interaction management tools, a college can focus on every dollar of tuition, but not effect the consistency of education. This translates to a better student experience and improved brand reputation that works for the college.

One thing is clear: the inflection point is good news for every ICT person in higher education. Together with education technologists, CIOs can blaze a trail in the next generation education environment, and not only attract new students but do it steeped in business sense!

Neal Tilley is an Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise Education Solutions Specialist. This post was originally published on the Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise Blog here.

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