I was taking a look at EDUCAUSE’s 2014 list of the top-ten IT issues facing higher education and was struck that—for the first time in this century—EDU IT’s top focus is on improving student learning!
1. Improving student outcomes through an institutional approach that strategically leverages technology
Too often technology is the shiny cart put before the horse of learning, when we should always be asking how technology’s cart can be changed to speed and free learning’s horse. At long last, this EDUCAUSE list says it’s time for us to focus first on learning and then on what technology can do to support it, rather than our all-too-familiar custom of focusing first on new technology and then betting it will support student success.
Books are heavy
EDU IT can work—and has worked—to improve student outcomes in a variety of ways: a lot of them revolving around infrastructure for the delivery and consumption of teaching and learning. EDU IT has done far less, however, to support innovation in content for learning. The majority of K12 and higher learning still hinges on book-based materials that haven’t seen a radical technical change since Gutenberg. Books are heavy, expensive, linear, material and finite.
Meanwhile outside our schools, innovation abounds in the development and delivery of content for learning. One of the most powerful ways EDU IT can improve student outcomes is to focus on supporting the adoption, adaptation and creation of post-book learning experiences that make it easier and cheaper for students to access materials and that track learning pathways and outcomes to help students, teachers, institutions and curricula continuously evolve to improve learning.
I love books—and I’d like to thank books for all they’ve done for all of us so far—but books ARE heavy. It’s time for EDU IT to support lighter, smarter learning materials.
Top 2-10 EDU IT Issues
Looking over the other items on the EDUCAUSE list, I see how each and every one of them can work to support that first priority. If nothing else, this year’s list says more than any other year’s that EDU IT should focus on aligning its work with the central mission of higher education and measuring that work against mission-driven outcomes.
- Establishing a partnership between IT leadership and institutional leadership to develop a collective understanding of what information technology can deliver
- Assisting faculty with the instructional integration of information technology
- Developing an IT staffing and organizational model to accommodate the changing IT environment and facilitate openness and agility
- Using analytics to help drive critical institutional outcomes
- Changing IT funding models to sustain core service, support innovation, and facilitate growth
- Addressing access demand and the wireless and device explosion
- Sourcing technologies and services at scale to reduce costs (via cloud, greater centralization of institutional IT services and systems, cross-institutional collaborations, and so forth)
- Determining the role of online learning and developing a strategy for that role
- Tie: Implementing risk management and information security practices to protect institutional IT resources/data and respond to regulatory compliance mandates and Developing an enterprise IT architecture that can respond to changing conditions and new opportunities