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What Are the Top 10 Higher Ed Tech Issues of 2016?

By Blake Montgomery

EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting information technology literacy in higher education, has released its Top 10 Information Technology Issues for 2016 report, the result of a survey of 338 of its members. Once a year, the EDUCAUSE IT Issues Panel selects a suite of thorny problems they believe will be most prevalent among higher education institutions for the coming year. EDUCAUSE members prioritize those issue through a survey. 

The EDUCAUSE Top 10 IT Issues

1. Information security

2. Optimizing educational technology

3. Student success technologies

4. IT workforce hiring and retention

5. Institutional data management

6. IT funding models

7. Business intelligence and analytics

8. Enterprise application integrations

9. IT organizational development

10. E-Learning and online education

EDUCAUSE offers three takeaways from the list: divest, reinvest and differentiate: "Higher education IT organizations are divesting themselves of technologies that can be sourced elsewhere and of practices that have become inefficient and are reinvesting to develop the necessary capabilities and resources to use information technology to achieve competitive institutional differentiation in student success, affordability, and teaching and research excellence." 

EDUCAUSE reports that the top issue, Information Security, surpassed the others by a large margin. That may because of a lack of knowledge: According to EDUCAUSE's research, 22 percent of higher education institutions have never conducted an assessment of IT security risks, and only 73 percent do not have an information security policy the entire administration agrees on.

Universities are struggling to protect their data every day. Timothy Chester, University of Georgia's VP of Information Technology, told EDUCAUSE, "There's somebody probing and looking for a soft underbelly in our network minute by minute, hour by hour, second by second. One episode could derail a CIO's career."

Not all schools, however, play at the same level in regards to informational technology. EDUCAUSE found that almost one in five schools do not evaluate technology-based instruction at all. Likewise, the gap between investments in informational technology is wide between institutions with IT governance in place and those without:

Source: EDUCAUSE

Some schools are just entering the swamp of IT, while others are already knee-deep in alligators.

The research also delved into what faculty, students and institutions want to see more of in 2016. The research shows that the interests and capabilities of those three constituencies do not always—or even often—align.

Source: EDUCAUSE

The issues also intertwined and intersected with one another. One of the biggest difficulties in E-Learning, EDUCAUSE found, was the need to hire staff with technical training or retrain their new staff—issue number four: IT workforce hiring and retention. The same was true of making better use of analytics, with institutions citing data scientists as the most desirable IT staff member towards that end. The need for staff and the resources to hire them was a constant obstacle, no matter what the objective. EDUCAUSE's first piece of advice (there were many): "Ensure that staff witness and learn about the benefits of working at the IT organization and the institution. Ensure also that the best employees know their interests are being kept in mind over time."


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