A unique value of EAB's IT Forum is our insight into the top-of-mind issues for various higher education leaders, including provosts, chief business officers, and enrollment management leaders. Our Academic Affairs Forum, which serves provosts and chief academic officers, recently released its annual topic poll, which uses member feedback to gauge the importance of potential research topics.
The results are telling. Not only do they indicate where provosts plan to focus their efforts over the next year, but the topic poll also provides clues as to how the office of the CIO may be affected in the coming year and beyond.
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Below we outline some of the top challenges provosts noted in this year's topic poll, and how we expect those challenges to affect IT strategy across campus.
As a note, while there were slight variations in segment ranks - public, private, large, small - these issues remain fairly consistent across all responses.
1. Prospering in the decade ahead
What are the sustainable business models for research universities, master's universities, and liberal arts colleges moving forward?
Above all other issues, provosts are primarily focused on the future sustainability of the higher education model: how students will learn, how faculty will teach, and how the institution will continue to grow and thrive. It is impossible to consider any of these issues without also considering their impact from technology.
- Will personalized learning paths created by analytics from e-textbooks and learning management systems become the norm?
- What will be the next learning technology that disrupts the traditional classroom?
- How can IT improve the student experience in an effort to attract more students in an increasingly competitive environment?
By answering these questions, CIOs can play a key role in shaping the long-term strategy of the institution.
2. Academic vital signs
The five key metrics every dean should be watching
Given provosts' interest in strategy and change management, the focus on metrics comes as no surprise. It does, however, raise an opportunity for CIOs to offer a critical service: What are the right metrics for provosts to monitor, and how can CIOs proactively deliver insights and analysis to enable a clearer understanding of the progress towards critical initiatives?
3. Provosts as change agents
Lessons and strategies from provosts successfully leading major change initiatives on campus
As indicated by the formerly mentioned challenge, institutions are in the midst of a higher education evolution. Invariably complexity and uncertainty accompany change of this magnitude; provosts will turn to their senior leadership teams for support in bringing every aspect of the institution into the new era.
Not only is higher education at an inflection point, so too is the role of the CIO. Increasingly, these individuals must contribute to campus discussions which transcend typical discussions about telecommunications or networking. Instead, they will be asked to focus more on newer IT topics, such as student success and analytics.
4. Financing the future
Top five risks for each segment in the decade ahead, and how to mobilize the campus to ensure sustainability
One important factor in strategy development is the identification and removal of any barriers (or risks) to the strategy’s successful execution. This priority, therefore, goes hand-in-glove with provosts’ continued challenge to utilize sustainable higher education business models.
CIOs are in the unique position of being able to employ data analytics not only for all potential risks, but to also quantify and minimize the potential impact on non-IT stakeholders.
5. Measuring what works in student success
Which program and activities yield the highest return on investment?
Student success represents the intersection of technology, pedagogy, and the long-term health of the institution. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that student success finds itself at the top of provosts’ worry lists (as it does for CIOs, as well).
Provosts will continue looking to CIOs for assistance with nearly every facet of technology-enabled student success solutions, from the selection of student success software, to its ongoing maintenance, to its corresponding data analysis and insight-sharing with non-IT stakeholders. Student success truly positions CIOs as ambassadors for, and key influencers of, this critical campus-wide effort.
What do you think?
As the topic poll results show, provosts' top concerns are fairly evenly split between long-range planning, short-term change management, and the evergreen challenges of enrollment and education quality. Of course, there are a myriad of ways that these priorities affect CIOs’ roles, responsibilities, and priorities.
How do your top-of-mind challenges align with or diverge with the provosts' stated areas of interest?