THE BLOG

What's Keeping Higher Education CIOs up at Night?

05/08/2015 08:35 am ET | Updated May 07, 2016

CIOs are under pressure and their jobs are at risk. Nowhere is this truer than in higher education. Increasing costs, technology disruption, mounting student debt and competition for students have put the CIO in a pressure cooker. In this stressful environment, we surveyed leading CIOs in higher education to find out about their biggest concerns and see which trends may be sneaking up on them.

A number of other organizations have published top issues surveys this year, including Educause and Gartner, so we took a different cut, probing about emerging campus technologies and how the CIOs are allocating their resources. Are they worried about the Internet of Things? What is their involvement with disruptive forces like competency-based learning and online teaching?

Not surprisingly, one of the greatest CIO concerns is the specter of a network security breach. This fear, combined with the burgeoning demand for campus Wi-Fi and growing high bandwidth activities like video, has made upgrading campus IT infrastructure the highest strategic priority for CIOs. Improving mobile access and BYOD is the second most-mentioned priority.

What is surprising, especially as college campuses tend to lead in technology, is that only 19 percent of CIOs are planning for the Internet of Things (IoT) as a strategic priority. The majority of CIOs are handling the concept as part of their BYOD and regular network infrastructure planning. A sizable portion, 28 percent, will either address it in the future or feels it is not important enough to be on their radar screen.

Almost all schools surveyed now offer online courses, although only 17 percent have more than a quarter of their subjects available online. The IT staffs take an active role in online education and provide the online technology and often advise on the content creation. All but 16 percent of CIOs are involved in the online curriculum.

Competency-Based Learning and Network Analytics

Most of the CIOs are involved in the emerging field of competency-based education (CBE). The concept enables students to progress at their own paces, using technology to assess how far the student has progressed to subject mastery and directing them to supplemental content as needed. Almost all CIOs (97 percent) see the role for the flipped classroom growing. The flipped classroom model makes extensive outside-the-classroom use of video lectures, reserving class time for one-on-one assistance.

Higher education CIOs are well-attuned to the value of network analytics. The CIOs use analytics to manage the user network experience (67 percent), for network capacity planning (67 percent), and to provide insight into student success (33 percent). Several of the CIOs among those who have not yet tapped into network analytics commented that they plan to do more with analytics, in some cases during the coming year.

How Is The Role Of CIO Evolving In Higher Education?

Higher education CIOs see their role increasing on the business and strategy side, much more so than on the curriculum side. While fundraising is important to the schools, this is not an area that CIOs in general feel they can contribute. As more traditional IT functions are outsourced to the cloud, the role of CIO is transitioning to one of innovation leadership. As Paige Francis, CIO of Fairfield University put it, "My role is to make our school synonymous with innovation by fully embracing mobility, accessibility and security to continuously support our teaching and learning environment."

Higher Education CIO survey conducted by Extreme Networks.