Feb 09 2007

How to Identify Your ROI on Higher Education Technology Investments


When systems leaders and CEOs introduce new technology into corporate environments, they typically quantify its impact by measuring the return on investment in dollars and cents.

As every IT director knows, nothing beats positive ROI when it comes to justifying a bigger systems budget and the development of more initiatives.

In higher education, you have to go with your gut instinct. You make a subjective judgment. You ask yourself: Is new technology going to make a difference – one that will translate into better learning experiences on your campus? Will the functions of the administration, faculty and staff be enhanced – and, most of all, will students learn better, learn more and emerge from your institution better educated?

If the answer is yes, that's your ROI.

North Carolina Central University Law School is a perfect example. “You can't measure the return on investment, but you know your quality of life has gotten better,” says Greg Clinton, who became IT director of the Durham law school in 1998 and faced an uphill battle. In John Pulley's “Raising the Bar” on Page 45, you'll read how Clinton implemented cutting-edge technology and vastly improved the lives of onsite and online students, teachers and staff. When federal and state funding came through, he made good use of it.

In Karen Schwartz's “Wild & Wireless” on Page 34, you'll meet Charles Perkins. As IT director at Barton County Community College in Great Bend, Kan., he started small, with a wireless Web cam setup that lets students, researchers and the public observe birds and animals in the adjacent Cheyenne Bottoms wildlife preserve. The project snowballed and has become the foundation for a wireless community.

But new technologies are changing teaching and learning environments on campuses, too. Consider Samuel Greengard's “Next-Generation Cyberspace” on Page 16, which delves into Internet2 – the high-speed, high-bandwidth, limited-membership network. At Stanford and the University of Southern California, Internet2 applications bring real-world experts and new-age tools from around the globe into the classroom and then multicast the audio and video across campus and around the world online.

“Virtual technology has transformed learning,” says assistant professor of pedagogical technology Brian K. Shepard of USC's Thornton School of Music, which is using Internet2 to integrate real-time performances of world-class composers and musicians, along with interactive Q&A sessions, into the curriculum. “A virtual session brings an entirely new dimension to education.”

Such success stories demonstrate that ROI can be present, even when you can't measure it. Think of it as your virtual ROI. Once you do that, you can take the technology and run with it.

States Up the Ante in Higher-Ed Investments

  • Nevada 150%
  • California 85%
  • Florida 80%
  • Kentucky 78%
  • Wyoming 71%
  • North Carolina 66%
  • Virginia 63%
  • Texas 61%
  • Utah 61%

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