The Student-Centered Approach to Technology Planning

There’s help for IT leaders struggling to determine — and meet — students’ growing technology needs.

In my 12-plus years working in sales with CDW•G, I’ve seen a lot of changes to the educational technology landscape.

When I started out working with our K–12 customers, our conversations centered on getting technology into the classroom — a projector, desktops, some notebooks. That conversation has evolved today, whether students are in K–12 or in college, to focus on technology as a means to foster collaboration.

College students on a campus in South Carolina can collaborate with fellow students at a college in Kenya, in real time. Not only can these students collaborate through cloud-based software or other tools, but a broader host of technology offerings also allows them to connect from wherever they are on campus, on whatever device they choose.

These are huge changes, and they are exciting. But what I find most exciting is the fact that all of these new options not only help students further their education, but also prepare them for the skills and jobs they’ll enter once they earn their degrees.

Getting It Right

With so many technology choices available, it’s likely some higher ed IT managers lie awake at night wondering what tools will work best for their campus community. I think it’s important to note that those institutions that are finding the most success from their deployments have focused their planning on the needs of their students.

Colleges and universities that put their students at the center of their technology planning also are pushing their faculty and professors to incorporate new tools in their classrooms and instruction. The universities that are figuring out how to keep their students engaged are also keeping those students on campus.

One of our customers, a larger community college system, has performed a great deal of analysis of all campus technology use, based on the goal of retention. Researchers there have determined how often students access their email account, how many times they connect with their professors electronically, how quickly they can download a syllabus — all of which correlates directly to their retention.

As more data becomes available, officials there also will be able to identify those students who are most at risk of failure, and intervene before it’s too late.

Help When It’s Needed

Setting up a system that drives student success doesn’t happen overnight. Our CDW•G account managers work closely with their customers to ensure they’re putting the right technology where it’s needed on campus, and not simply adding technology for technology’s sake.

Angie Bania is a great example: Angie has worked with a major university system in Illinois for about 20 years, and knows the system’s infrastructure inside and out. Angie keeps IT leaders there up to date and also helps them navigate their massive infrastructure whenever a new tool or system is deployed to thousands of users.

Angie’s long-standing relationship with the university is one of many factors driving the ultimate success of such deployments.

This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s new UniversITy blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #UniversITy hashtag.

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Apr 01 2015