Higher Ed IT Teams and Faculty Aren’t So Different After All

While higher ed faculty and IT professionals see technology in different lights, they share two major concerns when it comes to tech adoption.

Passionate about innovation, IT personnel have a gift for seeing higher ed not as it is but as it could be. Faculty members, on the other hand, would prefer that technology stand still — or at least, that’s what many IT professionals believe.

But what if that impression is wrong?

Survey results published by Gallup and Inside Higher Ed suggest that faculty embrace technology more readily than we thought. According to The 2015 Inside Higher Ed Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology, 75 percent of instructors say educational technology has led to gains in student learning outcomes. A separate 63 percent of faculty members believe that those improvements justify the technology spending that goes on at their institutions.

The Inside Higher Ed survey shows that instructors particularly like learning management systems, which they use to share syllabi and e-textbooks, record grades and communicate with students. Faculty surveyed for the ECAR Study of Faculty and Information Technology, 2015 also expressed satisfaction with computer projection systems, podium computers and more.

I’ve heard from customers that adoption rates for any classroom equipment or online collaboration tool depends heavily on the technology’s perceived usefulness, its ease of use and the level of institutional support. That said, it seems inevitable that faculty will accept any tool that can ease workloads, streamline communication and improve student engagement — especially because they don’t have to deal with the back-end issues that can complicate technology deployments.

But what about IT professionals? Which transformational technologies and initiatives are they embracing, and what challenges hamper their success?

Cloud Computing

When I think about the technologies reshaping higher ed, my mind goes first and foremost to the cloud. Colleges and universities migrating from traditional in-house service delivery experience cost savings, as well as improved flexibility, ease of use and security.

Although cloud benefits reach across the institution, IT professionals see the bad that comes with the good, particularly in the form of migration complexity. Thankfully, third-party cloud assessments can help IT teams develop a comprehensive migration plan so they can overcome hurdles and begin enjoying the efficiency gains offered by the cloud.

IT Consolidation

Looking past technologies, colleges and universities that pursue IT consolidation create cost savings, reduce redundancy and put resources to better use. This consolidation can take different forms, and may mean that IT leadership unifies distributed personnel into a single team or that IT personnel standardize technology, tools and processes across campuses.

IT consolidation requires careful change management to ensure buy-in among IT professionals, but its results are worth the effort: Workloads improve because IT has fewer tools to manage. More important, the shift breaks down silos, allowing once-disparate IT experts to collaborate and better support each other.

Bring Your Own Device

Transitioning from the exception to the rule, BYOD policies earned recognition from the New Media Consortium as one of the six key tech trends in higher education. Published earlier this year, the NMC Horizon Report: 2016 Higher Education Edition describes how BYOD gives students, faculty and staff greater flexibility when studying, teaching, communicating or researching.

I’ve heard that BYOD goes a long way in increasing productivity and employee satisfaction among IT personnel too. Part of that comes from the fact that staff members no longer need to onboard or provision staff-owned devices. That said, IT teams will instead need to step up security, rewrite acceptable use policies, ensure compliance and more — or else work with a mobile device support provider who can manage some of these tasks.

So what’s the lesson here? For quite some time now, the long-term benefits of these emerging technologies have been apparent across the institution — from faculty and IT staff to, most important, the attending students. And even though all sides see different benefits and challenges throughout any new technology rollout, both higher ed faculty and IT personnel will embrace change more easily if they feel confident in the business case and receive proper support, every step of the way.

This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s UniversITy blog series.

1shots/ThinkStock
May 16 2016