Apr 03 2017

4 Priorities Spotlighted by University CIOs

From data and cloud to security, CIOs report what’s on the top of their minds.

Ever wonder what keeps university CIOs up at night? Apparently, it’s cybersecurity, the annual Leadership Board for CIOs’ Information Technology in Higher Education survey reveals.

About 41 percent of CIOs indicate that security and privacy issues are their biggest concern, followed by staffing concerns and funding issues.

“This, the seventh annual global LBCIO survey of CIOs in higher education, provides us with a look at how the role of the CIO is changing in higher education and some of the complexities that make the role of CIO challenging and at times frustrating for the people in that role,” reads the survey.

In addition to what keeps them up at night, the surveyed CIOs also weigh in on IT budgeting, staffing and cloud usage.

1. Using IT Budgets Efficiently and Shifting Staffing Needs

In spite of the ever-evolving presence of technology in higher education, a small portion of CIOs report that they expected their IT budgets to increase.

“With only 43 percent of CIOs anticipating an increase in their IT budgets next fiscal year and with an increased demand for services, stretching available funding continues to be a challenge,” the survey reports.

Those surveyed say they plan to meet funding challenges by increasing efficiencies, centralizing support and services, using more cloud services, collaborating with other institutions and using more open-source software.

To increase efficiency with a common student IT demand — bandwidth — universities have learned to delegate Wi-Fi intelligently and cap it per-student based on real need.

“We saw an immediate increase in reliability and a lot fewer calls about performance issues,” William Gryder, network operations director at Dallas Baptist University, tells EdTech.

The majority of CIOs surveyed say they anticipate that their staff would stay the same, but the use of student workers has increased in the past year, creating a valuable hands-on experience.

“Providing real-world work experience to students, increase in focus on STEM majors at higher education institutions, or hiring freezes for full-time staff may be contributors to this increase,” the survey says.

2. Changes in Online Learning Demands

In spite of a lot of buzz just a few years ago, the survey reveals that the number of colleges exploring massive open online courses (MOOCs) has dropped by 38 percent in the last three years.

One possible reason cited in an article on The Memo is a high dropout rate of students who enroll in MOOCs. The article cites a Massachusetts Institute of Technology course with only a 5 percent completion rate.

The survey finds that online learning programs are largely considered the same as traditional academic ones — only 11 percent of universities have a separate support unit for online students.

3. Addressing Evolving Security Threats

Heralded as the thing that keeps them up at night, it comes as no surprise that 75 percent of CIOs report an increased investment in information security.

Security remains a top issue in higher education, with threats constantly evolving with new technologies.

“You’ve got to have communication and good working relationships and understand that potential gaps and vulnerability are always a moving target,” Donald Schattle II, information security officer for Providence College, tells EdTech.

To manage this moving target, 65 percent of universities have put a chief information security officer (CISO) in place. The surveyed CIOs also report a number of other security measures that are up from last year:

  • 32 percent have multifactor authentication
  • 80 percent have a crisis plan
  • 71 percent have at least partially redundant data centers

Though, the survey speculates that these increases may just indicate increasing compliance rather than progress at battling security threats.

4. Exploring the Role of the Cloud

Indicated earlier as a tool for budgeting, the CIOs report that saving IT money is the biggest influencer on cloud usage, with security and protection of data close behind.

A MeriTalk survey from late last year indicated that a whopping 81 percent of IT leaders planned to spend more on cloud in 2017. Tom Dugas, the director of security and special initiatives at Duquesne University, tells EdTech that cloud has a ton of cost-savings benefits for universities.

“The biggest area that universities could use the cloud for is in infrastructure or platform as a service, but some aren’t there yet,” says Dugas.

The majority of CIOs say their universities are using cloud for email, learning management, social networking, desktop tools and data storage. Only about 15 percent report cloud being used for their data centers.


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