Oct 30 2019

IT Leaders Meet Faculty and Staff Halfway on Classroom Technology Integration

University faculty and staff ask for more support to use education technology successfully.

More than half of educators agree that classroom technology benefits their teaching abilities but say insufficient support from IT leaders is keeping professors from getting the most out of the tools they have, according to a recent survey from D2L and Censuswide. 

According to the survey, nearly as many professors who said technology would increase student engagement (54 percent) agree that there needs to be more training and support from IT staff (52 percent).

When asked, student participants said they would like to have more access to course materials and a better online learning experience. 

The ultimate lesson from this study? Building strong and consistent lines of communication between stakeholders and IT leaders can help to make sure digital transformation initiatives go smoothly and address all needs. 

While each university will have to implement a strategy that works with its campus culture, there are some best practices IT leaders can use to work collectively with students, faculty and staff to make sure transitions are successful.

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CIOs Should Be Actively Engaged to Find Solutions That Work

According to the D2L survey, the most common assistance professors get from IT is setup support and online resources; however, fewer than half of those surveyed received regular professional development services or mentorship

CIOs who work with department heads and student representatives are able to align their goals with those of other stakeholders, encouraging a culture of digital transformation and creating a better chance for a successful IT initiative. 

“I oversee the technology operations responsibilities of a traditional CIO, but I am also tasked with providing leadership to position the university ahead of the future of teaching, learning and research — in short, helping to develop the ‘digital university’ of the future,” Phil Ventimiglia, Chief Innovation Officer at Georgia State University, writes for EdTech. “Innovation cannot be the sole responsibility of one individual or unit, and truly pioneering institutions make innovation a priority throughout the organization.”

At institutions such as the University of Southern California, IT leaders have created online resources that are updated every week with information such as IT governance best practices and current digital transformation initiatives. Using this kind of stakeholder toolkit, students, faculty and staff can then reach out to their IT representatives to offer their insight.

However CIOs choose to communicate, it is important they have the skills to boil down complex IT jargon into simple language. Otherwise, their attempts to be more communicative could have the opposite effect. 

“Be sure to learn how to effectively explain highly technical circumstances, solutions or challenges in non-technical terms. Nothing will be more off-putting to non-IT colleagues, regardless of their role, than to be spoken to by their institution's top IT leader in voluminous technical jargon that most folks do not understand,” Joseph Moreau, vice chancellor of technology for Foothill-De Anza Community College District, told Campus Technology. “A CIO who can break down critically important technical details into terms anyone in the institution can understand will be appreciated and respected.”

Overall, regular contact is especially important in the age of digital transformation. Without some kind of direct connection between IT leaders and other stakeholders to explain the goals of new technology initiatives, IT projects can can fall into the hands of those who are not equipped to lead them. 

“Too often the problem is that innovative ideas take hold in a corner of campus — within a specific school or department — and rarely spread to the rest of the institution or beyond,” writes Jeff Selingo, a senior strategist with Entangled Solutions and author of the report “The Rise of The Chief Innovation Officer in Higher Education: The Importance of Managing Change on Campuses.” 

“As a result, innovative ideas turn into boutique programs that are typically identified and mostly owned by specific individuals. This is why colleges need a chief innovation officer, someone who can coordinate disparate projects from across campus and build a systems approach to change management.”

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3 Ways to Get IT Leadership Involved

There are a few ways CIOs can be more integrative with the rest of their campuses. At this year’s EDUCAUSE annual conference, the organization highlighted three pieces of advice as part of its EDUCAUSE 2019 Top 10 IT Issues list

  1. Getting started: The first step for CIOs is to begin developing networks with academic and administrative individuals who can share advice with IT leaders on how to communicate more strategically. Additionally, getting an outside organization to assess how campus IT organization is structured can help CIOs get a baseline of how their department is seen on campus. “If the position or the overall organization is not well situated, viewing the CIO as a strategic partner will be much more difficult,” according to EDUCAUSE. 

  2. Developing further: After the CIO has open lines of communication on campus, it’s essential they keep those channels regularly active. IT leaders should work collaboratively in all directions, with everyone from the university president’s office to individual professors. CIOs can send out regular newsletters, hold monthly town hall meetings or invite chosen representatives from different stakeholder groups to a discussion session. Additionally, CIOs should “continue to work with peers to understand where and how CIOs in the community are leveraging technology as a breakthrough resource, particularly in those areas that matter the most for senior leaders,” write EDUCAUSE leaders. “Our commonalities across institutions are greater than our differences.”

  3. Optimizing: Now that the ball has momentum, don’t let that progress falter. IT leaders should ensure “ongoing contributions include partnering with campus departments and vendors to ensure that their original requirements are met and assisting with project management, change management, and communications and training plans,” write EDUCAUSE leaders. When education technology integrations are a team effort, they are more likely to be, and remain, successful.

When CIOs are actively engaged, they will also benefit. Ultimately, leaders need to change campus culture to accept any new technology — and they cannot change that culture alone.

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