Jul 15 2020

The IT Investments Securing the Future of Higher Education

Despite unprecedented challenges, higher education is heading toward a secure and productive new normal.

Higher education will never be the same again after COVID-19’s massive disruptions. From securing remote learning to modernizing infrastructure and implementing transformative technologies, IT leaders have been on the forefront of safeguarding and fulfilling the new normal.

But the path forward remains uncertain. Colleges and universities are struggling with budget shortfalls amid a shifting cybersecurity landscape. As a large number of faculty and students carry on with online learning — or at least blended learning — in the coming school year, new collaboration tools and cloud adoption are going to be key for the future of higher education.

Education stakeholders will need to use data-driven insights to create smarter and more sustainable education models. To help education leaders understand current investment priorities, CDW partnered with IDG to survey how higher education and K–12 leaders are handling spending in four key areas: security, workplace productivity, infrastructure modernization and transformative technologies for students.

Here are the findings that will help guide CIOs in both higher education and K–12 schools as they consider which IT investments to prioritize in today’s challenging climate.

The Keys to Cybersecurity: Cloud Security and Cost Reduction

Although cybersecurity has always been a never-ending concern for IT leaders, it’s more crucial than ever in today’s remote learning and working landscape. In March, the FBI issued a warning that teleconferencing solutions and online classrooms are particularly vulnerable to hijacking.

As colleges across the country see a spike in phishing and ransomware attacks, higher education institutions are racing to secure the remote workforce. According to the CDW and IDG survey, 35 percent of education decision-makers say the most important technologies for risk mitigation are the ones that support cloud and remote learning security. Meanwhile, 37 percent say third-party security assessments also remain a top priority.

In addition, higher education respondents (46 percent) were significantly more likely than K–12 respondents (26 percent) to cite data analytics as a top risk mitigation solution.

So how are colleges and universities going to afford to strengthen their security measures? That is the million-dollar question. The CDW and IDG survey found that 39 percent of education leaders see identifying cost savings as one of the most important steps they can take to improve their risk posture over the next two years. That way, they can reinvest the dollars into security enhancements.

Furthermore, 38 percent say that faculty and staff training remains a high priority. According to Mimecast, employees who haven’t had a recent security awareness training are more than five times more likely to click on malicious links. To protect today’s virtual and physical classrooms, it is imperative that faculty and staff undergo robust security awareness trainings on a regular basis.

MORE ON EDTECH: Learn how to prepare for campus readiness while cutting costs.

Data and Collaboration Tools Increase Workplace Productivity

In the near future, higher education institutions will likely have some staff work from home while others return to campus. To make this new arrangement possible, colleges and universities need powerful collaboration tools.

CDW and IDG survey findings reveal that such tools have become more widely used in the past year and will continue to play a large role in driving productivity, with 42 percent of respondents saying they plan to invest in collaboration to support workplace productivity, flexibility and engagement.

Having meaningful data insights is also seen as essential to productivity. After all, data analytics is what converts readily available data into actionable next steps. According to the CDW and IDG survey, 42 percent of education leaders see extracting more value from their data as a top investment priority.

From boosting admissions to keeping students and faculty safe after campus reopens, it has become more important than ever that universities and colleges make better, data-informed decisions.


The percentage of education leaders who say IT cost management is a key area of focus when it comes to modernizing infrastructure.

Source: IDG, “2020 Insights: Technology Investment Priorities,” February 2020

Cloud Management Is Critical for IT Modernization

If anything, the pivot to online learning is only pushing higher education to speed up the pace of cloud adoption.

Cloud-based client computing, such as a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution, can deliver a consistent and secure online learning environment for students and faculty, on almost any computing platform.

It is no surprise that cloud will continue to be an integral part of education investments moving forward. Around 43 percent of respondents told CDW and IDG that cloud monitoring and management remains a top priority for IT modernization.

The survey also found that 43 percent of education leaders say IT cost management is a key area of focus when it comes to modernizing infrastructure. It is important to note that cloud solutions — such as Software as a Service — can help universities and colleges save money by maximizing efficiencies and removing duplicate programs.

MORE ON EDTECH: Learn how data analytics will help campuses reopen safely.

New Processes That Enhance Student Experience

Considering that the vast majority of college students were dissatisfied with the quality of their remote learning classes in the spring, colleges and universities have been dedicating more resources toward improving the student experience.

According to the survey, 40 percent of education leaders say that improving online experiences for students is key; it is one of their top priorities when it comes to planned uses of technology.

Around 40 percent of education leaders say today’s rapidly changing landscape is the reason their schools are planning to invest in technologies that will transform the student experience. Meanwhile, 43 percent of education decision-makers say that empowered students who expect seamless user experiences are the main drivers behind this investment.

From boosting student retention to securing online learning, education leaders are working toward a secure and productive future.


Learn from Your Peers

What can you glean about security from other IT pros? Check out new CDW research and insight from our experts.