Feb 23 2024

A Step Forward for Higher Ed IT

A pair of experts weigh in on what matters for college and university IT leaders in 2024.

Technology is always evolving. In higher education, it’s vital for IT professionals to stay abreast of what’s new and different. EdTech: Focus on Higher Ed spoke with college and university IT leaders to find out what technology trends they see for the year ahead. Here are three areas to keep an eye on.

1. Artificial Intelligence Use Continues to Grow Across Campus

AI is here to stay,” says Keith McIntosh, CIO at the University of Richmond. “We need to think about how we can proactively engage with it beyond just generative AI, and what the practical applications are for it, whether that’s on the academic side of the house or the administrative side.”

From generative AI in the classroom to automated systems improving campus operations, this emerging technology could have a great impact on higher ed institutions in the coming years. But just as important as how the technology is applied will be the education surrounding it.

“One of my favorite phrases these days is, ‘AI is not taking your job. The person who knows how to use AI will be the one to take your job,’” says Tom Andriola, chief digital officer at the University of California, Irvine. “Because they’re going to be 10 times more productive and deliver higher quality, or do something three times as fast because they’re using a better tool.”

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2. Zero-Trust Security Principles are Gaining Traction

Establishing a zero-trust security architecture is one of the most effective ways higher education institutions can protect themselves against cyberattacks. While the approach is still catching on in higher education, many institutions already have some zero-trust tools in place.

“Anything that can protect our data from the adversaries and bad actors that are out there, I’m all for it,” McIntosh says. “We’re at the very beginning of that conversation, but zero trust is definitely part of our vernacular, and we’re planning for it.” Establishing zero-trust principles can also help universities comply with cyber insurance requirements, which McIntosh notes are getting stricter.

3. Remote Work Is Here to Stay

The pandemic showed institutions that many higher education jobs can be done remotely, and employees have voiced a preference for flexible work schedules. Many institutions are accommodating these requests, and IT teams need to have policies and procedures in place to ensure all employees comply with access and security measures.

“One of our greatest challenges in accommodating remote work is access to systems,” Andriola says. “You’re now a lot more reliant on your VPN. How do you use dual authentication? The second challenge is keeping these devices up to date on all of their security patches. Do we feel comfortable allowing people to do their own upgrades, or are we going to use technology and push a lot more?”

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