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Key Technology Influences in Modern Higher Education
By LeRoy Butler, CIO, Lewis University
In addition to enhancing the student experience, technology promotes collaborative, inquiry-based teaching and research while streamlining the administrative operations of educational organizations. However, it is important to note that the latter (administrative efficiencies) leads to the former (academic innovation). Technology advancements have made institutions more efficient in providing the administrative support of the modern university. A welcomed byproduct of recent technological advances in higher education is savings in two of the most crucial areas in contemporary education— time and resources. The time and resources recouped from efficiencies can be used to research, develop, implement, and sustain innovative programs and services for students.
As higher education continues to cope and evolve with the everchanging influence of technology, many institutions struggle to keep pace with the change. Education technology professionals are under increasing pressure to stay abreast of the important technological influences on their institutions. Success in staying informed is understanding the key areas of influence facing higher education.
When examining contemporary higher education, three areas of technology influence become prevalent. These areas are innovation, data and analytics, and security.
Technology has led to innovation throughout the student lifecycle. Higher education institutions utilize technology to recruit, enroll, and educate students. In the past, most institutions were bound by geographic limitations in recruiting students. Today, intuitive and personalized solutions, such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems, attract students from all over to world to institutions in some of the most isolated locales in the country.
A byproduct of this borderless recruitment of students is greater competition between institutions for every prospective college student. Technology has given students more options for when, where, and how students enroll in college. An institution’s ability to enroll a student partially depends how well they reach and engage students through several technology resources.
Once enrolled, students use numerous technological solutions that enhance their academic pursuits and co-curricular activities during their tenure in school. Learning management systems and student information systems are examples of technologies that make the student experience more effective, efficient, and consistent which is a great innovation in how higher education institutions functioned just a generation ago.
In addition to enhancing the student experience, technology promotes collaborative, inquiry-based teaching and research while streamlining the administrative operations of educational organizations
Students also expect co-curricular activities that are modern and relevant to their interests, and technology solutions are often central to their interests. Institutions have implemented technology-based experiences such as e-sports, and gaming dorms, among others for students in recent years. And, the demand will continue to grow.
The demographics of the modern university is changing, and the academic pursuits of contemporary students are changing. Non-traditional students and students pursing graduate degrees are becoming a larger proportion of the modern university. These students also demand more flexibility and different modalities in how they obtain their education. This increasing demand has led to a greater utilization of technology solutions to provide the access that these growing constituencies need to achieve their educational goals.
Data and Analytics
When asked, most institutions would declare that their most valuable resource is its people. However, this is not necessarily the case in the modern academy. Today the most valuable asset that higher education institutions possess is data. Thanks to technological advances, colleges and universities are great repositories of data. Data is the foundation on which all information and knowledge is based.
As one of the traditional stewards of the knowledge economy, higher education needs to understand and adopt the benefits that data and analytics bring to their institutions. Colleges and universities have followed the lead of the business sector in embracing the value of data and analytics in its operations. Institutions use this data to learn more about the clientele they serve through analytical analysis, and these analytics helps provide a more appropriate experience for members of the organization.
If assessed, the value of the data housed at education institutions would range in the billions of dollars. The types of data collected include student and employee data, intellectual property, financial, and data related to alumni and other associated constituencies. With such value, schools need to be vigilant in how it collects and store data. In addition, concerns related to reliability and validity of data need to be addressed by employing appropriate resources to analyze the data.
Technological advancements have made security a critical issue in higher education. As previously mentioned, the evolution of the knowledge economy to focus more on data and analytics has made colleges and universities guardians of valuable repositories of digital information. As such, this new role has made these institutions the target of constant cybersecurity attacks.
To combat the seemingly ubiquitous cyber threat to higher education has forced institutions to take counter measures. Today many institutions employ cybersecurity professionals that exclusively focus on maintaining the integrity of the technology resources and to protect the data used by the organization.
Each of these areas of technology influence (innovation, data/analytics, and security) and provide critical value in educating students in modern higher education. Moreover, an institution’s ability to be successful (or lack thereof) in using technology in these areas helps determine its success and (in some instances) its survival. Moreover, the integration of technology into all aspects of contemporary education is critical in producing competent, contributing members of society, which should be the goal of every higher education institution.