International Perspectives on the EDUCAUSE 2022 Top 10 IT Issues

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Four international members of the 2021–2022 EDUCAUSE IT Issues Panel share their thoughts on how the EDUCAUSE 2022 Top 10 IT Issues relate to activities and concerns in their own countries.

Student Success as Institutional Success
Credit: © 2021 Steve McCracken

The EDUCAUSE IT Issues Panel often includes IT leaders from outside the United States. This year we expanded our panel 's international profile to include 8 leaders from 6 countries: Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. We interviewed the following international panelists about higher education and information technology in their countries:

Bella Abrams
Director of Information Technology, IT Services
The University of Sheffield
Trustee, Association for Learning Technology
United Kingdom

Paul Harness
Director of Information Systems Services
Lancaster University
Vice Chair, ucisa Board
United Kingdom

Nina Reignier-Tayar
Directrice d 'Appui Numérique à l 'Administration
Université Grenoble Alpes
Board Member, EUNIS

Gina White
Director Technology Services
Southern Cross University
President, CAUDIT (Council of Australasian Directors of Information Technology)

Looking at the 17 issues selected for consideration for the EDUCAUSE 2022 Top 10 IT Issues list, do you see any that did not make the list but that you believe could be top issues in your country?

Paul Harness: Perhaps #15, How Technology Can Improve the Curriculum, would be in the Top 10 in the United Kingdom. In January 2021, a UK government white paper was published titled Skills for Jobs: Lifelong Learning for Opportunity and Growth. The white paper set out the following key aims: "Investing in higher-level technical qualifications that provide a valuable alternative to a university degree," and "Making sure people can access training and learning flexibly throughout their lives."

Bella Abrams: More broadly in the United Kingdom as a result of Brexit and a post-pandemic economy, I think all of the issues apply and we will need to have a particular focus on developing higher education curricula to respond to our changing demographics and skills requirements. All of the issues, when addressed, should support this, but the challenges that we face at present are going to only increase as the impact of Brexit is felt across the country.

Nina Reignier-Tayar: French higher education institutions are working hard on lifelong learning, microcredentials, and open badges. Issue #17 is already a top issue in my university and in my country: "Which Badge for the Job? Offering ongoing hybrid learning opportunities and creating a common framework for microcredentials to support lifelong learning needs."

Gina White: Every year CAUDIT (Council of Australasian Directors of Information Technology) produces a Top 10 IT Issues for higher education in Australia. The EDUCAUSE Issue #14, The Digital Revolution of Course Materials, and Issue #15, How Technology Can Improve the Curriculum, resemble our Issue #4, New Models of Teaching and Learning, in the 2021 CAUDIT Top 10.

In addition, two issues in the CAUDIT Top 10 were not among the 17 issues considered for the EDUCAUSE Top 10:

  • #7 Leadership: As trusted advisor and partner, leading the institution and ICT team in a challenging environment
  • #10 Cultural Change: Changing organisation culture to support new ways of working: fostering a workplace that welcomes diversity, safety, and high performance

How can higher education become more effective and/or efficient with strong international partnerships and collaborations?

Harness: As a trustee and vice chair of the ucisa Board of Trustees, I think we should build stronger links between ucisa and EDUCAUSE. ucisa is the member-led professional body for digital practitioners in education in the United Kingdom. We 've developed a more strategic approach over the last two years, and I think we are much better positioned to have a mutually beneficial relationship.

Abrams: UK research-intensive higher education is already heavily dependent on strong international partnerships. That 's particularly true in Europe and Australia, but extending these to our more teaching-focused institutions and to a broader geographical reach will have real benefits. Working together in teaching, learning, and research, influencing key suppliers, and collaborating and learning from each other's innovations are all ways that partnerships could have massive impact for us all.

Reignier-Tayar: Like all other fields, higher education now operates in a global context. All institutions are subject to the ShanghaiRanking. The majority of our students want to participate in international exchanges. Mobility programs are often one of the criteria students use when selecting a college or university.

International partnerships and collaborations will allow our students to have even more diverse and enriching training that will help them become citizens of the world. Imagine the whole world as a single, virtual campus where students from across the globe can study and exchange with other students.

In this context of globalization, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple (GAFA) are software/tools used by all of our students, academics, and staff. International partnerships and collaborations will give institutions more leverage with GAFA and will allow them to defend their common interests, including data privacy, pricing, and new uses.

White: As can be seen with the internationalization of the CAUDIT Higher Education Business Reference Model, higher education is very similar from place to place around the world. We are all trying to achieve the same outcomes using similar processes. Strong international partnerships and collaborations can only assist all of us. Cybersecurity is now seen as a "team sport," and we are only as strong as our weakest link. Banding together to protect the entire industry simply makes logical sense.

Cybersecurity is the tip of the iceberg. Collaboration can occur across many areas that are noncompetitive: information management, IT delivery, service and support, HR management, and many others. Higher education is in the enviable position of being a sector where a culture of sharing and collaboration is the norm. We need to take this sharing to the next level and share across international boundaries. An international Top 10 issues list could be a good start in understanding the pain points felt in all countries.

CAUDIT has already shown its willingness and ability to lead and share in an area such as the Higher Education Business Reference Model. I think regular discussions across borders would be a good place to start in finding more things to share.

What is something the world could learn and benefit from regarding actions by your institution or your country in the area of higher education technology?

Harness: There is really great collaboration among members of ucisa in the United Kingdom. Although that that is similar to collaboration among EDUCAUSE members, perhaps the size of the United Kingdom makes knowing a lot of people across the country more realistic. Maybe you have regional US groups that do something similar? For my institution, I am most proud of our approach to innovation from within the IT organization. We established a small innovation team about eight years ago, and it is a mix of IT staff and students who codevelop solutions. Our student developer team consists of all sorts of skills (not just IT development but creative skills too). Our most notable success was a co-development with Amazon Web Services to create AskLU, a voice-based assistant for students.

Abrams: The United Kingdom has a huge pedigree in the development of learning technology and how this can be used at scale across many institutions and different types of education. A current focus for many of our learning technology professionals is the development of ethical practice, particularly in the selection and use of technology. Long term, supporting our students to learn in the most effective, compassionate, and ethical way possible is likely to become a more pressing issue as technology use increases. Other parts of the worldwide higher education sector have a huge role to play here as well, and the United Kingdom has a good starting point.

Reignier-Tayar: I see two opportunities for people to learn and benefit from the higher education technology work being done in other countries:

  1. Sharing resources, such as learning courses, solutions developed by other institutions and made available free of charge, co-construction of a national higher education software, and shared storage
  2. Networking between IT professionals working in higher education, including many professional associations, webinars, and social media dedicated to IT staff and leaders in higher education IT

White: The CAUDIT Higher Education Business Reference Models are a flagship idea of what Australasian colleges and universities can do and are willing to share. In Australia, the pandemic has thrown a spotlight on higher education, but with no additional support funding. A lot could be learned from the smaller institutions that have always had to provide the same services provided by larger institutions, but with a fraction of the budget and resources.

Susan Grajek is Vice President, Partnerships, Communities, and Research, for EDUCAUSE.

Jamie Reeves is Senior Product and Portfolio Manager, EDUCAUSE.

© 2021 Susan Grajek and Jamie Reeves. The text of this work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.