The Top 3 IT Issues Transforming Higher Education

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EDUCAUSE Exchange | Season 2, Episode 8

The EDUCAUSE 2022 Top 10 IT Issues list was recently published. We asked several of the panelists to talk about how the top three issues on the list might transform higher education.

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Gerry Bayne: Welcome to EDUCAUSE Exchange, where we focus on a single question from the higher ed IT community, and hear advice, anecdotes, best practices, and more. The EDUCAUSE 2022 top 10 IT issues were just recently published, and in light of the past 18 months, it seems to take a mostly optimistic view of how higher ed IT itself is changing and how these changes are shifting higher education writ large.

This shift is reshaping parts of higher education through shared transformational vision, a recognition of the need to place student success at the center of our efforts, and a sustainable business model that is redefining the meaning of campus. For the question at the center of this episode, we spoke with several panelists for the 2022 top 10 IT issues list. These are senior leaders in higher ed IT from a variety of institutions. Their input helps to determine the subject matter and order of the list.

We took the first three items on the list and asked how might this particular issue transform higher education? Number one on the top 10 IT issues list is titled Cyber Everywhere: Are We Prepared? This topic revolves around developing processes and controls, institutional infrastructure, and workforce skills to protect and secure data and supply chain integrity. Basically, data and security.

Gina White: In the Australian region, we got together as a team, so we realized that we're only as strong as our weakest link.

Gerry Bayne: That's Gina White, director of technology services at Southern Cross University, and president of CAUDIT, the Council of Australasian Directors of IT. She takes what she calls a sector approach to cybersecurity.

Gina White: And so, we're working together in Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific islands to become a team where we can all manage cybersecurity together. It's not a competitive edge between organizations, so the more we share, the better we can be and the stronger we can all be. So, we've done everything from cyber security operations center, awareness training across the sector, and we've now got the Australian government and the New Zealand government participating in this, as well, where they help us with generalized cyber security awareness trainings. And we are trying to protect the whole sector across the board. And we're working with our network suppliers, our federated access suppliers, and [inaudible 00:02:31] which is our awareness organization. So, we're working across the sector to try and fix the problem, or at least mitigate it as much as we can from a sector perspective.

Gerry Bayne: That sector perspective means that smaller institutions in that sector, that don't have the resources to set up their own cybersecurity operations, get to be part of a larger effort.

Gina White: And everyone's chipping in, which means it's that the cost of supply is a lot cheaper, and we're all looking at it so that if one attack happens, the entire sector can respond rather than it being a piecemeal approach. So, we've approached it a little bit differently and we are looking at it as a team sport to try and address the issues as much as we possibly can.

Gerry Bayne: Michelle Rakoczy, who's associate director of infrastructure and operations for the North Dakota University System has a similar sentiment in to how they're collaborating to shape their data and security strategy.

Michelle Rakoczy: I also work at a system level, so for me, we work with our vendor partners, as well. We also work with our state IT department and have partnered with them with different vendors, as well, to try to get program in place. We, too, have the smaller campuses and larger and trying to meet the needs of all of them together.

Gerry Bayne: She also says students are highly engaged in this issue and will continue to be a strong voice in what happens with their data.

Michelle Rakoczy: I think we've started seeing from students here in North Dakota, we actually, before the pandemic started, had a group of student go to our state board, and we now have a policy and procedure in place on a way to inform students where their data is stored. So, students are savvy on this and they do understand that we have a high obligation. So, I think in transforming higher education, I think it's in that awareness, that students are not going to be very forgiving if a breach happens at this point. They understand a lot on what it takes and that we are responsible to prevent it.

Gerry Bayne: This brings us to issue number two, evolve or become extinct. This issue is a call to accelerate digital transformation to improve operational efficiency, agility, and institutional workforce development.

Jeremy Anderson: The real opportunity that I see coming from digital transformation is that we have the opportunities to break that cost, feed, quality triangle, where you can only get two of the three.

Gerry Bayne: That's Jeremy Anderson, associate vice chancellor for strategic analytics at Dallas College.

Jeremy Anderson: What digital transformation is going to allow us to do, I think, is get all three. So, we'll be able to bring down cost because we're going to be more efficient through systems integrations and data integrations to reduce that manual work and that local work that happens in offices. The quality should to improve. Having this holistic view of what's going on with our students and our employees, we'll be able to retain and get them to positive outcomes in a better way. And then the speed is increased because with access to re-architected data and more democratized data, we can make our decisions much more rapidly and then design our products more rapidly, as well, with these insights that we have that previously have been more difficult because data and practices have been siloed in our offices. So, I think we get all three of those magic pieces.

Tiffni Deeb: It's critical that we digitally transform higher education.

Gerry Bayne: Tiffni Deeb is vice president for information technology at Minneapolis College. Her view of digital transformation puts the student at the very center of our efforts.

Tiffni Deeb: I think that these changes will allow our students to have the credentialing and skills and education they need to have the employment that they desire and do it when it fits their life. Life is busy. Life has transformed. Life has changed. And we need to meet the students where they are, we need to deliver where they are, and have our services and our support and our curriculum available to them when it meets their life.

Gerry Bayne: And the final issue we'll hear about on this episode is issue number three, digital faculty for a digital future. We need to ensure that faculty have the digital fluency to provide creative, equitable, and innovative engagement for students. Students expect their higher education institutions provide a certain level of digital sophistication in delivering learning and services. For many students, the digital medium is their default way to learn, interact, and get things done. And although the pandemic has required even the most technology averse faculty to adopt digital instruction, they'll need help and encouragement to continue to their skills in using innovative instructional technologies.

Shana Sumpter: Students are going to be everywhere and there are going to be some students who will prefer that on campus experience, but then there are going to be those students who will want a little bit of both, or they're going to want the digital experience.

Gerry Bayne: That's Shayna Sumpter, former director of inform security at the University of Richmond. She says whether the university wishes to change or not, the students will be the drivers.

Shana Sumpter: So, this notion of we've always done it this way, well, the students are going to determine that for you. So, I think it's a great opportunity to capture a larger student base because you're not confined to a location or a campus. I think it's an opportunity to build on that digital literacy and transformation that's already happening in an institution and really propel it into that next level.

John Murphy: Well, these are only really predictions, I would say, so don't hold me to account on any of these.

Gerry Bayne: John Murphy, director of IT for the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence has some predictions around digital faculty for a digital future.

John Murphy: I think anytime, anyplace learning will become pretty much the norm maybe by about 2030 is what I'm thinking. You'll be able to get learning on demand like you're able to get other things on demand. Also, I think it's a wonderful opportunity, as already mentioned, to build on what happened in the pandemic to make accessibility a part of the learning design process when we build these new systems now; to encourage people who have so far been excluded from the ability of being able to come to university or to a HE institution on the basis of the cost of it, I think we can make it much more accessible to those students. But also then to adults who have missed out on the HE opportunity due to having to go straight into employment, I think there's an opportunity there for us to do something on that side of things.

My final point on this, and this one is a little bit controversial, but I do see a time in the near future when HE institutions won't be run by faculty, they'll be run by CEOs like any other business. I think this will come as part of this digital transformation piece. I don't know when that's going to happen, but I think it'll happen relatively soon.

Gerry Bayne: I hope you've enjoyed some insights into the 2022 top 10 IT issues list. If you'd like to find out more, visit the top 10 IT issues report. You can find that at, that's top ten 102022. I'm Gerry Bayne for Educause. Thanks for listening.

This episode features:

Jeremy Anderson
Associate Vice Chancellor, Strategic Analytics
Dallas College

Tiffni Deeb
Vice President of Information Technology
Minneapolis College

John Murphy
Director of IT
Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence

Michelle Rakoczy
Associate Director, Infrastructure & Operations
North Dakota University System

Shana Sumpter
Former Director of Information Security
University of Richmond

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

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Top 10 IT Issues, 2022: The Higher Education We Deserve