The New Age of Ed Tech: CIO Priorities

April 17, 2018  |  by: Ed McDermott
Cloud Technologies
Higher Ed Tech

As the CIO of a higher education institution, you are faced with many questions, but few clear answers.

One crucial question is: how can your school keep pace with digital innovation on a limited budget?

There is a lot at stake here, as you can well imagine. How your team integrates cloud computing on campus will determine the quality of experience for the student body.

As our case study at St. Edward’s University illustrates, students expect the following services from their school portal:

Universal Access. Easy access from any location is an absolute must.

Responsive Design. Students want a less cluttered and easy-to-navigate platform.

A Personalized Experience. Students want a portal that connects them with valuable resources like a class schedule, homework tracker, social events recommendation, financial status and advice, and career prep.

An Avenue into the School Community. Students often feel alienated and overwhelmed when they step onto campus for the first time. A portal that connects students with faculty would go a long way to breaking down barriers and help students feel part of a community on campus.

Demand for a personalized and easy-to-access portal service has yet to be met by the majority of higher ed institutions.

As a CIO, the question must be: what are your strategies for offering a personalized digital experience to the student body?

The fact is, the role of a CIO has expanded beyond technological safeguarding to include a variety of responsibilities. In this new age of ed tech, we’ve seen these four critical priorities:

1. Jobs Outside IT

A Gartner survey on the CIO agenda for 2018 offers some illuminating data on the changing nature of the job. The survey found that CIOs from top performing organizations are spending more time on thought leadership than in past years.

In 2014, the head of an IT department would have spent an average of 45 hours a month on executive leadership and 105 hours on IT responsibilities.

In 2016, it has shifted to 60 hours a month spent on executive leadership roles, and 90 hours working on IT leadership responsibilities.

The pendulum has shifted for two main reasons. On the one hand, cloud computing has become far more predominant in higher ed and across the corporate spectrum. On the other hand, CIO’s at universities and colleges are spending more time collaborating with the marketing department on user design questions to meet the demands of the student body.

As David Hinson, CIO at Drury University, says: “Higher ed CIOs must begin to model themselves as leaders, enablers, and influencers and not simply technology gatekeepers.”

2. Immersive Learning

Another key priority for CIOs in 2018 is making the most out of immersive learning opportunities and the opportunities truly abound. It could be creating an open learning platform, building augmenting reality applications into an existing cloud infrastructure, or leveraging a portal that integrates with the most recent AI-software to help students pick courses and choose a career.

Although immersive learning entails a wide variety of products and services – both in the classroom and on campus – the goal remains the same: to produce deep involvement in the process of learning with a specific goal in mind.

“We know technology as the power to unlock limitless learning, and lesson plans that encourage hands-on and visual learning drive deeper engagement from students,” says Yusuf Mehdi, one of the most influential leaders at Microsoft.

CIOs should be exploring all the different opportunities for integrating mixed reality learning technologies into classrooms and across campus.

3. Scalable Technology

An ever-present priority for CIOs is bandwidth. Do you have enough storage capacity and processing capability to service thousands of new users?

Cloud technology is designed to meet the scalability needs of higher education institutions today and going forward. On the one hand, the ability to store all manner of data on decentralized third-party servers is a cost-effective way to avoid technological issues affecting the whole network. On the other hand, adding storage requirements to an existing cloud-based portal is affordable and expedient. If bandwidth limitations do exist, there are some exciting innovations that may provide a solution.

Most schools have some combination of legacy software with a cloud component, and CIOs are stuck navigating both with a limited budget. The digital technology you have in place should be robust, flexible, and invisible.

4. Strengthening Privacy Policies

Last, but certainly not least, CIOs need to make privacy a top priority. As more students and faculty share their personal information on cloud-based platforms, it is the responsibility of the school to ensure this information is not compromised. That means increasing budget expenditures for security initiatives and, most importantly, setting a transparent privacy policy for students and faculty to follow.


These four priorities should be used as signposts as you navigate the digital strategy for your institution. Many universities and colleges have prioritized the cloud and made a successful transition. But as the CIO, you always need to be one step ahead of the curve to nip issues in the bud while offering cutting-edge campus experiences for students.


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