IT Trends in Higher Education

Posted by  Austin Laird

Your institution’s success must start with a strategy that can navigate relentless sector change. Political, economic, social, competitive, legal and technological factors combine to make this task exceptionally complex. Most of the time this is compounded by the intricacy of the institutions themselves which often serve diverse services to multiple customers.

Technology can help you understand the true picture, internally and externally. Below is our take on 10 IT trends I picked up at this year’s EDUCAUSE. They can help you make better informed decisions and execute more effectively, to power growth, be more efficient, deliver better research outcomes and provide a superb experience to customers – all in the face of change.


1. Student success

Multiple student information systems are not just painful for employees and students, they are also a nightmare to maintain in the face of fast-moving change. A key trend is to use a single solution to manage the student journey from application to alumni.

2. Student-centered institution

Students understand and are immersed in technology. It’s only natural they will expect you, as their education provider, to provide them with the tools they need to thrive on campus. They certainly don’t want to waste time filling out forms or waiting in lines.

Traditional system designs make institutions the focus, however modern student information systems are designed to be student-centered. Institutions are now delivering technologies that understand students, not as groups, but as individuals. One exciting trend is the emergence of artificially intelligent digital assistants that ‘learn’ about individuals; know their course, timetable and administrative deadlines. Imagine a tool that gives students the right information at the right time so they can act there and then, all in natural language. Pretty cool.


3. Data-enabled institutional culture

Business intelligence and analytics can help you understand the changing landscape and develop a better-informed strategy for the entire institution and its stakeholders - from students and academics to commercial partners. Institutions are looking at providing individual users with a different view of information, depending on their role, for faster decisions. Additionally, a more institution-wide dashboard view can uncover trends and challenges, so action can be taken to improve student success or operational efficiency.

4. Data management and governance

There is increasing pressure to provide transparency to third parties such as research funders. Luckily, there is a technology trend that can help here, too. Increasingly systems have in-built best-practice processes to simplify increasingly complex data governance and provide ‘out-of-the-box’ industry management reports.

5. Digital integrations

Look to have a single scalable core solution across campus that easily integrates with satellite systems. This will help you rapidly adapt to internal strategy and external compliance, standards and governance.


6. Information security

The flip-side to the digitally enabled institution is exposure to increasingly sophisticated and prevalent cyber attacks. Develop a risk-aware strategy that ensures the institution is always protected against security threats and challenges. Security risk is not eliminated by moving applications to the cloud but it is greatly decreased. Look for application vendors that use established cloud services like Microsoft Azure cloud so you can be assured that your data is safe.


7. Institution-wide IT strategy

Coupled with the importance of technology in managing change, technology influences all areas of campus life. With this in mind, look to reposition or reinforce your IT team as an important board level partner. They can provide ideas on what is possible and how technology can influence a positive strategy.

8. Higher education affordability

In the context of the higher education landscape, it is critical to prioritize budgets for IT-enabled projects which drive efficiency and innovation.

9. IT staffing and organizational models

Given your resources, utilize technology to optimize your skills mix and ensure you have the very best staff on hand. This is a critical trend given retirements, new sourcing models, growing external competition, rising salaries, and the demands of technology initiatives.

10. Change leadership

Make sure your employees are educated and feel equipped to adapt to the quick pace of technological and resulting cultural change on campus.

Austin Laird

Product Director Higher Education