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6 Higher Ed Tech Trends To Watch in 2013

Here are six areas that every IT pro in higher education should keep an eye on during the coming year.

With every corner of the higher education space impacted by technology in one way or another, keeping up with the latest and greatest products, tools, applications, and equipment is no easy feat. To help, Campus Technology picked the brains of several university CIOs to get their take on the key IT trends that will take hold in higher education during the coming year. Here are six important areas that IT professionals in the space should keep an eye on in 2013.

1. Big data beyond basic analytics. William Morse, chief technology officer at University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA, said this is the year that institutions will begin to see big data--those large data sets that can't be processed using traditional database management tools or applications--as more than just an analytics tool.

"Big data is about collecting far more information on our students than we once did," said Morse. "We can now go beyond academic performance and build complete student profiles using the big data that we have at our avail."

Equipped with those profiles, institutions will be able to develop internal models and figure out, for example, which student characteristics are most apt to parlay into educational success. "The idea is to greatly improve targeting of students so that we admit those that would not only be most likely to come to our university," said Morse, "but also be successful."

2. Faster reaction times courtesy of technology. Taking the big data discussion a step further, Sharon Biederman, interim associate provost at University of Maryland University College in Adelphi, MD, said universities are leveraging their constant flows of data to "make significant and real-time changes in student learning."

In the past, for example, it could take years for a college to garner feedback on a course and then make the necessary revisions and changes to it. "Now we can quickly see what students are and are not using and what they think about something," said Biederman, "and then adjust accordingly."

3. College networks sag under the weight of BYOD. Nelson C. Vincent, interim vice president of information technology and CIO at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, estimated that every new freshmen student brings about 3.5 devices and/or computers on campus for the first day of fall semester.

"Those devices all require wireless support," said Vincent, "as do the many wireless printers, game consoles, and other pieces of equipment that are now found in student dorms." This BYOD trend will continue to put pressure on campus WiFi systems and networks, which will be expected to perform under the growing strain.

"As institutions we really have to look at how to best integrate the broad menu of tools, devices, and equipment that everyone is using on campus these days," said Nelson. "In some cases, fast changes will be in order to keep up with the demand."

4. Device-agnostic computing gains ground. And speaking of BYOD, Morse said some college IT departments over the last few years have learned how to integrate almost any device seamlessly into their networks in a secure and manageable manner.

"From smartphones to tablets and Macs to PCs, diversity in technology is now the norm," he said. The next step will be to provide the tools to students, faculty, and staff in a device-agnostic manner. At University of Puget Sound, for example, the school's learning management system (LMS) and community portal both work on any device. The institution also maintains a virtual desktop environment that lets students run any of its lab software wherever they happen to be, regardless of which device they want to use.

"If they want Office, Photoshop, SPSS, it does not matter," said Morse, who expects more universities to adopt a device-agnostic approach in 2013. "In the end, this means that we are not just 'tolerating' these devices on our network, but we are supporting them."

5. Schools developing mobile apps. Finding new ways to enhance the student experience is an ongoing goal for most colleges, some of which will turn to mobile app development to achieve that mission. California State University, Long Beach just introduced its own public mobile app to deliver important campus information (such as news, athletics, maps, directories, and bus schedules) to Android, iOS, and Blackberry-toting students, faculty, administrators, and alumni.

As more universities strive to gain efficiencies by moving away from paper-based communications and "push" alerts (e-mail newsletters, for example), expect to see more of them developing apps that let users access the information they need from their mobile devices.

6. Social media's importance grows in educational value. Expect to see more professors figuring out how to successfully integrate Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other social media tools in the college classroom in 2013. "We're beginning to see the educational value associated with these platforms," said Lori McClaren, director of online programs at William Peace University in Raleigh, NC, "and for the real-time collaboration that they enable." Social media is also gaining ground as a digital media literacy tool in higher ed, said McClaren, and creates an important link for students as they prepare for their careers. "Employers expect students to be able to use social media effectively," she said. "What better training ground for that than higher ed?"

Gartner's Top 11 IT Predictions

Research firm Gartner recently unveiled these 11 predictions--several of which relate directly to the educational space--for IT organizations and users for 2013 and beyond:

  • Through 2015, 90 percent of enterprises will bypass broad-scale deployment of Windows 8. Windows 8 is Microsoft's attempt to bring the touch interface to its flagship product to counter gains by Apple in rapid-growth markets.

  • By the end of 2014, three of the top five mobile handset vendors will be Chinese. Mobile phone penetration in emerging markets has resulted in a changing of the guard in terms of the leading vendors.

  • By 2015, big data demand will reach 4.4 million jobs globally, but only one-third of those jobs will be filled. The demand for big data is growing, and enterprises will need to reassess their competencies and skills to respond to this opportunity. Jobs that are filled will result in real financial and competitive benefits for organizations.

  • By 2014, European Union directives will drive legislation to protect jobs, reducing offshoring by 20 percent through 2016. An upward trend in unemployment has continued in the European Union during the ongoing financial crisis. With little expectation of a short-term recovery, Gartner expects to see the European Union introducing directives before the end of 2014 to protect local jobs.

  • By 2014, IT hiring in major Western markets will come predominantly from Asian-headquartered companies enjoying double-digit growth. An increasing number of successful Asian companies--particularly from China and India--are enjoying double-digit growth rates and will substantially grow their geographic footprints, making significant investments in major Western markets through 2015.

  • By 2017, 40 percent of enterprise contact information will have leaked into Facebook via employees' increased use of mobile device collaboration applications. Facebook is one of the top five applications installed on smartphones and tablets. Many organizations are being pressured to permit interlinking with Facebook and similar products, because those products provide a high degree of leverage for new contacts.

  • Through 2014, employee-owned devices will be compromised by malware at more than double the rate of corporate-owned devices. Corporate networks will become more like college and university networks, which were the original "bring your own device" (BYOD) environments. Because colleges and universities lack control over students' devices, they focus on protecting their networks by enforcing policies that govern network access.

  • Through 2014, software spending resulting from the proliferation of smart operational technology will increase by 25 percent. Previously "dumb" operational devices or objects, like a vending machine, medical device, marine engine, or parking meter, are now having software embedded in them, and sensors are being linked to the Internet to create and receive data streams.

  • By 2015, 40 percent of Global 1000 organizations will use gamification as the primary mechanism to transform business operations. Gamification addresses engagement, transparency of work, and connecting employees' actions to business outcomes.

  • By 2016, wearable smart electronics in shoes, tattoos, and accessories will emerge as a $10 billion industry. The majority of revenue from wearable smart electronics over the next four years will come from athletic shoes and fitness tracking, communications devices for the ear, and automatic insulin delivery for diabetics.

  • By 2014, market consolidation will displace up to 20 percent of the top 100 IT services providers. Cloud, big data, mobility, and social media, along with continued global economic uncertainty, will accelerate the restructuring of the nearly $1 trillion IT services market.

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