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CT 2010 Executive Summit | Viewpoint

Report from the Campus Technology 2010 Executive Summit

At the CT2010 Executive Summit on July 19 in Boston, discussions suggested that the trend to exclude top IT leaders from the president’s inner strategic circle was premature and perhaps ill advised. And that CIOs who represent their jobs as primarily or exclusively maintaining IT operations may be missing significant national trends and changes.

As Mely Tynan, the first speaker and moderator for the day said, “You’ve held it together, or you’d like to think so.” Tynan’s comments opened the morning session, dedicated to a scan of the IT environment in higher education; the afternoon would focus participants’ attention on leadership issues.

Tynan suggested several things chief information officers and other campus IT leaders should pay attention to--for example, the National Science Foundation now requires a grant proposal to include a “data management plan.” She pointed to the sharp increase in online learning enrollment and that NGOs have begun to analyze education data and in some cases are funding transformation with technology. These developments are important for IT leaders to pay attention to and, to the extent that these national trends affect the competitiveness of the institution, CIOs or key campus IT leadership should be part of institutional strategy discussions.

Tynan also pointed to alarming statistics that should concern technology leadership on campuses: The U.S. is only 23rd in the world in broadband. The U.S. can boast of only a 30 percent graduation rate after two or four years of college, which places us 15th in the world in graduation rate. There is a U.S. Department of Education “National Technology Plan 2010," and Tynan “assigned” all those in the room to read at least the executive summary. Another assignment: Pay attention to the New Media Consortium’s annual Horizon Report. In it, IT leaders can see the trends in technology--more mobility, more visualization, more immersive environments--that can inform IT planning on campus.

At last year’s Executive Summit, a strong theme was that IT innovation no longer originated in IT offices. Instead, innovation was happening across campus. The meeting last year looked deeply at the end of an era when every new technology that IT centers implemented sparked resultant innovation in teaching, learning, and research.

In contrast, this year’s Summit pointed to hopeful signs of new ways to structure IT leadership, not so much to spark innovation on campus as to engage with national trends and opportunities on behalf of the institution.

In her opening keynote, University of Southern California’s Susan Metros challenged the participants to address the question: What does it mean to be a literate person in today’s society?  And: How can IT leaders steer campus investment and energy to meet societal needs? How can the institution expand global presence? And how to promote learner-centered education? Metros suggests that certain higher education trends are now so palpable and well-defined that IT leaders cannot be neutral in their efforts and support whatever people ask for. Instead, CIOs and top campus IT leaders need to pay attention to national trends in higher education and help steer their institutions in those directions: not iPad initiatives, but finding ways to support teaching and learning innovations on campus that jibe with recognized national trends.

Metros pointed out that USC had identified 24 top IT initiatives for FY11. Among these are traditional CIO concerns such as disaster recovery, infrastructure (in their case, considering Kuali), and communication. But others suggested a broader role for CIOs: re-considering the course management system, for example, to see how well it is serving the changing campus culture.

In responding to employers’ complaints that college graduates don’t know how to collaborate, Metros suggests that IT leadership should look at the array of collaboration tools on campus, including Google Apps, as USC is doing. Metros lamented that the “Learning Environments” IT initiative “had no advocate.”

But Metros focused much of her time showing specifically how IT leaders can connect to the learning outcomes goals on campus and support them proactively. In a key example, she mapped out the question: How can IT initiatives match the principles of undergraduate learning at USC? She considered additional relevant questions: How is IT leadership supporting active learning? Or intellectual breadth, depth, and adaptability? How can IT support collaboration with other campuses?

Other speakers, Gardner Campbell of Baylor and Anne Moore of Virginia Tech, described the poetic, manifold, ubiquitous, and rapturous opportunities for learning and research in this age as each new technology unfolding leads to new human awareness.

IT leaders are no longer in control of how IT plays out on any campus, but now, like all of us, they must be attuned sufficiently to the cultural energy and their institution’s changes and goals to steer IT support in wise directions.

About the Author

Trent Batson is the president and CEO of AAEEBL (, serving on behalf of the global electronic portfolio community. He was a tenured English professor before moving to information technology administration in the mid-1980s. Batson has been among the leaders in the field of educational technology for 25 years, the last 10 as an electronic portfolio expert and leader. He has worked at 7 universities but is now full-time president and CEO of AAEEBL. Batson’s ePortfolio: E-mail: [email protected]

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