IT Trends

Strategic Tech List for 2015: Mobile and Data Analytics Dominate

Mobile dominates the strategic technologies that higher education is paying attention to and likely to invest in for 2015. The use of data, security and WiFi round out the top 10 list, according to new research from Educause, a technology association for universities and colleges.

"Strategic technologies," according to Educause Vice President for Data, Research and Analytics Susan Grajek, are those that institutions will be spending the most time on for the new year. In fact, that hints at how the top 10 list is derived.

Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2015

1. Business intelligence/reporting dashboards;

2. Mobile app development;

3. Mobile apps for enterprise applications;

4. Administrative/business performance analytics;

5. 802.11ac wireless networking standard;

6. Enterprise identity and access management solutions;

7. Use of mobile devices in teaching and learning;

8. Mobile data protection;

9. Unified communications and collaboration; and

10. Mobile apps for teaching and learning

Source: Educause

"The purpose of the strategic report is to be a little bit future oriented and to look at technologies that institutions are just in the process of either tracking or planning or implementing," said Grajek. The methodology for developing the list was to compile a set of technologies from the organization's Core Data survey, which examines the technologies in use across campus by member schools, then added to that from technologies "on the cusp," as reported by other sources, including Gartner and the NMC Horizon Report.

The final list included 107 different technologies "that we think are not yet mature, but they are maturing," Grajek explained. That list was given to about 10,000 Educause members as part of their participation in the Top 10 IT Issues survey to determine how much time they expected their institutions to dedicate to each technology in 2015. From that group 368 members responded with one of six answers for each technology in the list:

  • No meaningful investment;
  • Expect to spend multiple person-days "tracking" the technology;
  • Expect to spend multiple person-weeks "planning" for the technology;
  • Expect to spend multiple person-months implementing the technology;
  • The technology is already in place; or
  • Unfamiliar with the technology.

Each response was weighted; no investment or technology already in place received a zero weight; implementation received the highest weight.

Unlike the NMC Horizon Report, which relies on expert opinion to determine which technologies are gaining a foothold in higher education, noted Grajek, this list "relies on taking that expert opinion and wedding it to real data about what institutions' plans are."

The result: Mobile shows up across the board. That includes mobile application development, mobile apps for the enterprise, use of mobile devices in teaching and learning, mobile data protection, unified communications and mobile apps for teaching and learning.

However, the area where institutions expect to spend the largest amount of time is in business intelligence and reporting dashboards. Administrative and business performance analytics also surfaces in spot No. 4. Schools will also be paying attention to WiFi standard in the coming year, as well as enterprise identity and access management solutions.

An Educause strategic technology report written by Grajek will be published on the Educause website later this month and made available to members of the Educause Center for Analysis and Research. In that report Educause predicts that five of the top 10 technologies will move into the mainstream by the end of the decade. That means it is expected to be deployed by between 61 percent and 80 percent of institutions. Those encompass:

  • BI/reporting dashboards;
  • Mobile app development;
  • Mobile apps for enterprise applications;
  • Enterprise identity and access management solutions; and
  • 802.11ac wireless networking standard.

The other technologies on the list will see "growing adoption" in that period.

The organization also offered its list of "up and coming" technologies, which are those that institutions are most commonly tracking right now. The top 5 are: adaptive learning, mobile data protection, e-textbooks, course-level learning analytics and the use of the Internet of Things. At least 30 percent of schools are tracking those for the new year.

Grajek advised against using the strategic technologies ranking as a shopping list. The first thing higher ed IT leaders need to do, she suggested, is "start with the institution's strategic priorities. Don't start with the technology. What is the institution focused on? Are those priorities more likely to be achieved and delivered with a focus on mobile, developing the analytics stack or some kind of hybrid in teaching and learning? I would look at the technologies [list] as a guide to help think about how to achieve and deliver those strategic priorities."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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