By Amrit Ahluwalia, director of strategic insights, Modern Campus.
Historically, education IT professionals have supported their respective colleges and universities from the behind the scenes. They’ve provided and maintained the critical infrastructure that allowed their institutions to serve learners, largely in the shadows, maintaining everything from server racks to campus Wi-Fi, to the printers in the library.
Of course, leading technology is no longer a “nice-to-have” for any business, and higher education is no different. Arguably, the technological infrastructure is as critical to helping set learners’ expectations of the institution as programming itself.
So, for the modern education IT professional, the most important topic they should be focused on is the student experience—both inside and outside the classroom.
By modernizing the digital experience being used to engage learners, IT professionals can help their respective institutions make massive strides to becoming environments better suited to the expectations of the modern learner, no matter their age.
Everyone today is first and foremost a digital consumer; they use Netflix, Amazon and Uber on a daily basis. Modern colleges and universities need to ensure students are able to access critical institutional information, resources and administrative tools when and where they want.
This means creating a secure environment that allows students to log into a portal to access receipts, request (and pay for!) transcripts and perform other bureaucratic and administrative tasks that are usually performed by front-line staff. It also means creating environments that automate adaptive communications, ensuring that learners are receiving relevant messaging from the institution through their preferred channels at the right time.
What’s more, IT has a role to play in supporting the delivery of high-quality academic experiences. That’s not to say the CIO will be teaching classes, of course. But it does mean creating an infrastructure that allows program catalogs—which are generally PDFs uploaded to the website—to be digitized and updated from a single location. It also means creating workflow structures that allow program approval processes to be automated and simplified, so that everyone from the program chair to the accreditation body is in the loop when something changes.