IT leaders in higher education compared notes on computing trends and issues at Educause 2017 during the Thursday sessions this week. Online testing, artificial intelligence, blended reality, and sharing resources all stood out as growing opportunities. On the issues side were security, IT disaster recovery planning, and lack of accessibility.
Artificial Intelligence was this year’s breakout star, with no less than four sessions dedicated to the topic (Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: The “Art of the Possible”, Empowering Students with Disabilities through an Online Student Support Portal, How CSUF Built a Student E-Advising System Using Artificial Intelligence, and Michio Kaku’s opening keynote. Adding to those were sessions by Blackboard, Microsoft, and Box, as well as the Campus Computing Project presentation of the 28th Annual Survey of Computing, eLearning and Information Technology, that included discussions about the growing use of AI in higher education.
An Educause panel of experts presented the “Top 10 IT Issues and Strategic Technologies” for 2018. The issues fall into four themes: students, planning and funding, security, and data. The students theme is about student success and student-centered institution, including instructional design and technology. Data deals with creating a data-enabled institutional culture, data management, and digital integrations. The security theme works through developing a risk-based security strategy that keeps pace with security threats and challenges. The group discussed the differences between security and privacy. Finally, the theme of planning and funding dives into four issues: Institution-wide IT strategy; IT staffing and organization models; higher education affordability; and change leadership. The need for constant innovation permeated all the discussions.
Changing the language of IT
Often subtle and not-so-subtle changes to how IT communicates become apparent at the annual Educause meeting. One session was dedicated to Building the Campus of the Future: Pace Layering Your Technology Strategy. The term “pace layering” has apparently been advanced by Gartner and is related to the earlier term, “best in breed”. It is similar to the concept of unbundling. When one component of an expensive integrated application needs refreshing, the idea is to unbundle it from the integrated package and go with an independent, best in breed, dedicated solution. The specific example offered was a financial aid solutions going off support.
Another suggestion by a panel of experts is to be sure to refer to the IT group as “enterprise IT” or “local IT”, but not “central IT”. The idea is to show a more collaborative, local spirit, rather than a remote, burdensome overhead function.
Understanding and Correcting Your Decision Biases: Good Choice Architecture
Katherine Milkman’s keynote about Decision Biases: Improving the Quality of Our Everyday Decisions dealt with revealing how biases can affect decision making and introduced the concept of choice architecture and nudging people to do the right thing. For example, people in a cafeteria line are more likely to put more things on their tray at the beginning, when the tray is empty. So why not put the healthiest foods there? Similarly, it’s been shown that people eat more when they use larger plates. A Scandinavian subway system had congested escalators, but low-trafficked stairs. That changed when they modified the stairs to look like piano keys and played tones when stepped on.
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Above are several of the works of art on display inside and around the Philadelphia convention center where Educause 2017 was held.