I recently attended the Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) conference in New Orleans and was impressed by both the quality of programming and the attendees. Everywhere I turned someone was sharing fascinating things they were doing at their institution. The Educause staff did a tremendous job running the event, and, as someone who has attended many conferences, this is not always the case.

During the conference, Educause released the 2018 top 10 IT issues. As a digital campus platform, the Ucroo team is passionate about what is happening in the higher education industry as we strive to partner with and support institutions of higher ed.

These were three of the 2018 Top 10 IT Issues from Educause that peaked our interest:

  1. Student Success: Managing the system implementations and integrations that support multiple student success initiatives
  2. Student-centered Institution: Understanding and advancing technology’s role in defining the student experience on campus (from applicants to alumni)
  3. Data-enabled Institutional Culture: Using BI and analytics to inform the broad conversation and answer big questions

It was interesting to see student success as a leading issue for IT departments across the United States. The IT leaders we are meeting with have a more holistic view of how they are helping their campus; specifically, assisting students to be successful. Questions we are hearing them ask:

“What is the digital experience for our students and is technology getting in the way of how they are or are not successful at our university?”

“Our portal is from the late 1990’s, what does it look like to take what we are doing to the next level?”

Student Success dovetails nicely with another top IT issue – being a student-centric institution. After working in and around higher education for the past 20 years, I wrongly assume everyone’s focus in higher education is the student. Sometimes it is, but not always.

“After working in and around higher education for the past 20 years, I wrongly assume everyone’s focus in higher education is the student. Sometimes it is, but not always.”

— Joseph Dworak

I remember attending a conference at Gallup in Omaha, Nebraska where I heard Dr Larry Braskamp talk about how student outcomes were an essential piece of the higher education puzzle. I then picked up and read his book, “Putting Students First: How Colleges Develop Students Purposefully.”

It is exciting to see IT departments thinking about the student’s experience with technology across their entire lifecycle with the university. They are thinking about how to put students first.

We at Ucroo are passionate about how our platform is now spanning the entire student lifecycle from prospective students to alumni and how that will help support students in a more integrated way.

The IT leaders we have been speaking with echo the need to put students first. They are no longer choosing to be reactive to other departments needs.  More and more, they are seeking technological solutions that will help many groups on campus serve students well.

At Ucroo, we believe this starts at the digital ‘front door’ of an institution. Years ago, people would look in the Yellow Pages to find goods and services. Today,  I would get blank stares from my younger co-workers if I even mentioned the Yellow Pages. Now, prospects are finding schools on the web but often not letting a school know they are interested until they apply. These stealth applicants need to have an easy way to interact with university campuses online. The transition from prospect to enrolled student needs to be digitally-seamless and more and more IT departments are recognizing and responding to this need. Again, exciting.

Lastly, the concept of having a ‘data-enabled institutional culture’ is becoming a hot topic with IT leaders and across university campuses. We spoke with a CIO at the ELI conference who noted data is no longer siloed on his campus; everyone is now sharing data to help make the best decisions for the school, overall.

Whether it is the traditional institutional research data that has been passed down from tenured administrators, excel sheets, high flying data analytics suites, or new-fangled data from LMS systems – data will only grow in importance along with leaders ability to interpret and let this data guide institutional decision making into the future.

We at Ucroo are eager to contribute to this conversation; sharing our newfound data with our partners regarding socialness and its impact on academic persistence, retention and, ultimately, student success at a university.

Going to the ELI conference and conversing with many IT and Academic Technology leaders was an energizing way to start off 2018. Movements like Educause help ensure that institutions of higher education, and those of us who support higher education as vendors, will connect in a way that is mutually beneficial.