The Challenges to Higher Education Innovation

This blog post is an excerpt from our recent GovLoop Academy course created in partnership with VMWare and AWS, Integrate With Cloud for Innovative Higher Education. To access the course in full, head here

Higher education is not simply a place for students to learn. Higher education is a way of advancing our world, guiding societies to the next big thing, illuminating new ideas that solve pressing challenges and creating opportunities to shape a better future.

These high stakes have spurred vigorous competition from both private and public institutions to attract top students and faculty, along with the funding and reputation that accompany them. Technology is a primary means to attaining these and other goals.

Within higher education, IT is increasingly being used to improve operational efficiency and effectiveness, through activities such as automation, personalization, mobile access, outsourcing, shared services, and process improvement.

However, acquiring and leveraging innovative technologies like cloud, mobile and virtualization can be challenging for many universities and colleges. Why?

For one, many higher education IT departments are strapped for both budgets and personnel. New technologies demand significant costs to acquire, integrate and manage. They also require new skills, meaning departments must either train staff on new processes and tools or hire new talent. For already constrained IT departments, these costs in time, labor and money can be overwhelming.

Additionally, many IT departments are already pressured to manage a complex and disjointed existing environment. This is a result of common operating standards in higher education, where shadow IT is prevalent.

You see, as cloud-based services become increasingly common, individual education departments often bypass IT departments and negotiate directly with vendors to select and purchase technology-related services. This practice makes it difficult for IT staff to maintain standards for architecture and integration; and it complicates concerns for information security, compliance, privacy, data management and governance.

Finally, it’s important to understand that higher education IT faces a unique set of performance demands. The landscape of student learning is quickly and drastically changing to be omni-channel, self-service and self-paced. That requires always-on, high-performance compute and networking resources to offer round-the-clock availability.

Not to mention, institutions must be able to access all the data generated from these increasingly digital student interactions in order to analyze and act on it for improved outcomes.

And speaking of data, the research arms of higher education are always synthesizing ever-growing amounts of disparate information to further their research initiatives. Both students and academic staff require massive amounts of compute, networking and storage resources to perform their essential tasks. And they need data governance and security to keep their work secure and organized.

For IT departments with static budgets and siloed purchasing leadership, meeting these demands can feel impossible. Yet higher education must find ways to leverage innovative new technologies to meet the demands of today.

How do they do that? We’ll explain in our full course, which you can access here.

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Avatar photo Blake Martin

IT’s effect on higher ed innovation potential is much more substantial than I would’ve assumed. Super interesting to learn how higher education faces many of the same resource challenges found elsewhere in the public sector. I should check out this course…