Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Selling Digital Transformation

As I write this title I wonder if digital transformation can be sold or even understood. Sales professionals and consultants can paint a picture with the term, but will the customer be sold? I would suggest that most CIOs would be strong advocates for change and digital transformation, at least as they define it. Therein lies the problem. What is digital transformation? It is usually described as a change in culture within the organization that everyone buys into that can position the organization to provide greater efficiency, better customer service, perhaps lower operating costs, and a platform for innovation and growth. It centers on the adoption of strategically selected technologies to create a better organization. For some entities this might mean eliminating paper processes or providing smooth workflows to save time, cost, and effort, as an initial step. For others it could mean enhancing customer service, raising productivity or improving the supply chain with a cloud ERP system. In all, digital transformation is a commitment to improve performance in all areas using technology.

I take the position that CIOs and consultants should use the term digital transformation only when talking to CEOs and they should be quick to provide a definition that hits the pain points of the particular organization. Digital transformation is a buzz phrase that has multiple meanings, yet we see it in every technology blog and IT article. Digital transformation puts a label on a goal. Unfortunately it is not meaningful to the average person. It belongs in a the strategic plan and the elevator speech of any CIO these days, but when discussing this type of change with functional users or other executives it should be coupled with 3-4 significant projects that result in significant change and improve the organization. These projects should provide the groundwork for changes down the line. I say 3-4 projects because this is probably the maximum amount of change an organization can deal with in one conversation. Managing change and setting goals must be done in manageable bites. Include enough ideas to whet the appetite, but make sure the goals are not overwhelming.

As we prepare for the next decade institutions/organizations need to take a hard look at what they want to become and how they want to operate. They need to consider their goals and their competition. What will it take to remain successful? What kind of organization do we want to and need to become? How do we want to present ourselves to the market? What changes do we need to put in place to enable us to be agile and poised for additional change? Digital transformation is the process that leads to agility and better performance, but it needs to be presented as a series of strategic steps within a larger context.

The New Higher Education CIO
After serving in a number of roles in higher education, including 16 years as a Chief Information Officer, some of what I have been thinking about and reading in articles and job ads lately about the new CIO has been affirmed. Recent articles talk about the CIO needing to be a communicator, a consensus builder, a visionary, and someone who provides solutions, not just technology. Of course to provide solutions the CIO needs to understand the business or institution in the higher education world. Understanding means mentally sitting on the academic and business side of the desk and understanding what the institutions are and will be. This seems to be an affirmation of the obvious, but it’s not so true on many campuses.

Over the past two years I have talked to CIOs, academic leaders, higher education business professionals and vendors about technology and higher education in a period of great change. Some have said this is nothing new. IT has been bringing on new technologies for the past 15 years. This is true as campuses have implemented web ERP systems, SMART classrooms, installed wireless networks everywhere, and most recently started to work on student success initiatives. Student success projects have been collaborative with other parts of the campus and have been largely driven from the top. As a result, everybody works on this. These recent initiatives provide a glimpse of how information technology (IT) should work. I would suggest that many CIOs are still techies who do not understand higher education and have been focusing primarily on ERP upgrades, computer refreshes, firewall placement, security, and internet capacity and up-time. As a result, IT is often seen as outside the loop of higher education and not connecting well with what really needs to be done on campus.

This sounds harsh and unappreciative, but ask a provost, CFO or registrar what they think of IT on their campus. Having read job advertisements for dozens of CIO positions in the past two years, I can tell you that the most often seen “must haves” are that the new CIO “needs to be an effective communicator and accomplished innovator”. This implies that the last CIO was probably not an effective communicator and was not particularly innovative. In other words, the last CIO did not get higher education and was focused too much on providing ubiquitous (often unnoticed and underappreciated) infrastructure. I have no intention of bashing CIOs or IT teams. They provide incredibly valuable services and often do so with limited staffing and funding. That said the new CIO needs to be something different. They can’t view the next need from the faculty or a user department as “just another project that I don’t have time for”.

The new CIO needs to either come from outside of IT or be an IT person with the passion for providing service and technology that advances the mission of the college/university. A person with only an IT background needs to get out on campus as often as possible and participate in campus life and sit with administrative and academic department heads regularly to understand their biggest pain points and that next regulatory requirement. A CIO does not have endless resources, but they need to become a broker for the resources they do have. Where can time, energy, and money be utilized to benefit the institution? Can partnerships be formed within the college to meet a need or initiative that advances the campus? I think campuses are looking for the new CIO to be their partner, not a gatekeeper or solely and infrastructure provider. IT cannot be all things to all people, but with much better communication and openness to meaningful innovation they can hit the moving target a bit closer to the center.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

An Acadmic Commons: Library, Meeting Space, Lounge, Gallery, Coffee Shop, Student Services Center, Faculty Development Center, or Digital Repository

So what's happening in your college library these days? My former campus, Salisbury University (MD), is in the early stages of building a learning commons. What is a learning commons? Well, it seems that a learning commons is a mix of teaching and meeting spaces, student services centers, computer labs, lounges, theaters, maybe the IT Helpdesk, video edit bays, paper resources (previously called books and newspapers, coffee shops with lite fare, and soft seating. These academic playgrounds are an amazing new addition to colleges that are lucky enough to have waited until now to build such a place. Those who built and ordinary library in the last 10 years really missed the boat. Imagine a library (sort of) that looks like a shopping mall, but has the contents of the college center, IT labs, auditoriums, bookstores, and has a few student and faculty services thrown in. All of this under a cloud of Wi-Fi. If you classes are online, hybrid or blended, you may have to rarely leave this amazing new place. Here are a few examples:

The Anderson Learning Commons at the University of Denver includes:

154,223-square-foot building
98,000 online journals
39,500 linear feet of library collections onsite
4,000+ pieces of furniture refurbished and reused from Penrose Library
1,864 chairs each with access to power outlets
1,000 databases
200-seat event space
135 computers (Macs & PCs) for patron use
75-seat café, 50 seats on the porch
32 group study rooms, six seminar rooms and dozens of group booths
2 fireplaces

I don't see a running track or showers, but they must be in there. Special thanks to Campus Technology the magazine for this lead.

The University of South Dakota learning Commons looks to be more of a mega services center - with coffee.

Academic & Career Planning Center
•Seek academic advising
•Explore majors & careers
•Understand graduation requirements
•Excel at job interviews
•Discover internship opportunities
•Succeed through First-Year Experience

Academic Support
•Writing Center
•Presentation Center
•Math Emporium
•Student-Athlete Success Center
•Lab Consultants
•Supplemental Instruction
•Learning Specialists

Center for Academic and Global Engagement
•Learn through service-learning
•Study abroad
•Conduct undergraduate research
•Explore National Student Exchange
•Compete for a national scholarship
•Help for International Students

ITS Help Desk & Equipment Checkout
•Receive personal computer support
•Request technology assistance
•Checkout computer & media equipment

University Libraries
•Get research help in person and online
•Research 24/7 in 250+ databases
•Find scholarly research sources
•Check out books & media
•Access local & regional historical materials

I started by mentioning the Salisbury University Learning Commons. This is very early in the construction phase, but will included:

2 stories in the Internet café
12 classrooms
18 group study rooms
24/7 = hours of the café study room
40+ seats in board/meeting room
48 bells in carillon
62 feet = height of the central atrium
115 laptop computers in the building
290 desktop computers in the building
290+ large monitors for classrooms and study areas
350 area jobs supported
418 seats in the Assembly Hall
1,020 square feet for the IT Help Desk
1,650 square feet in the Math Emporium
3,940 square feet in the Writing Center
4,287 square feet for Instructional Design and Delivery
9,841 square feet in the Center for Student Achievement
25,610 square feet in the Nabb Research Center and archives
224,071 square feet overall

These are some amazing spaces. For those who have been thinking that the traditional college campus was going to vanish and that all 19 year olds would be earning their degrees online - forget about it. Who would not want to come and spend your day at any of these places. What about the cost you say? You gotta play to win. These schools are betting that if you build it, they will come. I think they are right (at least for many 19 year olds).

Monday, May 12, 2014

Educause Top Ten Issues for 2014 vs 2009

The annual Top Ten Issues list for 2104 was revealed in the Educause Review in March/April 2014 . If you have followed the list for more than a few years you will notice that the list seems different this year. Usually the same items shift positon a few spots each year and maybe one new item pops up. This year it has a totally different feel. It should be noted that the panel that puts this list together costs of about 20 leaders from large, small, private and public colleges. Of the group of 20 or so leaders, only about 4 are presidents or non-CIO types.


1. Improving student outcomes through an institutional approach that strategically leverages technology.

2. Establishing a partnership between IT leadership and institutional leadership to develop a collective understanding of what information technology can deliver.

3. Assisting faculty with the instructional integration of information technology.

4. Developing an IT staffing and organizational model to accomodate the changing IT environment and facilitate openness and agility.

5. Using analytics to help drive critical instititonal outcomes.

6. Changing IT funding models to sustain core services, support innovation, and facilitate growth.

7. Addressing access demand and the wireless device explosion.

8. Sourcing technologies and services at scale to reduce costs.

9. Determining the role of online learning and developing a strategy for that role.

10. Implementing risk management and iformation security practices to protect institutional IT resources/data and respond to regulatory compliance mandates. Also included in the #10 slot was developing an enterprise IT architecture that can respond to changing conditions and new opportunities.

For so many years the list mentioned Funding IT, ERP, infrastructure, and a little about instructional technology each year in different orders.

In 2009, five years ago, we saw:

1. Funding IT

2. Administrative Systemes/ ERP

3. Security

4. Infrastructure

5. Teaching and learning with technology

6. Identity and access management

7. Governance, Organization and Leadership

8. Disaster recovery and Business Continuity

9. Agility, adaptability and responsiveness

10. Learning management systems.

It is refreshing to see that IT may be breaking out of the self perception as an infrastructure provider and is now thinking of itself as more strategically. I am hoping this is a good sign that the leadership on campuses is seeing IT as a partner and as part of the solution. I know this is not true on every campus. The 2014 CORE Sata Survey, also an Educause effort, notes that 47% of CIOs are a part of the presidents cabinet on their campus. Another good sign. We are in a time when colleges need to redefine themselves, or at least reaffirm (to themselves) who they are. Colleges that don't recognize the role of technology in the delivery of all products and services will be in trouble.

So good job Educasue and many college presidents for bringing IT to the table. I would like to survey college presidents and see if they agree with the Educause panel. Maybe Educause will do this too!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Survey: Do resident college students want to take courses online?

First, let me say that I work at a medium/smallish public college in New Jersey. The College of New Jersey is very selective. If you walk the campus you will get the impression that you are on an intimate private college. Over 60% of the students live on this very walking campus. Distance learning. or eLearning, has not been a strategic initiative. The college does utilize a learning managment system and offers a limited number of blended courses in the winter and suummer sessions. The faculty and students have been very committed to the "traditonal" face to face faculty/student relationship.

Here is where the surprise comes in. In my annual fall technology survey I asked students "Would you consider taking a totally on-line course during the fall or spring semester, if they were available?" Of the 844 students responding 62% said yes! This was a bit of a surprise because the overall tone I had picked up on around campus has been that "we don't do that here. We are committed to the traditonal classroom experience." I also asked students if they would consider taking a blended course or totally on-line course during the summer or winter sessions. Of the sample 8% said they would be interested in taking a blended course during the shorter sessions and 15% said they would be interested in taking a totally online coure in January or over the summer.

Let's step back and look at the larger numbers. TCNJ has about 6500 undergraduate enrolled. Exptrapolating the percentages this would mean that approximately 4030 students would like to take a fall/spring course totally on-line. Based on an average load of 16 credit hours and 4 credits per course, this means that perhaps 500 course sections could be offered on-line every semester. This is about 25% over the totally sections taught. What does this mean for classrooms needed, building support, utilities, and other infrastructure costs. This could also reduce the amount of on-campus needed for adjunct faculty and even effect faculty parking! As colleges struggle to maintain, and even build more, facilities what does this mean for the total cost of instruction and services. What does it mean for the budget, the number of support personnel needed, and ultimately tuition? Hmm. Worth thinking about.

Looking at the interest in January and summer session courses we could guestimate the 22% of the same 6500 students, or 1430 students, might take a class if it were offered totally or partially online. At roughly $2,000 per course, this could be up to $285,000 in potentially lost revenue. Since some blended courses are currently offered now, its hard to say exactly how much revenue is lost.

So we know that eLearning courses require less infrastructure and probably fewer staff to support physical classrooms. We can also at least see that even with minimal promotion, there is some lost revenue. With some promotion and prehaps the creation of certificate or other programs, this could grow significantly. I am in no way throwing stones at my employer. No way. At my last instution there was prehaps more eLearning going on, but there was not strategic direction or analysis done to see where costs could be cut and perhaps additonal revenue generated. I think community colleges (some at least) are much more attuned to the market than the traditonal four year residential colleges. Its probably time for many public colleges to at least dig into the possiblities.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

What tech gadgets are college students using? - Fall 2013

Each year I do a survey of college students to see what technologies they are using for both school and personal activities. This is helpful in IT planning and often has implications for the instructional use of technology. In the fall of 2013 I surveyed 864 students at The College of New Jersey(TCNJ). TCNJ is a mid-sized (6500 undergraduates)state college in Ewing, New Jersey. Most students are residents of NJ and are very strong academically. TCNJ is highly ranked by US News and World Reports every year and is quite selective. That said, the students are like many others in terms of their academic and personal use of technology.

In this post I want to focus just on the gadgets or devices that students own. The survey goes into many other areas, but I want to focus on this one area. After all, this might also help some parents with their Christmas gift giving for 2013. Back to the survey. I asked students if they owned any of the following devices. The results are:


iPad 15%
Tablet other than iPad 6%
iPod 40%
iPod Touch 33%
eReader 22%
Personal printer 66%
Television 69%
Gaming console 39%


iPad 13%
Tablet other than iPad 4%
iPod 47%
iPod Touch 41%
eReader 19%
Personal printer 67%
Television 73%
Gaming console 47%

The first thing you will notice is that students own multiple devices. In most cases they own 3 or 4 of the devices listed. It should also be noted that most of these devices are potentially networked attached devices. This tremendous implications for the capacity of the campus network and the bandwidth provided. All college CIOs will tell you that you will never meet the demand. You just keep chasing the demand.

A couple of other trends to note. Tablet ownership is rising with the iPad leading the way, but adoption is fairly slow. With lower cost Android tablets hitting the market, overall ownership should rise, but slowly. Other surveys show tablet ownership by college students at just below 20%.

iPod ownership is dropping, but is still strong. Another question of the survey asked about smart phone ownership. Smart phones are now carried by about 90% of the students. This has risen by about 10-20% a year for the past four years. Of course smart phones include MP3 music storage and playback. This has to be cutting into iPod sales.

eReader ownership may be increasing slightly. We don't see very many eReaders on campus and eTextbook sales have not really taken off, so I would say this device appeals to a certain group, but is not growing rapidly. The tablet is a more versatile device and will likely be adopted faster. Students are not looking to own many devices, they want versatility and multi-use devices.

I always ask about television ownership. I have a hunch that this device will disappear over the next ten years. You can see that TV ownership is dropping slowly. Live sports and the use of the TV as a gaming display are probably keeping its ownership fairly high. On demand TV over the computer or tablet will continue to force these numbers down. Colleges are watching this trend since most are spending $100,000 or more to provide TV in residence halls.

Although this this survey shows a drop in gaming console ownership, I actually think this will be a consistent number for years. game enthusiasts will always be on campus. I don't see this number growing. It may drop as students use the laptop or tablet as a platform. Of course this will require strong wireless networks. More games will move to the cloud. Right now many games require too much local CPU power to operate from the cloud, but this will gradually change.

I did not even include laptop ownership on this list. This got its own question. At TCNJ virtually all students own a laptop. Only four students of 858 respondents said that they did not own a computer. This question showed that about 20% of students own a desktop and a laptop computer.

These are interesting results for 2013. Technology ownership is very strong at this and other mid-sized residential campuses. I think these results would be similar to surveys at public and private colleges of almost any size. Results from community colleges would most certainly vary and in most cases show lower adoption of most devices. That said, life is good for almost all undergraduates.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Do college students prefer eLearning options?

With all of the hype about MOOCs, blended learning, flipped courses and web supported courses where do college students stand? I was looking at the recently publiched Educuase ECAR Student on Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2013. This recent version of the annual survey has lots of good information about students and their technology use. A few things jumped out at me in light of all of the talk about various types eLearning teaching/learning options.

- A little less that 70% of college students have taken a blended learning course (A course with a mix of web based learning and face-to-face teaching).

- Few students have taken a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). Less than 5% in most college categories.

- Students are more prepared for "mobile learning" than most colleges (using smart phones, tablets, or laptops to consume course content)

Blended learning, whether a straight up mix of traditonal lecture and web assisted instruction or a strict formula of so many class sessions and so many virtual session, seems to be pretty common place. There are several leading vendors in this space and most colleges use one or the other. Four year colleges (not for profit)seem to allow faculty decide how far they want to go with incorporating digital content into courses. often the IT department does not know how much the faculty are leveraging the technology. This comes too close to an academic freedom issue. That siad, i cannot think of a college that does not have a learning managment system in place. We are afraid not to do so. The LMS is now one of many expected technologies that both students and faculty members just think needs to be there - like email and wireless. Even a small campus can expect to pay over $100,000 a year for an LMS. So where is the strategic use of the LMS being discussed. I think that for the most part this is not happening at non-profit colleges. As a result we just don't know if its cost effective or contributing anything to the learning experience. BTW, I personally think that a well leveraged LMS can enhance any class and probably lead to greater learning. Although I have this hunch, most schools just don't know. No strategy and no outcomes assessment.

MOOCs are intriguing. They are noted in the education press and the New York Times almost daily. Legislators are looking very hard at the MOOC to reduce seat time, reduce time to degree,reduce facilities costs, increase graduation rates, and lower the cost of a college degree. These are pretty high expectations. As MOOC providers refine their deliver methods, most colleges are trying to figure out whether they are in or out of the discussion. Frankly, most are out and will be out. Another hunch, I think MOOCS are more about access than a replacement for traditonal instruction. I can see MOOCs playing a large role in continuing education for various professionals. The concept already exists, just on a smaller scale. I can also see MOOCs provding access to the higher education in the larger global community. Most surveys show that MOOCs are being embraced more quickly outside the US. The MOOC may also be a viable alternative to the traditonal masters degree program offered by many colleges. Perhaps not in every discipline, but certainly in education, the social science, and business.

- Most students have at least one mobile device. This could be a smart phone (78%), a tablet (18%), or a laptop (90+%). I don't see colleges leveraging this. Students access the LMS, but that's about it. There are a few small exceptions in allied health, education and sciences, but I think these prevalence is exagerated. There are lots of opportunities, but smaller levels of adoption. I am not seeing specialty software for the disciplines and certainly don't see colleges developing their own mobile tools. This is slow moving. We will see adoption of mobile in student and academic services before we see it to any degree in the classroom. That said, if faculty can create opportunities to exploit mobile technology, students are ready for it. Again, a case where the students are ready, but the academy is lagging behind.

In summary, I think that we are still at the start of using technology in education. We have many tools for teaching and learning both in the traditonal classroom and outside of it. I do not see a strategic push on most non-profit campuses. I think we are still in a bit of a wait and see place right now. Students seem very ready to embrace eLearning, at least as a part of their education. Colleges seem to playing wait and see.