Higher education is chock full of information technology. We have students who are avid users of mobile phones, laptops, tablets and associated consumer technology, nearly 24-7.
Many of our research scientists used advanced technology ranging from large-scale supercomputers to tiny, but sophisticated, sensors, all generating some of the largest data sets known to the world. In between, we have our business operations and general communications technology supporting our institutions.
When it comes to IT, we resemble a complex, small city more than a singular corporate entity. Chief information officers (CIOs) play a central role in planning and coordinating this span of technology across our institutions.
As we look forward to 2022-2023, here are some critical technologies CIOs should be looking at:
Next-generation digital learning tools
These range from more common electronic books and interactive learning systems, to sophisticated classrooms that support both in-person and remote collaborations real-time and asynchronously. The COVID-19 pandemic forced nearly all universities to teach remotely. Now many universities will need to take the best of both worlds, in-person and remote, and knit together an even better learning experience for the student and the instructor.
It is almost a cliché to have this on a list of future technologies, but cybersecurity has taken a much darker turn in the past year or so. Universities are now central targets in the larger geopolitical struggles of our day, with well-organized, well-funded, and much more capable adversaries in Russia and China attacking our systems.
University research programs, hospitals and, yes, even student records, are increasingly at risk as these national entities try to disrupt life in the United States or steal our research.
Business process automation
With undergraduate enrollments dropping in just about every state, historically declining funding for higher education will continue to decline. While each university will react to these ongoing pressures in different ways, a critical part of the CIO contribution is in applying the latest business and business analytic software that can help universities streamline operations to help divert scarce resources to core education and research missions, and absorb budget cuts.
AI in research
The United States knows it needs to make bold moves to stay competitive with other countries, and we will be seeing more national focus on beefing up our AI research programs. AI is not monolithic; it is diverse, with little AI — meaning small, focused applications of the technology — being much more important.
Many research disciplines are already taking advantage of some form of AI today, but we expect this to get significant national attention in 2022-23.