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IT vital to differentiate higher education

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Factors such as rising costs, declining affordability, disruptive technologies, and for-profit competitors mean that now is the time for institutions to grow the strategic role of IT to differentiate themselves in the market. Institutions cannot remain static and expect to survive; they must assess the changing environment and take timely action in collaboration with IT when required, according to global analyst firm Ovum.
In the new “2016 Trends to Watch report on Education Technology”, the independent technology analyst firm identifies a number of key trends that will impact the education technology market in 2016, including:
* More thought will be given to how delivery models for teaching and learning will change;
* Institutions will become more sophisticated in how they think about the student experience; and
* A serious discussion about next-generation IT strategy will continue.
Navneet Johal, research analyst: education technology at Ovum and author of the report, comments: “According to Ovum’s 2015/16 ICT Enterprise Insights survey, increasing revenue and budget growth, improving operational efficiency, and reducing operating expenditure will be the top three business challenges for institutions over the next year.
“It is unlikely that the higher education market will be substantially different in a year’s time, or even within the next few years,” he adds. “However, institutions must capitalize on change now, rather than being consumed by it later, to survive in the increasingly competitive higher education market.”
First of all, capitalising on change requires institutions to adapt to the new normal – the non-traditional learner. “The demographics of the student population have changed.  Therefore, institutions must dedicate the same amount of energy and resources to non-traditional programmes, including an institution-wide commitment to developing new academic programmes and creating better administrative structures for non-traditional students,” Johal says.
The report also highlights that with increasing pressure to improve student retention and outcomes, institutions will become more sophisticated in how they think about the student experience.  “Enterprise-wide deployments of constituent relationship management (CRM) systems and the overlapping of enterprise applications such as learning management systems (LMS) and student information systems (SIS) will grow to support student experience strategies,” says Johal.
In addition, the discussion about next-generation IT strategy will continue, with more institutions committing to cloud-hosted delivery and services. “Institutions need to focus on innovation to differentiate themselves in what is an increasingly competitive industry, and the IT department should be a key partner in driving this innovation,” says Johal. “However, if the majority of the IT department’s time and budget is spent on maintenance of on-premise applications and services, this leaves little time for innovation. As a result, institutions will find it difficult to stay ahead of the curve.”