By User9147039-Oracle on Jul 06, 2015
The month of June (2015) is like a blur to me. There were so many conferences and events for higher education where Oracle had a presence that I barely had enough clothes to reload my suitcase each week.
Despite the crazy schedule, there were some very interesting themes that emerged from all of the meetings. First off, let me describe each of the conferences. In early June, Ovum sponsored the first ever Future EdTech event for higher education in London. The predominate attendees were from the UK, but there was a remarkable number of western European institutions that made the journey to London. The following week was EUNIS, the European University Information Systems Congress which took place this year at Abertay University in Dundee Scotland. This was followed by what I consider to be the most enriching conference I attend every year, the Forum for the Future of Higher Education, held at the Aspen Institute. And then last but not least, during the final week of June was my semi-annual Oracle Education & Research Industry Strategy Council meeting in Washington, DC.
Three of the four meetings I outlined are ed-tech focused, with the notable exception being the Future's Forum. But what struck me about that meeting, even though the audience was largely non-IT (presidents, provosts, deans, and representatives from various financial services and non-for-profits focused on education) the underlying themes of so much of the content was technology. Whether advances in on-line learning platforms (the Minerva project was a fantastic example of this) or the use of predictive analytics to measurably improve student outcomes and foster data-driven decision making in higher education, it is clear that IT has "crossed the chasm" from an auxiliary service that keeps the trains running (i.e. wireless networks operational, payroll processed, IP telephones working, etc.) to a strategic enabler of transformation in higher education. But has the IT function in higher education made this shift, or has the need for the shift to be made come into sharper relief?
I was struck by many of the comments at the Ovum event in London and from EUNIS around the methodical if slow progress that certain parts of Europe are making towards the US model of funding based on outcomes, and the need for the "consumers" of education to bear more of the cost. Whether or not this is a good move, I'd rather not debate here (as we would drift into the discussions around whether funding higher education is a public good) but the reality of this kind of shift is that "consumers" will become much more conscious of value and demand a more modern "experience" with which they are accustomed from their interactions with entities that have made much greater strides in leveraging technology (specifically CRM technologies) to make the experience much more personal and "frictionless" (to borrow a term from Nicole Engelbert of Ovum).
For the final week of June, we convened the 8th meeting of the Education and Research ISC (Industry Strategy Council) in Washington. As I told the group during opening remarks, this is by far the most enjoyable part of my job at Oracle (and also one of the more stressful, but in a good way). We get two days of largely uninterrupted quality time to get feedback from this distinguished group and to put ideas in front of them in a somewhat non-threatening, open, candid environment. In many respects, it is fulfilling what I had hoped to create with this group four years ago - the development of a commons - an environment where we can push the limits on some of the issues that we're confronting in a safe, closed environment where ideas and thoughts can be surfaced openly. I'm sure each of the ISC members has their own opinion, but I believe we accomplished that in this meeting. The makeup of this group is largely IT leadership (CIO), but increasingly more functional and business leadership participates (CFO, VP Enrollment Management, even a couple of presidents). However I have sensed over the course of the last 8 meetings, culminating in the most recent one, that IT is becoming very strategic in higher education. Yes there are still many examples of what I called “science project” thinking, but on the whole there has been a significant shift in the way IT in higher ed underpins the strategy of the institution, not reacts to it.
On the second day, we were joined by three members of Congress who are stakeholders in education policy: Chairwoman (of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee) Virginia Foxx from the House, Chairman Lamar Alexander from the Senate side, and Senator Bob Casey. Each of them commented on the breaking news regarding the Dept. of Education's decision to back off of it's plan to develop a college rating system. In particular, Senator Alexander highlighted the committee's efforts to dramatically reduce the paperwork involved in applying for Federal Financial Aid, and also the drive to dramatically reduce duplicative and needless reporting and administrative burden that is costing higher ed so much by chasing compliance.
In my next post, I’ll spend a bit more time on some of the comparisons between two industries that have had similar struggles with realizing the value of enterprise IT systems: Healthcare and Education, through the lens of someone who spoke on the topic at the aforementioned Forum for the Future of Higher Education.