Challenging Yet Exciting Times For Education CIOs

by Sohini Bagchi    Nov 04, 2015


With the number of educational institutions and subsequently student database on the rise, IT is playing a vital role in improving student management, internal communications and address unique operational challenges. Despite this, CIOs and the IT department of education institutions often find it challenging to manage various tech complexities. In an exclusive interaction with CXOtoday, Sridhar Iyengar, Vice President of ManageEngine, division of Zoho Corp. discusses some of the key challenges and also some exciting tech trends in the education industry

What are the top tech trends in higher education globally and also in India?

Advancements in technology are making a great impact on higher education globally. Many schools have recognized this and are working to change how things are done to accommodate and encourage innovation. India is an important hub in the global education scene with a student population of more than 315 million, according to the census of India 2011 report. With the increasing number of both educational institutions and students, IT plays a vital role in improving student management and internal communications, as well as addressing unique operational challenges. A large number of universities are embracing technology to act as a catalyst for improving the learning experience.

A key trend is the adoption of BYOD programs changes the way students are learning today.  Leveraging collaborative learning emphasizes high-level skills such as creativity and openness. This enables the students to work together in a very effective manner. They can now create, design, and edit together from anywhere and at any time. Another trend is the use of three dimensional (3D) design tools that visually enable students to create product prototypes in a virtual space.

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are a good starting point, and should be used to structure the curriculum. They have great potential to take information to a new audience, irrespective of geographical distance. This technology can also be used after school hours, which provides additional accessibility. Students who need extra help could attend these sessions, as well.

What are the key IT challenges in the new academic year?

In the new academic year, educational institutions’ IT departments often find it challenging to give and manage access privileges to students when they enroll, as well as restrict access when they graduate. While ensuring uninterrupted access is given to the new students, IT admins also have to keep potential security threats to sensitive data in mind. 

Firstly, managing the BYOD trend across campuses, with students and faculty bringing their own mobile devices, flash drives, laptops, and tablets can be very challenging. Even though this adoption helps institutions reduce their infrastructure costs and enhances the learning environment, it also enables countless ways to share user sensitive information. Furthermore, it becomes difficult to manage devices when they are of all different types.

Secondly, students and faculty often forget passwords, as they sometimes manage dozens of accounts, both official and personal. Gartner estimates that 20 to 50 percent of all help desk calls are for password resets. Dealing with password management challenges, including forgotten or expired passwords, can be a tiresome and resource-consuming task for IT admins who don’t have automated solutions.

Providing the right technology environment is a huge challenge for educational institutions. Students prefer classes with at least a moderate level of technology. When technology is readily available to students, they are better able to access information and learn actively. The only problem is making sure this technological integration is worry-free.

How is ManageEngine contributing to this industry?  Pls give us an example

Addressing this growing need, ManageEngine provides leading technology that equips the institutions with effective user management through Active Directory monitoring tools. This gives IT teams and end users a secure “do it yourself”password reset and change option in a dynamic environment. Additionally, advanced technology enables automated and effective bulk user management, network management for intranet and e-libraries, self-service password management for students, and the prevention of data theft. ManageEngine makes sure that educational institutions are able to effectively control and leverage their technology to get the most out of each advancement.

In what ways is the CIO’s role changing in higher educational institute?

Gone are the days when educational institutions’ CIO had one primary job: keeping computer labs operational. With technology’s explosion, however, educational institutions worldwide now rely on CIOs to bring order to IT management in a chaotic digital world. This evolution thereby changed CIOs role dramatically, and this will only continue to evolve with technology. CIOs today are responsible for meeting various IT demands of students, faculty, alumni, benefactors, and management, as well as looking for opportunities to bring business value and enhance the stakeholder experience. To do this, CIOs have to explore ways to advance the IT agenda by ensuring zero down time, quick response time, secured access to data, and a seamless user experience.

What are the top tech priorities of higher education CIOs in 2016?

With the critical role that CIOs now play in educational institutions, the key priorities for CIOs in the coming year include, firstly, strategic deployment of new technologies to improving students’ learning experience and outcomes. Second, adopting cloud-based, cutting-edge IT models that will support innovation and facilitate growth. Third, building business value by demonstrating how technology can help educational institutions achieve their goals and finally, adopting and supporting mobile, digital, cloud, and BYOD education environments to enhance students’ experiences and facilitate learning from anywhere.

Besides, developing advanced technology and research facilities can lead students to work on and evolve their own advanced technologies, which could eventually be used in commercial applications, to solve real-world problems. Such innovative facilities and environments can lead institutions to attract not only the top students and teachers but also companies willing to partner with the institutions. A wonderful example of this is the innovations in and around Stanford University, which led to the evolution of Silicon Valley in the United States.

Optimizing the use of technology when collaborating with academic leaders, and identifying the appropriate level of technology for each moment are also on the CIOs ‘to-do’ list.