Top 10 Higher Ed IT Trends for 2009

Economic woes, end-user fatigue and a growing sense of vulnerability to computer viruses were just a few of the challenges higher education information technology departments faced in 2008.

"We are one year into the global recession and the crystal-ball gazing efforts under way on most campuses are not producing rosy scenarios," says Lev Gonick, vice president for information technology services at Case Western Reserve University.

With a new year just around the corner, how can colleges and universities turn these ongoing challenges into opportunities for improving customer service and incorporating the latest technology?

Gonick offers his top 10 information technology trends for 2009:

1. Significant moves in the university space well beyond cloud e-mail services, such as Google Mail and Microsoft’s Hotmail. I expect we'll see the emergence of shared storage utilities and a range of “web services.”

2. The first college-centered breakthroughs for mobile computing after mass notification. There has been an academic debate in most large organizations for years about how to manage the growing presence of consumer technologies within our enterprises. No more. Watch for location-based technologies and presence technologies embedded in mobile smart phones and other devices (like wi-fi enabled iTouch) to lead to the first set of scalable campus applets.

3. Streaming media for education. Students expect it. Teachers accept it. Network engineers will have to live with it. Academic technologists need to figure out how to scale it. In the next 12 months, look for YouTube, iTunes U, and other campus-based services for academic streaming media to hit Main Street.

4. Improved Second Life capabilities. Dust off your avatar and get ready for one of the most important collaborative learning platforms to make inroads in the year ahead. Look new education-centered technology that delivers greater campus control and more flexible learning tools.

5. Pilot programs among traditional book publishers, the e-book publishing industry and universities. Predictions of the demise of the college textbook market in 2008 were highly exaggerated. However, this year, look for advances reflecting more mature and robust technology.

6. Attention to customer service. The truth is that, with a few important notable exceptions, most campus help desks are not our strongest service lines. On some campuses, the Berlin wall between IT help desks and customer service organizations is coming down. The trend line is about to take off.

7. Proprietary course-management systems will head for a brick wall. The combination of economic pressures, saturated markets and the maturation of these once-innovative platforms means that 2009 may well be the year of change—or a year of serious planning for change.

8. Enterprise resource planning system upgrades, which many campuses are facing, planning, and staging, are going to need to be repositioned. We’ll see decisions made to delay major upgrades for at least 18-24 months. For these glacially moving systems, change is happening. It's just hard some times to see the rate of change until you're looking in the rearview mirror 10 years from now.

9. Look for new reporting tools and growing expectations that metrics, scorecards, and data analytics will be used to drive tough decision making in higher education. Decision-support software and data-warehousing tools have been available for well over a decade, but the pressures for better decision making in the context of budget pressures is growing.

10. Interactive high-definition video conferencing will move from the boardroom to the research lab and the lecture hall. Facing budget pressures and public pressure to go green, corporations around the world are investing in next generation video conferencing. Moving operating dollars into infrastructure investments in this collaboration platform technology has led to significant reductions in travel costs, better space utilization, and a growing conscientiousness about carbon footprints.

One more trend for good measure. Substitute this if you disagree vehemently with any of the items above.

11. Board audit committees and senior management are going to hold technology management accountable for robust data-center operations in a highly constrained budget environment. Data centers consume vast resources, such as space, cooling and power. The potential operating savings through virtualization, data center optimization and greener strategies are substantial.

Read Gonick's predictions in their entirety on his blog, Bytes from Lev.