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Higher Ed CIO Challenge 1 – Globalization of Education

This is the first of a three part series on Challenges for Higher Education CIOs – Globalization of Education.

The delivery of education has become a global business.  The number of students from K to 12 aged populations in North America are decreasing, putting pressure on education institutions to look for customers in global markets.  IT plays a strategic role to enable institutions expand their education mandate from local, state and national boundaries to the world.  We have already seen the implementation of online course delivery and almost every higher education has some form of web-based learning management system.

 Although closely related and frequently used interchangeably, the terms globalization and internationalization in higher education refer to two distinct phenomena. Globalization typically makes reference to “the broad economic, technological, and scientific trends that directly affect higher education and are largely inevitable in the contemporary world.” (Altbach, Reisberg, & Rumbley, 2009, p. 23)

Internationalization, on the other hand, has more to do with the “specific policies and programs undertaken by governments, academic systems and institutions, and even individual departments to deal with globalization” (Altbach, Reisberg, & Rumbley, 2009, p. 23)

Globalization of education is influencing the bottom-line of many higher education institutions.  Moody’s 2011 Outlook for U.S. Higher Education makes positive and negative distinctions based on the higher education institution’s business model.

 For 2011, we have revised our outlook to stable from negative for diversified market-leading colleges and universities in the public and private sectors in the United States.  These market leaders operate multiple revenue-generating business lines, insulating them against declines in any one revenue source. (Tuby, 2011, p. 1)

For the large majority of rated universities, we maintain a negative outlook.  This larger segment is comprised of less diversified private and public universities that are most directly challenged by tuition pricing and state funding threats.  This group typically has a more regional student draw, weaker pricing power, and less diversified revenues that are largely derived from a combination of student charges and state appropriations. (Tuby, 2011, p. 1)

The inference of these quotes is that higher education institutions need to expand and diversify their markets including implementing internationalization strategies.  CIOs are key institutional resources for aligning technology to institutional strategies to build revenues and expand markets.  Ensuring the institution’s network architecture is robust and secure supports global expansion.  The learning management system (LMS) is a hybrid of procedural and support system is a strategic differentiator for institutions that are moving from a physical to a virtual business model.   Like ERPs for running the business of higher education, LMS’s use web technologies and digital content to extend the educational mission of higher education institutions.

CIO’s will need to consider a broad set of strategies to help their organization survive in a global education environment.  A key area is the recruitment and retention of talented faculty, administrators and technical staff.

To maintain and retain a pool of skilled labor, organizations should strive to develop HR strategies for continuing education and training of their IT staffs. (McNurlin, Sprague Jr, & Bui, 2008, p. 542)

Another area of focus is information standards, quality and security.  Intellectual property (IP) rights become an important issue particularly to faculty.  The CIO plays a role of change agent by ensuring systems where faculty publish their IP are secure and protect their content rights.  This becomes particularly challenging as the trend to use more part-time faculty to help reduce costs. (Collis, 1999, p. 16)  Consider the concerns of a faculty member who is worried that if they move their teaching materials to digital format (including making video lectures) that they will now be redundant.  Higher education institutions should provide some clear policies that address these perceptions that people will lose jobs by going digital.

There is conflict in establishing quality assurance criteria on an international level that is acceptable to a national standard.  Quality criteria depend on political and social mandates at a local, state/province and national level. (Altbach, Reisberg, & Rumbley, 2009, p. 51)

Finally, CIOs help manage risk to their institutions by ensuring their IT departments have a strong business intelligence (BI) practice.  This is an important function, as one of the barriers to new competitors is the academic accreditation process.  If the IT organization can provide strong business intelligence and analytics, the accreditation efforts at their institutions will run smoother.  BI supports positive perceptions of brand quality from students, faculty and researchers.

Key risk management areas for Globalization of Education:

  • Financial – weakened prospect of net tuition growth, pressure on non-tuition revenues, need for stronger financial management (Tuby, 2011, p. 1)
  • Productivity – severe talent shortage, outsourcing labor globally (McNurlin, Sprague Jr, & Bui, 2008, p. 542)
  • Legal and Compliance – ensuring compliance to copyright laws especially in jurisdictions outside of Europe and North America
  • Reputation – ensuring academic quality control and recruiting and retaining top quality faulty (Tuby, 2011, p. 2)
  • Support and Maintenance Costs – learning management systems are large enterprise systems that require significant capital to purchase and ongoing operational costs to run from escalating software maintenance fees to retaining skilled technical staff.  LMS are essential for higher education institutions moving to virtual business models.
  • Market – the deregulation of the higher education marketplace is bringing in new global competitors and the introduction of web-based online learning removes barriers of class sizes and physical locations (Collis, 1999, p. 17)

All of these risks must be considered and planned for either in the creation of policy/strategy and the development of technology/security solutions to address the globalization of education.

The next post will be on the second Challenge for Higher Education CIOs – the Consumerization of IT.

Altbach, P. G., Reisberg, L., & Rumbley, L. E. (2009). Trends in Global Higher Education: Tracking an Academic Revolution. Retrieved from UNESCO: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001832/183219e.pdf

Collis, D. (1999, March). When Industries Change: Scenarios for Higher Education. Retrieved from educause.edu: http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ffp9903s.pdf

McNurlin, B. C., Sprague Jr, R. H., & Bui, T. (2008). Information Systems Management in Practice 8th Edition. Upper Saddle River: Person Education Inc.

Tuby, K. S. (2011, Jan 4). 2011 Outlook for U.S. Higher Education. Retrieved from Moody’s Investors Service: http://www.nhhefa.com/documents/moodys2011OutlookforU.S.HigherEducation.pdf