Challenges for Higher Education CIOs

by | June 30, 2012

This is the introductory post describing three challenges for higher education Chief Information Officers.

Higher education is evolving and adapting which presents challenges to the traditional approaches to IT service delivery.  This section explores three challenges facing Higher Education CIOs:

  • Globalization of Education
  • Consumerization of IT
  • Cloud Computing Services.

The first challenge facing CIOs is the globalization of Education.  Every country and higher education institution recognizes that education is an “engine of social and economic mobility” and can be “the great equalizer”.   (Eckel & King, 2004, p. 16)  Competition for the best students, faculty and staff is no longer limited to national boundaries.  North American higher education institutions recognize the vast potential of students in developing nations particularly China and India.  IT plays a strategic role to enable institutions expand their education mandate from local, state and national boundaries out to the world.

The second CIO challenge is the consumerization of IT.  The particular focus of this challenge is the rise of mobile computing.   “The majority of the students, faculty, and staff in higher education now weld powerful mobile devices that sport high-resolution video cameras, geolocation awareness and omnipresent high-speed Internet access – features that will forever change our classrooms and campuses.” (Dobbin, Dahlstrom, Arroway, & Sheehan, 2011, p. 2)  This trend is changing the education mandate particularly how faculty teach course materials to their students with mobile devices.  This trend also creates a new channel for higher education institutions to engage with their extended communities of students, faculty, researchers and staff. “As a result, the education ecosystem is transforming, changing the nature of teaching and learning, and redefining the “classroom” or “lecture hall.” (Lowendahl, Harris, & Bonig, 2012, p. 2)

The third CIO challenge focuses on cloud computing services.  These offerings allow higher education CIOs to radically re-think their enterprise architectures.  “In the 2011 CIO agenda, 64% of higher education CIOs expected to move more than 50% of their infrastructures into the cloud before year-end 2015.” (Lowendahl, 2012)  As IT budgets continue to come under pressure, there are significant money and time savings that cloud computing services offer.  There are risks too especially from privacy and intellectual property rights issues.  In Canada, the US Patriot Act and provincial privacy laws are particularly restrictive regarding personal identifiable information (PII) to organizations seeking to leverage cloud based services.

These three challenges will consume significant portions of CIOs’ time and energy as the help their institutions understand the impacts to their institutional missions for higher education.  I will follow up with a post dedicated to each of the three challenges. Stay tuned …


Dobbin, G., Dahlstrom, E., Arroway, P., & Sheehan, M. C. (2011, Dec). Mobile IT in Higher Edcuation, 2011 – Educause. Boulder, CO, USA.

Eckel, P. D., & King, J. E. (2004, Nov 10). An Overview of Higher Education in the Unted States. Retrieved from American Council on Education:

Lowendahl, J.-M. (2012, Mar 6). A Quick Look at Cloud Computing in Higher Edcuation, 2012 – Gartner. Stamford, CT, USA.

Lowendahl, J.-M., Harris, M., & Bonig, R. (2012, Feb 23). Agenda for Higher Education, 2012 – Gartner. Stamford, CT, USA.

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