Technology as Game Changer

By Susan Whealler Johnston    //    Volume 23,  Number 7   //    Special Issue 2015

What would you vote for as the greatest game changer in higher education over the last 10 years? For most of us, technology would surely be on the list, if not at the top. Because of technology, institutions now deliver their missions—teaching and learning—differently. For starters, over 5.5 million students take online courses annually, and faculty members are busy weaving technology into pedagogy. While MOOCs (massive open online courses) have not turned out to be either the panacea or the death knoll for higher education, they have provoked new thinking and provided new online options for institutions and learners. Linked to online instruction, big data is affording faculty members a deeper understanding of students’ learning styles and what can be done to help improve their outcomes.

Technology has also changed recruitment, engagement, and public relations. Websites and email rule over print viewbooks and “snail mail” for recruiting students. Tweeting and blogging have been added to presidential duties. Social media has a crucial role to play in crisis communication. Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Flickr, and the anonymous and often provocative Yik Yak have joined the array of tools for institutional and student communication. And don’t forget selfies.

Technology has also reached into boardrooms. Meeting materials are available through board portals and electronic board books. Skype is facilitating virtual board and committee meetings. And board committees focused on technology are emerging as boards grapple with the increasing costs, challenges, and opportunities it provides. In a 2012 survey, AGB found that 71 percent of board members believe online education will be essential or important by 2017, but only 54 percent said their institutions had strategies for using educational technology effectively.

With the growth of technology comes a host of challenges. Students arrive at college with more than seven devices on average, and providing sufficient bandwidth and help-desk services can be taxing. Libraries have morphed into technology centers (with coffee service) to attract and serve students. Data security presents an increasing risk, with the cost of data breaches measured in millions of dollars and damaged reputations. And then there’s the cost of technology and the staffing necessary to support, manage, and plan for it.

All of these issues arrive on the board’s doorstep in the form of budget items, strategic decisions, risk concerns, and educational quality issues. This special edition of Trusteeship—available only on AGB’s website and through our Trusteeship app—aggregates some of the most important topics related to technology’s role as a game changer in higher education. It offers a look at higher education’s 2015 trends in IT and thoughts to help boards determine whether their institutions will realize a return on their investments in technology. Two articles examine technology’s influence on academics, and another explores how one board restructured to respond to technology’s real and potential effects. We hope you’ll find this online issue of Trusteeship attractive and convenient. All issues can be accessed this way.

AGB is grateful to Sonic Foundry, sole sponsor of this special issue of Trusteeship, which is intended to increase board members’ understanding of technology’s central role in higher education’s new normal.

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