Is Technology Adoption in Higher Ed Keeping Pace With Change?

July 19, 2019 Sharifah Sharomsah

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In a  recent Gartner survey, chief technology officers (CIOs) of higher education institutions ranked digital business/digital transformation as their fifth most strategic business priority, although a majority (59%) expects significant business model change due to digital transformation. While there’s an understanding at institutions that digital will ultimately transform the university model, the adoption of new technologies necessary for improvement is slow, according to the findings.

CIOs as Influencers 

The role of the higher education CIO in a digital age is evolving and their responsibilities have expanded beyond simply managing technology. First, and most importantly, they are in an increasingly significant position to help their institutions realize their ambitions in the digital age. Yet, overall the survey reveals that they are failing to demonstrate innovation through the adoption of technology as a means to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

According to Dr. Tony Bates, a distinguished visiting professor at The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, Ryerson University, and author of Managing Technology in Higher Education: Strategies for Transforming Teaching and Learning; CIOs, vice rectors, or provosts may be the drivers of change, but without support from the rest of the executive team, technology adoption, although not impossible, is usually much more difficult, and always suffers from a lack of adequate financial resources.

“In terms of technology, this is still pretty simple from a CIO’s point of view,” Dr. Bates said. “Good wireless and internet connections, supporting the learning management system (LMS) – so there is not much technology transformation in moving more into online learning – just more bandwidth and more of the same technologies.”

Faculty Driving Change 

Dr. Bates thinks if the survey had been conducted with Academic Vice Presidents or Provosts, they would have had a different response. This is in no small part due to the fact that instruction through online learning has been growing rapidly for about 20 years now.

“Instructors are having to do things very differently now and senior academic administrators are beginning to realize this. This is where the transformation is now beginning to take place: technology is driving the transformation of teaching. However, universities are very traditional and don’t change as fast as industry, which is probably another reason why ‘digital transformation’ was ranked lower by HE CIOs,” Dr. Tony Bates said.

Setting the Institution Apart 

The higher education CIOs who were surveyed recognize that enrollment and attracting the best talent through student success is required to set themselves apart in an increasingly competitive environment.

“I think this too will begin to change as we move more into learning analytics, virtual reality, serious games, and AI applications, but we are still in the very early stages of these technology developments in education,” he added.

As technology increasingly impacts the teaching environment through blended learning and new online tools, there is more opportunity for increasing skills development and achieving better learning outcomes. But for or this to happen, major changes need to be made in institutional management and the culture of higher education.


Dr. Tony Bates will be speaking more about this topic in upcoming a live webinar titled, “Building a 21st Century University: Managing Technology in Higher Education,” on 24th July 2019 at 9.00 a.m. (SGT) / 23rd July 2019 at 6.00 p.m. (PDT).

The webinar will explore the current impact of technology on higher education, mainly to increase student access and flexibility through online learning. Dr. Bates will also suggest some possible strategies for institutional leaders, based on his book: Managing Technology in Higher Education.

To learn more or to register online, visit the webinar page.  

About the Author

Publicist, Wiley //

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