What Leaders Need to Know About Edtech Trends

By Ellen Ullman

How to determine which tools and programs belong on your campus.

It’s rare to go a day without reading about how BYOD, gamification and cloud computing will change your life — not to mention the lives of your students. But which of these trends are life-changers and which can you ignore?

Robert Bramucci can help. The vice chancellor of technology and learning services for the South Orange County Community College District, in California, has some advice to help college leaders get the lay of the land when it comes to edtech:

  1. Get help. “We used to run Big Iron apps on large mainframe computers. Now it’s a hybrid shop of vendor-managed apps, consultant-managed projects and more about integrating lots of people,” Bramucci says. “The structure is much more complex.”He cautions against trying to keep up with all of these changes. Instead, hire strong national and local consultancies to do the lifting for you. Bramucci uses Gartner for his national expertise and says the research saves him enough that it pays for itself. He uses nine local consultancies that work in his office and are essentially a part of his team.“Having a reality check both locally and nationally can act as a strong risk management. Don’t trust any single source.”
  1. Focus on trends — not acronyms. According to Bramucci, cloud service is a long-term trend that gets more mature every year. His strategy is to reduce his server-room footprint by moving more apps to the cloud.Another trend worth paying attention to is mobile. “Mobile has quickly become a design standard; we’ve gone from developing for the desktop to developing for the phone first.” Knowing about mobile enables you to understand the consumer side. Today, the average student owns five wireless devices. Being aware of that trend drives decisions about connectivity, fiber and other pertinent IT issues.
  1. Pay attention to governance. As Bramucci says, it can be messy to have a conversation about technology on your college blog, but it’s necessary. Otherwise, your technology direction will be decided by one or two people. Use the wisdom of the crowd; anything that’s a big deal needs to be widely discussed. Build feedback loop mechanisms.
  2. It’s not about tech — it’s about business processes. People focus on the tools, but the problems are what need to be addressed. Technology is a tool to serve business processes. IT organizations are cross-functional organizational teams. “When the focus is on technology and not on business processes, we just create bad processes that work faster.”Instead, ask yourself what business problem you are trying to solve. Analyze how it’s being approached today and brainstorm to find more fruitful ways of handling the same issue.
Ellen Ullman

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.

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