In higher education today, it’s good to be CIO — if you’re willing to change the way you work.
That’s according to Eric Hawley, who holds the top IT position at Utah State University. The digital age — with its cloud computing and ubiquitous mobile devices — has brought with it a makeover for the role of chief information officer. For Hawley, a university CIO serving a school of nearly 30,000 students, it has changed what the I stands for — to integration.
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“We buy components, end users buy cloud components, and we build those together like snapping Lego blocks together,” he said. “And that’s different from the old legacy IT where our job was install software X and keep it running for 10 years.”
Today, Hawley’s central IT department provides and maintains cloud computing platforms and then hands them over to what he calls “the edge” — which includes IT units that work more closely with business or academic departments — “to get their hands dirty in that data to see what they can do.”
For example, his department has given IT staffers in USU’s college of education access to enterprise systems and data, which they’re using to improve ways to track and measure student progress.
Also on the edge are students. Hawley’s team caters to them by giving them file-sharing platforms they want to work with, like Google Drive and Box.com. He also gives them “flipped classrooms,” or video-recorded lectures they can view on their smart devices whenever they want to. In the traditional model of learning, with students taking notes during lectures, Hawley said, “there’s no good way to make sure your notes were correct until the exam shows up.”
Robert Juckiewicz, vice president for IT at Hofstra University, agrees that it’s an exciting time to be in a university CIO role. His team is constantly looking for ways to use technology to improve how faculty teaches and how students learn — whether that’s offering computing courses or holding Hofstra’s version of the traveling science and innovation event Maker Faire.
“You don’t need to come to IT for a server. You can go anyplace. You don’t have to come here for expertise. It’s all over the place,” Juckiewicz said. “So what value can we add so that everybody just sees that and comes to us? I think that’s our challenge, and that means that we’ve got to think slightly differently.”