The Future of Information Technology in Higher Education.

Donald L. Steward Ed.D.

Table of Contents:

Overview General computing Library transformed Teaching support Research support Outreach How to get there


The 21st century research university is more than bricks and mortar. Technology is the engine that forges cost effective partnerships benefiting the university community and regional interests. This is an environment where computing and communications are enabling technologies, rather than expensive adjuncts to traditional classroom instruction.

The modern university is confronted with two distinct student demographics. Part-time, employed, life-long learners are gradually displacing traditional full-time student. Distance learning appeals to these students because the strictures of time and place are made irrelevant. The 21st century will see the rise of distance learning at the expense of higher education institutions that fail to take advantage of technology to retain their student base.

The 21st century university will have the following technological attributes enabling participation in the mixed local-remote learning environment that is emerging.


General computing

The communications infrastructure can support campus-wide ubiquitous computing from all dormitories, computer-friendly classrooms and areas where faculty and students congregate. An array of technologies some wire or optic fiber based, some wireless seamlessly integrated providing fixed and mobile computing access extending outside the physical boundary of the university. The information infrastructure assures all forms of supported computing access meet student, faculty, and staff expectations for response time.

The campus-computing environment effectively supports all administrative functions with an attractive and intuitive interface unencumbered by superfluous fluff. Academic systems are accessible to students and faculty with varying degrees of computer competence. Site licensing is common for a variety of popular software programs. Personal computer hardware is purchased on-campus through a variety of innovative financing options. Knowledgeable students are encouraged to share their computer skills with less experienced students and faculty.


Library transformed

The library has been transformed from a place where knowledge was stored into a vibrant location where books exist alongside easily accessible electronic references. The cyber cafe brings many students and faculty members in close informal contact on a daily basis building understanding and a sense of community. The information commons has desktop computers located in clusters near the book stacks with printer access and desks provided with electric outlets and wireless network access for patrons who bring personal laptop computers. There is a small student technology center with staff to assist students with software questions. The library reference desk and computer help desk may share a common area to provide one-stop service for help.


Teaching support

Fully equipped multimedia laboratories are provided for faculty to develop and refine interactive courseware and multimedia presentations. Competent staffs of instructional technologists provide training and assistance. Immediate instructional technology media aid is available to faculty members during all class periods. A prize is awarded each year to recognize the best new instructional use of technology. Multimedia development sabbaticals are awarded to innovative faculty.


Research support:

The computing infrastructure provides an innovative environment for electronic communications of all types. Multiple computing platforms are supported. This open connectivity approach with multiple access methods allows faculty to propose innovative research grants with guaranteed computing resources necessary to compete for research grants with peer institutions. Assistance in crafting research proposals to take advantage of the unique computing environment and create effective statistical measures is provided. Tracking research grants to meet or exceed reporting requirements is an integral part of research computing. The assurance of a quality research reporting mechanism benefits the granting process.



The information technology department strives to integrate off-campus non-traditional students into the University community by providing access to instructional materials using a combination of web-enabled courseware, pre-recorded video tapes, real-time remote video classrooms, campus television broadcasting (cable and on-air), CD-ROM interactive instruction, electronic access to library resources, electronic mail interaction with faculty and other students, and easily accessible computing resources.

Partnerships with regional library systems provide remote classroom locations and administrative access for registration and advising using kiosks or dedicated personal computers. The regional library systems can electronically reserving a title from the university library acting as a full service branch of the university. Regional libraries are granted Internet access and the university as compensation for the use of space and staff time electronically maintains their collections.

The university has a computing system procured through a combination of grants and university funds exceeding all internal computing needs. Unused computing capacity is offered to the surrounding K-12 community providing access to computing power the public school system needs but cannot afford to purchase and operate by themselves. Faculty members are encouraged to mentor K-12 students by adopting a school as part of their public service responsibility. Students are encouraged to share their knowledge with the surrounding K-12 school students.


How to get there:

This vision can happen if each group that has a stake in the vision is invited to participate in the planning, procurement, installation, and ongoing operations of the system. University personnel both staff and faculty are voting members of a board or consortium with other stakeholders such as students, public libraries, local K-12 schools, and private enterprise serving in a non-voting advisory capacity. A structure of this type makes good political and managerial sense because: a committee maintains control of University funds, involves internal and external stakeholders in decisions, creates good public relations with the community, and offers the opportunity to approach private companies for technical assistance and/or outright grants and donations of needed equipment.