Education Adopting Latest Technologies

Rama Dhuwaraha, AVC & CIO, University of North Texas System
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Rama Dhuwaraha, AVC & CIO, University of North Texas System

The benefits of cloud computing for the Education industry can only be realized if we align our education and IT strategy. This alignment will help us improve outcomes in the quality of research and education. If cloud solutions are leveraged appropriately we can reduce cost, improve efficiency, and reduce operational complexity. IT Shared Services has been moving toward offering an On Premise Hybrid Cloud as a service to the UNT System campuses and organizations over the last year. A critical piece of that strategy is establishing a solid infrastructure foundation to replace our existing systems. This foundation facilitates more virtualization of workloads allowing more flexibility for applications, greater automation to enhance efficiency, and orchestration to support service provisioning within minutes. The automation/orchestration also creates a self-service platform for internal and external customers which speeds the deployment of many application services. We have also embraced the public cloud for solutions that are not core to our services. Moving workloads between the on premise cloud and public cloud is still a challenge we have not solved. Embracing an Enterprise Hybrid Cloud strategy is a must to remain competitive.

Data landscape is not optimized at Universities and Colleges as many of them use fragmented systems where data is ill defined and data governance is nonexistent. To complicate it further, many departments have chosen their own business analytics tools and methodologies which make data integration very difficult across the enterprise. In order to drive business value for educational institutions, we need good data governance and data quality. A comprehensive data warehousing strategy must be implemented to drive student success based on a data driven culture, and predictive analytics. Effective and proactive use of data can be achieved by using reliable reports and real time dashboards.

  ​CIOs must embrace virtualization, software defined networking, and cloud technology to deal with the onslaught of digital content and mobile devices   

Universities are innovation hubs where research is the lifeblood. We need a framework where innovations can be commercialized faster in order to foster growth. Campuses need to be thought of cities within cities. Current frameworks focus more on patent filing and not advanced commercialization. Virtual reality and augmented reality are two key technologies that Universities should focus on as the market evolves. The hidden drivers of great performance in many Universities are technology related, and to realize that potential you need good leadership at all levels.

The CIO role has evolved from being responsible from a micro view, viewing issues as separate, and compartmentalized, to a macro view, viewing issues as interrelated, integrative, and global. Global events and technology disruptions are major forces the CIO has to contend with today. In my opinion, the CIO will continue to play the role as transformer. Digitalization, mobile, cloud, social media and Internet of Things are making the CIO role more challenging by ensuring that the next big thing delivers maximum benefit and optimal value. This will further be compounded by security demands that need to keep pace with innovations that are yet to be commoditized. My role has changed significantly securing the right levels of investment across the IT function, and developing a balanced IT budget that combines innovation with consistency in a short period of time. CIOs in the future will be judged on their ability to deliver in an interconnected eco system, and must remain committed to operational excellence, and customer service to ensure consistent exemplary IT service is being delivered.

Technological advances are disrupting many traditional businesses. Uber is disrupting taxi services, Tesla is disrupting the automobile industry, Amazon is disrupting retail businesses and Airbnb is disrupting the hospitality industry. We are adopting an "Anytime, Anywhere" strategy to keep pace with these disruptions. We have several system wide initiatives such as CRM, ERP upgrades. Data Warehousing, Dash Boarding, Analytics, Early warning systems for student's success, advising, and a number of infrastructure initiatives ensuring we can swiftly transform when market forces dictate change. Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs) is already challenging the current traditional delivery of education. Our foray into platform as a service and software as a service will help us transform swiftly. Once virtual reality, 3D printing and augmented reality make their way into traditional education, we will see further disruption in higher education.

CIOs must embrace virtualization, software defined networking, and cloud technology to deal with the onslaught of digital content and mobile devices. Virtual workspaces should be delivered to mobile devices, so you don't have to manage every device. BYOD has transformed the mobile device world, where you can no longer legislate the type of device students can use on campus. Traditional lab spaces will soon transform into collaboration spaces. Many experimental ways of learning will be tested in the near future as STEM programs are seeing a continued increase. To manage this new infrastructure a multilayered security strategy along with identity management is essential.

Wearable technology is leading the adoption of Internet of Things on campus. Enterprise Internet of Things is going to create a connected ecosystem that will change learning, and campus life. The HoloLens and Oculus Rift are examples of wearable computers yet to arrive on campus. Currently IOT is being leveraged in facilities, stadiums, public safety and energy conservation. Applications that leverage IOT are still in their infancy on campuses. The future will no longer be about access to information and data from these devices, but the use of data and information analyzed and presented with options to make decisions.

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