IT Infrastructure: Where Do Teaching and Learning Fit In?

The Educause Current Issues Committee, composed mainly of CIOs and IT Directors, recently published the results of a survey on issues in IT infrastructure in Higher Education. According to the report, “survey participants—the primary representatives, typically CIOs, of EDUCAUSE member institutions—were asked to check up to five of thirty-two IT issues in each of four areas: (1) issues that are critical for strategic success; (2) issues that are expected to increase in significance; (3) issues that demand the greatest amount of the campus IT leader’s time; and (4) issues that require the largest expenditures of human and fiscal resources.” The top ten issues to emerge were:
1. Funding IT
2. Security
3. Administrative/ERP/Information Systems
4. Identity/Access Management
5. Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity
6. Faculty Development, Support, and Training
7. Infrastructure
8. Strategic Planning
9. Course/Learning Management Systems
10. Governance, Organization, and Leadership for IT
(from Educause Review, vol. 42, no. 3, 12-33)
Given the original survey and its participants, it is perhaps not surprising that these top ten say little or nothing about teaching, or learning.
This lack has not gone unnoticed.
Educators such as historian Dan Cohen wonder how to bridge the apparent gap between IT infrastructure and educators while Geoffrey H. Fletcher, editorial director of T.H.E. Journal, expresses a similar concern in an article that reports on a session at the recent Campus Technology conference. The session focused on the changing role of IT in education and the presenters discussed “organizational changes—or lack thereof—that have been made at their respective institutions to account for IT’s new dual and often shifting roles.” They also noted that “IT has traditionally been charged with deploying infrastructure, but not with understanding and applying principles of teaching and learning.” Fletcher concludes that “No one denies the importance of either function—you must have an infrastructure to deliver information and instructional tools to students and teachers, and the infrastructure would be wasted to a large degree if it were not used by students and faculty in teaching and learning.”
The “Top Ten” list does include the item “Faculty Development. Support, and Training” and quite a few colleges and universities have Centers for Teaching and Learning. How do the efforts of IT organizations and CTLs mesh? How do universities’ implementations of IT support and enhance their visions for teaching and learning? This is not a new issue, but it seems to be a perennially perplexing one.

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