Lev Gonick, a friend and the CIO of Case Western, is the author of a piece in that appeared today in the Chronicle of Higher Ed today about IT leadership at colleges and universities. It’s a thoughtful, provocative piece which, coupled with a previous piece about leadership in the “wiki-way,” provides an excellent set of principles and directions for university IT leaders.
IT leaders must play an increasingly strategic–and not simply a tactical–role at colleges and universities. Accordingly, I agree with Levâ€™s assertion that IT leaders deserve a central, strategic role in presidential cabinets at colleges and universities. However, you have to have the right kinds of people (people like Lev) in these positions if that is what you expect of them. The day is past that we can consider IT merely a â€œsupport functionâ€ of the university. If we think of it as simply auxiliary, we will miss significant opportunities to transform (for the better!) our practices through strategic (not simply tactical) IT initiatives.
I would however, make one addition to Levâ€™s list of strategic directions for IT, and Iâ€™d put it at the top of the list. CIOâ€™s should take an active role in working with the academic community to create a more a flexible, open, integrated toolset to support authentic teaching & learning activities. Our current tools help us manage courses and grades, but we can and must do much more than that to meet the challenges of educating the rising generation.
It is not enough to provide faculty & students with tools to manage the activities that occur inside semester-long courses. That might have been sufficient 5-10 years ago, but it is not today. Today, we need tools that allow students to build relationships with each other, with their teachers and with the content they access. Just as importantly, we need to support students’ creation of new content in the learning process and the discourse around that content. And we need to proactively build bridges between the tools we build, license and provide and the larger, often more dynamic online world in which our students live. CIO’s, IT personnel, and academic technologists must be critical players in the conception, creation, and implementation of tools that support such activities. Otherwise, we’re likely to see repeats past failed technology implementations that were tactically sound but that missed the mark because they were not strategically aligned with the mission of institution.