January 13, 2016 02:00 ET

Information Security Tops List of Issues Facing Higher Education in 2016

Annual Report From EDUCAUSE Identifies Top IT Concerns for Colleges and Universities

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - Jan 13, 2016) - Today EDUCAUSE, higher education's largest technology association, announced the release of its annual list of Top 10 IT Issues and Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2016, which provides a roadmap for colleges and universities navigating the opportunities and challenges information technology presents. As the pervasiveness of IT spreads across every institutional activity and mission, the Top 10 IT Issues for 2016 outline the most critical areas where higher education institutions, leaders, and IT organizations must focus in order to operate most efficiently and remain competitive.

"In the digital age, threats come from all angles," said Susan Grajek, vice president of data, research, and analytics at EDUCAUSE. "Because of this, information security is the highest-rated issue this year, as institutions seek to protect technology and data."

In addition, with the changing nature of IT service delivery and the move toward the cloud, the challenge to include proper safeguards and risk management for reliability and security is even greater. The report shows institutions still have much work to do to secure networks, systems, and applications; develop security policies; educate campus IT users; and reduce institutional exposure to information security threats.

This year, the ten issues reflect three overarching themes: divest, reinvest, and differentiate.

"In many ways, colleges and universities are mistakenly expecting the existing ecosystem -- their people, processes, and culture -- to be able to support, without change, today's new and very different technologies," said Grajek. "The Top 10 Issues identify three major takeaways for how higher education leaders can shift their approach to facilitate this need for transformation."

The report shows higher education IT organizations are divesting themselves of technologies that can be sourced elsewhere and of practices that have become inefficient -- and are reinvesting to develop the necessary capabilities and resources to use information technology to achieve competitive institutional differentiation in student success, affordability, and teaching and research excellence. Information security also requires reinvestments.

2016 Top IT Issues
 1. Information Security
 2. Optimizing Educational Technology
 3. Student Success Technologies
 4. IT Workforce Hiring and Retention
 5. Institutional Data Management
 6. IT Funding Models
 7. BI and Analytics
 8. Enterprise Application Integrations
 9. IT Organizational Development
10. E-Learning and Online Education

"While technology and data security are top of mind, the way information technology is delivered is also of primary concern," Grajek noted. "With increasing frequency, technology leaders are considering how they can better manage, retool, and transform their IT organizations and staff to properly meet the needs of students and faculty, and ultimately offer and support meaningful and sustainable services."

EDUCAUSE 2016 research -- including The Top 10 IT Issues report and The Top 10 Strategic Technologies report -- is important to higher education leaders and decision makers because it helps them anticipate and articulate challenges and inform their actions and strategic plans.

The list of top IT issues is developed by a panel of experts comprised of higher education IT and non-IT leaders, Chief Information Officers (CIO), and faculty members, and then voted on by the EDUCAUSE community. The annual Top 10 Strategic Technologies report identifies relatively new technologies that institutions will be spending the most time implementing, planning, and tracking in 2016. The Top 10 Strategic Technologies were selected from the analysis of a vetted set of 83 technologies presented to EDUCAUSE members in a survey in summer 2015.

The 2016 strategic technologies research finds that IT departments are working on multiple fronts to divest existing technologies and practices, reinvest in information security and mobile, and use analytics and educational technologies to differentiate their institution.

This year's top 10 technologies list is quite diverse, spanning technologies in mobile, analytics, security, application management and delivery, service desk management, business performance, and teaching and learning. Analytics is permeating many higher education functions, appearing on the list in relation to learning, business performance, information security, and application performance.

2016 Top Strategic Technologies
 1. Incorporation of mobile devices in teaching and learning
 2. SaaS (software as a service)
 3. Administrative or business performance analytics
 4. App development (responsive design, hybrid, etc.)
 5. Accessing online components of blended/hybrid courses from mobile devices
 6. Mobile apps for enterprise applications
 7. Service desk tool and management strategy
 8  Learning analytics
 9. Data collection and sophisticated analytics methodologies for information security
10. Application performance monitoring

Further out, institutions are devoting the most attention to tracking these technologies: next-generation learning management systems (LMSs), adaptive learning, mobile data protection, use of big data in learning analytics, uses of the Internet of Things (IoT), games and gamification, cloud-based security services, software-defined networks, open educational resources (OERs), and use of big data in institutional analytics. These technologies may be among the top 10 in future years.

"Information technology can truly help institutions gain a competitive advantage -- through analytics and innovative applications of technology to education," said Grajek. "The bar is high: Students and faculty expect their courseware and academic systems and services to function like major retailers and content providers. Colleges and universities have made significant investments in their physical infrastructure and services over the past several decades to differentiate themselves from the competition and to attract and retain the best students and faculty. Technology now has the potential to offer an arguably even greater value by helping to transform, not the facilities and food, but the very experience and process of learning, scholarship, and community."

The Top 10 IT Issues report and accompanying resources are available at More information on the Top 10 Strategic Technologies report is available at For more information about EDUCAUSE, visit


EDUCAUSE is a higher education technology association. The organization has an estimated 60,000 active members in over 40 countries. The EDUCAUSE annual conference is considered one of the best technology conferences in higher education. EDUCAUSE holds over 20 face-to-face events each year that reach approximately 11,500 individuals, with thousands more involved in online events. The association produces various publications for its members including the award-winning EDUCAUSE Review, with a bimonthly print circulation of 22,000 and online unique monthly views of 100,000.

Contact Information

  • Media Contacts:
    Ron Zwerin
    Director of Marketing and Communications EDUCAUSE
    720.406.6776 (direct)
    303.949.3050 (mobile)

    Rosa Vivanco
    Communications Strategy Group
    815.954.7867 (mobile)


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