KEY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR UNIVERSITY IT MANAGERS
With companies emphasizing the ability to apply technology to business problems, it is incumbent on universities to give students the skills necessary to meet the needs of companies. This goes beyond providing students with theory— it means giving them an opportunity to use, master, and apply these technologies in practical ways before they apply for their first job. While some of this can be accomplished via internships and other practical experiences, there is still the need to give students hands-on training both on their own in and in a classroom setting. University IT departments need to play a role in this. As resident technology experts, these groups can be strong voices in technology decisions, helping their schools attract students and provision tools to help students hone their skills. How? Our study points to specific strategies:
- Become a full partner in deciding what technology is introduced into the curriculum. As the guardian of the school’s network, university IT departments already have some power in speaking knowledgeably about what technology the school can support and at what cost. With this foot in the door, IT departments can offer their expertise and advice to administrators and faculty regarding what technologies the school should begin providing students. In making this case, it will be important to discuss how these technologies can be introduced in a cost-effective manner and what benefit they will provide students. To begin making this case, IT leaders need to present case studies of schools that have rolled out a specific technology to show the cost benefits and to fuel a conversation about how the technology gives students a leg up when they enter the business world. Additionally, IT leaders should talk about how the technologies can differentiate the school for prospective students, aiding in recruiting.
- Provide tutorials and assistance to help students learn and use the technology. Business leaders expect students to be comfortable enough with technology to be able to pick up and quickly use many different applications. Getting students who are not tech savvy or very advanced in the use of technology to this level of comfort starts with hand-holding as they attempt to master basic tools, like collaboration and productivity tools. These initiatives can even operate outside the IT department allowing students to learn about these technologies and master their use in their spare time without having to take a formal class. Tutorials can be hosted on the school’s Web site, and assistance can be provided online or via student-run hotlines.
- Meet students where they are by providing support to a number of devices. Students are introducing a range of devices to the university network: Laptops, notebooks, tablet computers and samrtphones are all finding their way to campus. To help prepare students for the business world, IT departments need to be able to push applications they are provisioning for the students to these many devices. Why ? Students will need to practice with these tools on their own time as well as in the classroom. Furthermore, students will face a range of devices and form factors when they reach the business world, so helping them understand how this application work on the different end points is an important part of students’ preparation for the working world. This will help students start to view technology as not simple for a social or leisure purposes, but also for doing productive work.