Campus Technology Departments See Fewer Budget Cuts, Survey Finds

November 07, 2012

Campus information-technology officials face fewer budget cuts in their departments, see tough competition for their business from learning-management-system companies, and view massive open online courses, or MOOC's, with uncertainty, according to the results of an annual survey on higher-education computing released on Wednesday.

The Campus Computing Project survey questioned officials at 543 colleges and universities on a range of topics, including mobile applications and the impact of investments in campus technology. Two questions about MOOC's were added this year to keep up with the "flirtation du jour" and "buzz" around the courses, said Kenneth C. Green, founding director of the survey.

A majority of campus information-technology officers agreed or strongly agreed that MOOC's "offer a viable model for the effective delivery of online instruction." However, more than two-thirds of those surveyed indicated they were uncertain about whether MOOC's "offer a viable business model for campuses to realize new revenues," the study found.

MOOC's are unlikely to have a major impact on campus technology departments because MOOC providers have taken responsibility for technical support and publicizing the courses, said Greg Jackson, vice president of Educause, a nonprofit consortium on higher-education technology. But campus IT departments may be asked to help faculty members produce MOOC's or tackle similar responsibilities in the future, he said.

As competition between MOOC providers like Udacity and Coursera heats up, the market for companies that sell learning-management systems is becoming more competitive as well, the survey found. The portion of survey respondents that use Blackboard's learning-management system has dropped from 71 percent in 2006 to 45 percent this year. Meanwhile, Desire2Learn, Moodle, Sakai, and Instructure's Canvas have been making gains.

"The market is competitive and volatile," Mr. Green said. "New companies have come in—Blackboard has its advocates and its antagonists." Two-thirds of the colleges and universities surveyed said they planned to review their agreements with learning-management-system companies soon, so more shifts may be coming.

Though budget cuts in technology departments are going down—27 percent of survey respondents reported budget cuts this year, compared with 50 percent in 2009—public institutions are still at the greatest risk of cuts. "It's not so much growth of budgets as it is less squeezing over time," Mr. Jackson said.

The study also provided data on mobile applications, chief information officers' opinions on the effectiveness of investments in campus technology, cloud computing, and other technology issues.

Many questions the survey asked will become talking points this week at Educause's annual conference, in Denver. More than 4,000 higher-education-technology professionals registered to attend the event, and 1,000 to 2,000 will tune in remotely, Mr. Jackson said. About 2,000 vendor employees will also attend the event in the hopes of grabbing attention for their companies' products. Jeff Young, senior editor for technology at The Chronicle, and Marc Perry, a technology staff reporter, are reporting and speaking at the conference.