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Administrative and Management Strategies

Business operations in educational institutions -- which include enrollment, admissions, administrative operations, fund raising, facilities management, alumni activities, etc. -- depend on sophisticated integrated information technology systems. The role of technology support has expanded as the level of access to information has increased from supporting a few mainframe users with terminals to servicing students, administrators and parents from their classrooms, offices and homes.

Some changes in the nature of information systems and its infrastructure as applied to education can be identified. Among others, these are:

  • Many educational institutions recognize the benefit of developing technology plans that include telecommunications, networking, administrative, library and academic components
  • Fusion of academic and administrative systems is almost complete. However, in some institutions, this is still not the case.
  • Students and faculty expect 24-hours-a-day accessibility.
  • Demand for greater capacity -- processor speeds, storage, bandwidth, support -- is rising dramatically.
  • Network availability and reliability are major needs.
  • The individual user is more knowledgeable.
  • Emerging models center on networks and webs instead of structures and buildings.

Trends and Approaches

Use of the Web enables key administrative and enrollment functions to be done more efficiently. For example, students at the University of Delaware use browsers from home, dorms, labs, classrooms or kiosks to print grade reports and class schedules, drop and add classes, change addresses, access financial information and more. At Oregon State University, Web-based applications allow students to access grades or peruse course catalogs online.

Many educational institutions are using the Web for marketing purposes by putting admission applications and catalogs online. Some of the most common applications are: applying for admission, viewing course catalogs and schedules, registering for courses, viewing transcripts and grades, and obtaining account summaries. Institutions are competing aggressively with one another and with content and service providers. However, intra-institutional cooperation is also increasing. The Internet 2 Project, a consortium of over 100 universities, aims to "facilitate and coordinate the development, deployment, operation and technology transfer of advanced, network-based applications and network services to further the U.S. leadership in research and higher education and accelerate the availability of new services and applications on the Internet."

Emerging models center on networks and webs instead of structures and buildings.

To reduce administrative costs, the Midwestern Higher Education Commission, established in 1991 and representing over 250 universities and colleges, has offered a mutually agreed-upon Academic Scheduling and Management Program to its members as a way to reduce administrative costs. The states include Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Investment in system management tools has increased as a growing number of packages become available. There is also a push towards replicating and incorporating the practices in business organizations. For example, in a recent conversation with Frank Tait, vice president of marketing for SCT Education Systems, Malvern, Pa., he stated their "newest administrative solution for higher education involves the following components: Forecast to Enroll; Matriculate to Educate; Plan to Fund, Manage the Enterprise. SCT work flow. . .will integrate business processes across an entire enterprise."

Conclusion

Substantial increases in educational computing and communication structures, budgeting policies, availability of resources, and extent of access and use of technology by administrator, faculty and students exist. Nevertheless, issues in some areas still need to be resolved, for example:

  • Restructuring the central information technology organization into distributed environments;
  • Partnering with other departments and organizations;
  • Redefining job classifications and responsibilities; and
  • "Outsourcing" or increasing staff, etc.

Managing an information technology organization has become more complicated. Investment in good system management tools is essential, and these are available. However, need still exists for more efficient and less-costly management tools.

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.

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