Higher Education’s 2019 Trend Watch and Top 10 Strategic Technologies

Implications: Knitting Together the Top 10 IT Issues, Strategic Technologies, and Trends

The list of the top trends and top strategic technologies can inform—but should not substitute for—a strategic plan or roadmap. IT leaders and professionals should always ensure that institutional strategy drives IT strategy and that IT strategy and architecture drive technology decisions.

To help readers act on these findings, we mapped the top 10 strategic technologies and both the trends that are most influential and those that are taking hold to the Top 10 IT Issues. Table 1 summarizes the three major themes of the Top 10 IT Issues—empowered students, trusted data, 21st-century business strategies—and the individual IT issues, trends, and strategic technologies that most pertain to those themes. Consider conversations and planning sessions for each of the three themes, and explore the extent to which overall major trends and emerging technologies are playing out at your institution. Numbers in parentheses are the rankings for strategic technologies in last year’s top 10.

Table 1. Matrix of issues, trends, and technologies

Top 10 IT Issues Theme IT Issues Trends Strategic Technologies
Empowered students:
In their drive to improve student outcomes, institutions are increasingly focused on individual students, on their life circumstances, and on their entire academic journey. Leaders are relying on analytics and technology to make progress.
  1. Student success: Serving as a trusted partner with other campus units to drive and achieve student success initiatives
  2. Student-centered institution: Understanding and advancing technology’s role in optimizing the student experience (from applicants to alumni)
  • Student success focus/imperatives
  • Online degree or certificate programs
  • Evaluation of technology-based instructional innovations
  • Changing demographics’ influence on enrollments
  1. Active learning classrooms (2)
  2. Incorporation of mobile devices in teaching and learning (3)
  3. Open educational resources
  4. Institutional support for accessibility technologies
  5. Technologies for improving analysis of student data (5)
  6. Predictive analytics for student success (institutional level) (8)
  7. Integrated student success planning and advising systems (10)
Trusted data:
Institutions are securing, integrating, and standardizing data and preparing the institution to use data meaningfully and ethically.
  1. Information security strategy: Developing a risk-based security strategy that effectively detects, responds to, and prevents security threats and challenges
  2. Privacy: Safeguarding institutional constituents’ privacy rights and maintaining accountability for protecting all types of restricted data
  3. Digital integrations: Ensuring system interoperability, scalability, and extensibility, as well as data integrity, security, standards, and governance, across multiple applications and platforms
  4. Data-enabled institution: Taking a service-based approach to data and analytics to reskill, retool, and reshape a culture to be adept at data-enabled decision-making
  5. Data management and governance: Implementing effective institutional data-governance practices and organizational structures
  • Growing complexity of security threats
  • Data-driven decision-making
  • Increasing complexity of technology, architecture, data
  • Compliance environment
  • Institution-wide data management and integrations
  • Changing enterprise system architectures, integrations, and workflows
  • Incorporating risk-management approaches into IT strategy and service delivery
  • Campus safety
  1. Uses of APIs (1)
  2. Blended data center (on premises and cloud based) (7)
  3. Application performance monitoring
21st-century business strategies:
This is the leadership journey, in which institutions address today’s funding challenges and prepare for tomorrow’s more competitive ecosystem. Technology is now embedded into teaching and learning, research, and business operations, and so it must be embedded into the institutional strategy and business model.
  1. Sustainable funding: Developing funding models that can maintain quality and accommodate both new needs and the growing use of IT services in an era of increasing budget constraints
  2. Integrative CIO: Repositioning or reinforcing the role of IT leadership as an integral strategic partner of institutional leadership in supporting institutional missions
  3. Higher education affordability: Aligning IT organizations’ priorities and resources with institutional priorities and resources to achieve a sustainable future
  • Contributions of IT to institutional operational excellence
  • IT as an agent of institutional transformation and innovation
  • Business process redesign
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Managing mobility (people, data, institutional resources)
  • Digital transformation
  • Shared services
  • Service management (ITSM, ITIL)
  • Higher education’s reputation and relevance
  • Moving from transactional to strategic vendor–institution relationships
  1. IT asset management tools (e.g., CMDB) (10)


Where are your—or your colleagues’ or staff’s—learning gaps among these technologies and trends? Some gaps matter more than others. Lean on EDUCAUSE resources, communities, and events to come up to speed and help educate those around you.


Planning is the foundation for good execution. Be sure you have such basics in place as a roadmap, enterprise architecture, and IT governance. Some technologies in this report may be highly relevant but may require other, more foundational technologies. Pace and sequence your investments carefully to avoid costly mistakes.

Don’t forget the broader environment in which you operate. Be aware of trends and consciously incorporate the most important into your IT strategy.

Use the EDUCAUSE Core Data Service to compare your progress with that of peer institutions and to find peers to learn from and possibly collaborate with. Get advice via EDUCAUSE Constituent Groups and at events.


Implement your IT strategy, paying careful attention each year to changing trends, technologies, and IT issues that may require adjustments or revisions to the strategy. As you meet your major milestones, communicate your successes to institutional leadership and to your staff. Celebrate your successes and learn from setbacks to continue forward momentum.

As your strategy matures, champion a new EDUCAUSE working group to work with peers to plan and design best practices and implementation guidelines.


Share what you know broadly across your institution. Help your staff come up to speed and gain perspective beyond their individual functions. Advance your influence by helping institutional leaders develop a realistic and hopeful vision for technology that will support institutional strategy and help achieve institutional ambitions.

If you are among the leading institutions in one or more areas, share your expertise and experience to help advance the entire field. Write articles or blogs for EDUCAUSE, respond to calls for proposals, teach at an EDUCAUSE institute, or simply indicate your general interest in contributing to the profession by completing the EDUCAUSE volunteer form.