University IT leaders are preparing for the unpredictable, survey shows

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Many colleges and universities have committed to resume in-person teaching and on-campus operations in fall and will rely on technology to create a flexible health management plan, according to a recent Educause poll.

“Many institutional leaders are still waiting for guidelines from state and local health authorities,” Susan Grajek, vice president of communities and research at Educause, said in a blog post.

As a result, technology leaders will rely on flexible scenarios that allow their institutions to adapt to changing circumstances and ultimately keep the campus community safe, she said.

According to the Educause COVID-19 QuickPoll released last week, 82 percent of institutions are planning to use hybrid teaching and learning to support both on-campus and online education, and many are planning for multiple scenarios and a creating a flexible academic calendar that can adapt to changing circumstances.

But technology can be used for more than course work, Grajek said.

“Technology can contribute to pandemic health management, particularly in the areas of workplace safety management, health screening, and surveys gauging the readiness of students, faculty, and staff to return to campus,” she said.

However, roughly a quarter of the institutions that responded to the survey said they were uncertain about their plans to use technology to manage the pandemic this fall. Nearly half of the respondents said they had no plans for using for location tracking and almost 40 percent said they will not use technology to monitor social distancing. But more than 70 percent of institutions said health screening systems are either currently being deployed on campus or under consideration.

Yet the specific technologies colleges and universities will use are still being selected, with some institutions opting to redesign existing technologies to support health screening and others acquiring or internally developing new systems to support screening. This uncertainty has made many IT leaders increasingly nervous about having time to prepare, Grajek said.

“Unless institutions and health authorities can provide more clarity and decisiveness soon, the ability of IT leaders and staff to select and deploy reliable, cost-effective solutions to managing health is at risk,” she said.

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