Australian universities shift focus to robots, VR and cyber

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Australian universities shift focus to robots, VR and cyber

Cloud computing concerns drift away.

University chief information officers are facing increasing pressure to deliver on cyber security and support emerging technologies like robotics and virtual reality, while their interest in cloud services and online services is waning.

The shift in priorities was one of the main findings of the annual members’ survey [pdf] by the Council of Australian University Directors of Information Technology (CAUDIT).

The survey, which has been published each year since 2006, asks the sector's technology chiefs to rank the top ten issues they are currently concerned with.

It found the question of how to layer new technologies on existing core learning and student management systems is now the second highest priority for higher education CIOs.

New to the list is a growing focus on cyber security, with CIOs rating the task of delivering a “holistic, agile approach” to information security as their third highest priority.

This includes making sure campus networks are secure, developing security policies, and reducing institutional exposure to information security threats.

The increasing focus on IT security is reflected in the Australian National University’s recent announcement of a $12 million centre focused on data analytics and cyber security in partnership with Australian Signals Directorate.

The survey found higher education tech chiefs are also facing growing expectations from students who want to able to access new educational technologies like virtual reality as part of their learning.

On this front, the Gold Coast's Bond University has begun using robots as part of its architecture courses, while Victoria's Deakin University will begin using augmented reality as a teaching tool in its medicine and engineering classes from December.

Other areas of growing interest in the sector include workforce evolution, business transformation and the use of analytics platforms to improve learning outcomes.

In comparison, research support and overall digital strategy (the second highest priorities for 2014 and 2015, respectively) have fallen down the list.

Other concerns raised in the 2015 survey have fallen off the 2016 list altogether, including the use of analytics to inform university strategy, institutional partnerships, providing anywhere/anytime access to online services, and cloud computing.

As with surveys in previous years, the top concern for CIOs in the sector still remains on the broad objective of improving student outcomes through the use of technology.

The 2016 results were drawn from a survey of IT chiefs across 30 Australian universities and eight New Zealand universities, along with an unnamed Australian federal government agency.

CAUDIT is the peak representative body for higher education CIOs and IT directors at higher education and research organisations across Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific region.

Along with the heads of IT all 40 major universities in Australia, its membership also includes research-focused government agencies such as the CSIRO and the Defence Science and Technology Group.

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