This year has seen a substantial increase in the number of colleges offering mobile apps for campus resources and services. But the use of Web-based services, known as “the cloud,” for administrative services is growing slowly, according to a national survey of campus-technology leaders.
Only 37.1 percent of the 496 colleges that responded to the survey reported that they did not have a mobile app and were neither planning for one for this academic year nor reviewing one for the future, the Campus Computing Project found. The results are scheduled to be released today at the Educause conference, in Philadelphia.
The survey also found that lecture-capture systems, which instructors use to record what happens in their classes, are becoming more prominent. Public four-year colleges saw the biggest growth, with just over 6 percent of classes using a such systems, up from 3.7 percent last year.
The most important IT issue confronting campuses over the next two or three years, according to the survey, is hiring and retaining qualified IT staff.
Some other noteworthy trends in campus technology are the spread of social media, the push toward electronic books, including textbooks, and budget cuts in IT services.
In the survey, 77.5 of the institutions reported maintaining a Twitter account, and 90.9 percent said they maintain a campus page on Facebook. The majority of institutions also keep up a presence on YouTube and iTunesU.
Campuses in the Clouds
Despite a buzz among higher-education leaders about using Web-based services, the actual adoption of cloud services among colleges remains low, according to the survey.
Only 4.4 percent of the colleges reported that they are converting to or are now using cloud services for administrative services, and 6.5 percent said they were converting to or now using cloud services for storage and archiving.
One service, however, is rapidly shifting to the cloud: student e-mail. Some 68 percent of the colleges surveyed said they used cloud-based e-mail providers, such as Google, Microsoft, and Zimbra. The winner so far is Google, accounting for 56.3 percent of campuses that used a cloud e-mail provider, followed by Microsoft, at 41.4 percent, and Zimbra, with 2.3 percent.
Learning-management systems are also starting to shift to the cloud, with 27.8 percent of colleges converting to or now using the cloud for that purpose.
College officials feel they have good reason to be wary of the cloud, considering it a security risk, since it often means giving up control of the servers where key data are stored, said Kenneth C. Green, founding director of the survey. “I think for many IT officers there is a risk assessment involved,” he said. “The way campuses make decisions versus corporations—they’re often willing to let someone else go first.”
Some college officials are considering teaming up to negotiate better rates for cloud services, hoping to reduce costs. Even so, Mr. Green doubts that there will be a big jump from this year to next. “It’s more of a three- to five-year story,” he said.