The intersection between learning and technology

June 4, 2018
  • AACRAO Connect
  • AACRAO Publications
  • educause
Illustration of people milling about an environment filled with giant every day objects like books, pens, an apple, etc.

Technology, appropriately leveraged, can be a powerful tool for reducing achievement gaps and increasing student success -- a shared belief that has brought together two major higher education associations: AACRAO and EDUCAUSE.


“Technology has the potential to make an important difference in the area of student success,” said EDUCAUSE President and CEO John O’Brien. “New technologies, when implemented appropriately, can enhance teaching and learning (and learning spaces) in really powerful ways.”


New technologies, of course, come and go, but there are also broader shifts to take into account. For example, IT no longer functions primarily as a utility (like a water tap or electricity grid) but rather, a crucial partner directly linked to a college or university’s ability to achieve its strategic objectives.  


“Both enrollment services and IT are essential to student success, but in the past, they’ve tended to operate in silos, only communicating about implementation,” said AACRAO Executive Director Mike Reilly. “The implementation relationship is important, but greater benefits for campus will accrue if both groups step back and start framing their goals more collaboratively around student success.”


Promising partners

AACRAO has established itself as a leader in supporting student success through partnership with IT and the smart use of technology, which is the mission that drives the EDUCAUSE organization. EDUCAUSE, formed in 1998 through the merger of CAUSE and Educom, counts among its members “those who lead, manage, and use information technology to shape strategic decisions at every level” in the field of higher education. In collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, EDUCAUSE has worked for years on the implementation of technology-assisted advising systems, forging a strong connection between technology innovation, enrollment management, and student success.


O’Brien, former professor, provost, and president at colleges whose mission was access and opportunity for under-prepared and represented students, sees a natural partnership between AACRAO and EDUCAUSE:


“Through my experience, I saw how new technology tools and systems can offer great traction when it comes to supporting student success and addressing the really immoral achievement and opportunity gaps we see again and again. In short, I think the action happens at the intersection of technology and student success,” O’Brien said. “And when I look around to see which other associations are living in this intersection I see our friends at AACRAO leading the way right there, directly engaged in the people, processes, and technologies that are evolving to support a student success focus at colleges and universities in the U.S. and all over the world. I believe that the prospect of working more closely with AACRAO and finding connections between our communities is a promising chance to improve the effectiveness of both our organizations at the same time.”


Call to practitioners: Be an agent of change

Reilly and O’Brien will be delivering the closing plenary at the 2018 AACRAO Technology and Transfer Conference, “7 Insights at the Intersection of Student Success & Technology.”


“We hope when attendees return home to campus they’re bringing the mindset that their interactions are rooted in the broader concept of a partnership for student success -- and not simply in the transactional practices that are the typical relationship between enrollment services and IT,” Reilly said.


“Like many of the ways we approach solutions at AACRAO, we encourage practitioners to bring these insights back to campus and operationalize them,” he added. “Unfortunately, they may not be having these conversations at provost or presidents’ meetings, so when you see solutions that are effective and have potential on your campus, as a practitioner or administrator, you have to be an agent in making sure this perspective about partnering with colleagues in IT rises up to the academic leadership.”


“Given our important shared interest in student success, I hope that the conversations we begin at the Technology & Transfer conference mark the beginning of a partnership and collaboration,” said O’Brien. “This focus reflects our understanding that making real progress these days depends on working together effectively. It’s foundational.”

Learn more about the unique program offered at the 2018 AACRAO Technology & Transfer Conference, July 8-10 in Minneapolis.