Where the
Rubber Meets
the Road:
an On-Campus
Perspective of
a CIO
—Donald Spicer
UNIVERSITY SYSTEM OF MARYLAND
Continuing our bottom-up review of the impact of
e-learning on higher education, it is time for us to walk in
the shoes of the campus executive on whose shoulders this
entire phenomenon rests: the chief information officer
(CIO). As the role of technology on campus has changed
from supporting a limited number of administrative units
to enabling a campus-wide IT environment, the responsi-
bilities, status and even existence of a university CIO po-
sition has grown exponentially. Indeed, 62 percent of chief
technology administrators reported to their institution’s
president in 2001, up from 47.4 percent in 1997.
145
chapter
6
For e-learning to work—indeed, e-business, e-admis-
sions, e-alumni relations and all other “e–”s as well—the
right technology needs to be in place and function
smoothly, with high levels of support. Faculty, students,
staff, administrators, and others on campus take for
granted high-speed Internet connectivity, computers in
every lab and lounge, dial-up access for off-campus con-
stituencies, a robust dot-edu Web presence, and more.
Given the complexity of the modern CIO’s role, they
shouldn’t.
As we think about the impact of e-learning at institu-
tions of higher education, the view of the CIO working to
support technology can be as insightful as that of the fac-
ulty member seeking to employ it in the classroom. The
priorities of a CIO often reflect the current uses of Internet
technologies, and the challenges that keep CIOs up at
night suggest what the future might look like.
In this chapter, Donald Spicer outlines for the reader
the key “levers” most CIOs manage as e-learning explodes
on campus. He makes clear that the backbone of a tech-
nology infrastructure consists of more than desktop com-
puters, servers, and software. It includes people, policies,
organization, and above all else, expectation setting. We
are in what many techno-visionaries and frequent com-
puter users alike consider to be the “dark ages” of IT.
Computers crash, Internet access slows, complexities in
user interface slow adoption, and the cost of IT is forcing
The Wired Tower
146
a digital divide. For e-learning to work, the CIO’s opera-
tions must work. Spicer’s chapter explains why.
Donald Spicer is in his third career as an academi-
cian. His first career was as a teaching/research faculty
member at a number of institutions, most notably 16
years in the Mathematics Department at Vassar College.
His second career was as a general academic adminis-
trator. His current career is as an academic administra-
tor focusing on issues related to the use of technology in
support of higher education. In this role, he has been Di-
rector of Academic Computing at Dartmouth College,
Assistant Provost for University Computing at the Univer-
sity of Notre Dame, Associate Provost for Information
Technology at Vanderbilt University, and currently Asso-
ciate Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and CIO
at the University System of Maryland. His current posi-
tion is one of developing strategies and implementation
plans for technology-based, mission-critical activities
that transcend individual campuses in the 13-institution
University System. He has a BA (Math and Physics) as
well as a PhD (Math) from the University of Minnesota.
He also has an MA (Math) from Columbia University and
a DiplCS from Corpus Christi College of Cambridge Uni-
versity. He has served on the customer advisory boards
for Apple Computer and IBM, and is currently on the Mi-
crosoft Higher Education Advisory Board. His recent
activities include participation in anytime/anywhere
Chapter 6 Where the Rubber Meets the Road
147
learning activities related to the Sloan Foundation Asyn-
chronous Learning Networks initiative. Additionally, he
lectures and consults on issues related to changes in
higher education due to the availability of new tools in
communications and information management.
It has been commonly said that the ideal learning en-
vironment is a student on one end of a log and Socrates on
the other end. That, of course, is not a scalable model. Con-
sequently, in contemporary universities the educational en-
vironment involves much more than just the interaction
between faculty and students. It involves processes for ad-
mitting, advising, and registering; processes for carrying on
various commerce activities involving payment of tuition
and fees, buying books, and financial aid; activities aimed
at developing a sense of community and people-to-people
networks; and, finally, career planning and job placement.
As a result of the growing complexity of the modern univer-
sity, IT has evolved into a strategic component of any
campus-based program. This is true not only for supporting
the administrative units of an institution—enabling any-
where/anytime student services—but the core of the teach-
ing and learning activities on campus as well. Hence the
rise of e-learning.
Whether used to supplement traditional classroom in-
struction or enable distance learning, e-learning reflects
the use of IT in direct support of the core mission pursued
The Wired Tower
148

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