Higher Education CIOs and Their Growing Role in Campus Mass Notification Systems

Picture of Mary Kate McGrath By Mary Kate McGrath


tech-banner-e1496772707520The responsibilities of Chief Information Officers or CIOs working in Higher Education have evolved over recent years as technology has developed and the needs of college and universities expanded. As a result, CIOs have been often included in the presidential cabinet or leadership council and have a significant presence on campus. One major initiative that has involved campus CIOs has been in the use, maintenance and sometimes selection of campus mass notification systems.

In the past, CIO’s were largely focused on managing their institution’s technology infrastructure, which includes networking, telecommunications, email servers, and internet services. However, the role has changed in recent years, and now these workers play a key role in student success and lowering tuition costs for students in addition to managing and securing the data of hundreds or even thousands of campus members. 

Even though higher education CIO position now has more prominence in the technological age, they continue to grapple with funding difficulties. Most CIOs expect their IT budget to remain stagnant, but the demand for services will continue to increase. This puts added pressure for higher education CIOs to ensure their institutions’ infrastructure is ready for the everyday technological demands of their campus communities, including in the event of a campus emergency. One way to maximize efficiency is to find a campus mass notification system that can tie systems together without creating additional cost, IT support, and management.

If CIOs can expand their mass notification system while staying under budget, it will help campus safety and security departments quickly and effectively respond to incidents on campus or nearby. It will also alert students, faculty, and staff so they can prepare to act in an emergency or dangerous situation.

>>Casestudy - How One Campus CIO Made A Seamless Mass Notification System  Switch

“Set it And Forget It” Database Management

Many higher education CIOs and IT departments have to find a means to collecting this information, entering it into mass notification systems and ensuring the contact information stays up to date. Thousands of students come and go every fall, others transfer, and then graduates leave the school every two or four years, which makes database management one of the most challenging parts of a CIO’s job. It’s important to find a mass notification system that syncs automatically with their current database of record, so CIOs only need to set it up and have the system conduct proactive freshness checks. This way, the IT staff will save time checking names.

In order to address temporary visitors or guests on campus, CIOs should use a mass notification system that has a temporary opt-in function. This way, temporary visitors would allow be able to easily sign up for alerts by texting a keyword or a short code without being added to the database of record. This allows the campus safety team to assure the duty of care during sporting events, graduation, or other situations that may bring visitors to campus. The team can set up multiple keywords for one event, or a single keyword for multiple events. 

There are many departments within a college or university, and these often use their own communication tools and systems to contact their communities, often not coordinating with others. A cloud-based mass notification system enables disparate systems to work with each other, enabling CIOs to leverage the institutions’ current technology. This way, time and cost will be saved since messages will be sent to everyone relevant and there will be less support required of IT if there’s no need to communicate across systems.

Extend the Reach of Mass Notification System With A Mobile Safety App

The responsibilities of campus safety and security departments have drastically changed over the years as well. Their jobs evolved and in addition to ensuring academic doors are locked when classes end and preventing property damage these professionals also address more serious concerns, such as active shooters, mental health issues and sexual assaults. A mass notification system that features a mobile app extension would encourage students, faculty, staff and others to communicate more with campus safety and security personnel.

The mobile app extension would have various features, including anonymous two-way tip texting which allows the user to to confidentially submit tips, along with text and images, which can be routed by department. A mobile app extension can also include an emergency call button that helps students directly contact campus safety officials or a virtual escort or safety timer, which allows students, professors and others to inform campus safety officials when they’re leaving a destination and approximately how long it would take them to get there.

There’s another major issue CIOs might face that a mobile safety app can help - alert fatigue. This can be a major challenge for colleges and universities that worry about sending too many messages and risking their campus communities opting out of or ignoring emergency notifications. Since the mobile safety app offers geo-targeting notifications, which help prevent alert fatigue and ensures campus communities pay attention to alerts.

Higher Ed CIO

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Mary Kate McGrath

Written by Mary Kate McGrath

Mary Kate is a content specialist and social media manager for the Rave Mobile Safety team. She writes about public safety for the state & local and education spheres.


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