CIO Bridges Education and Technology

By Peter High  |  Posted 02-23-2015 Print Email

Laureate International Universities CIO Karl Salnoske describes his path to Laureate, the role technology plays in the company and the road ahead.

Laureate International Universities is a leader in international higher education, with an enrollment in excess of 950,000 students, in 80 institutions and across 29 countries. The company states as its mission to seek to make high quality, higher education accessible and believes when students succeed, countries prosper and societies benefit. Karl Salnoske joined Laureate nearly a year ago, and was new to the industry. He had been a CIO at pharma leader Schering-Plough and at integration services provider GXS, but an industry that is both dynamic, and at the heart of so much positive change presented an interesting new challenge for this IT veteran. In this interview, he describes his path to Laureate, the role technology plays in the company and the road ahead.

CIO Insight: Karl, you have been a CEO, a consultant, a CIO and a COO, among other responsibilities across your career. You had worked in a variety of industries, but education was not among them. What attracted you to Laureate?

Karl Salnoske: Although I've not worked in the education field before, in many ways coming to Laureate felt like a natural progression. I've always been attracted to opportunities to have impact at scale, and am motivated by being part of a company driven by a strong sense of purpose. Laureate offered both of these.

We currently have 70,000 employees in 29 countries, serving almost one million students. The opportunity to lead the implementation of a new IT delivery model that caters to both the current need and future growth was an opportunity I didn't want to miss.

While Laureate is a thriving international company with an ambitious agenda, at its core is a commitment to making higher education accessible and impactful in communities and countries where it is needed most. I was attracted to the mission, and was immediately impressed by the people I met.

This was one of those rare moments when you see opportunity, talent and purpose converge, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

CIO Insight: Technology has been a source of disruption and opportunity in the education space. What are some of the biggest opportunities you see through more creative use of technology in this industry?

Salnoske: In many ways education is at a tipping point when it comes to the effective integration of technology across learning systems, approaches to assessment and the organizational infrastructure of education institutions. Perhaps most important is the potential for technology to provide access to internationally recognized, high quality education in places where it may not otherwise exist.

In the short term I imagine we will see

* A vastly improved experience of education that is genuinely student centered. We should expect greater personalization of learning options, enhanced methods of assessment and far more efficient registration and reporting processes.

* Major disruptions in the role space and time have previously played in determining the structure of education systems. Technology presents an opportunity for learning to occur anywhere, at anytime.

* An erosion of the negative impacts of geography. With enhanced access to education through technology, we should not compromise on the potential to provide education that is of a consistently high standard regardless of where a student may be.

* Greater collaboration within and between learning institutions. An opportunity for us at Laureate is to reimagine how we share practice and resources effectively across a network of eighty institutes around the world.

* Improved relationships between education providers and potential employers with a shared interest in ensuring the skills of the current and future workforce meet demand. It's likely this will be driven through new approaches to using technology to connect, collaborate and report on changing workforce needs.

CIO Insight: If you were to counsel a teenage student today about how to leverage technology as part of their studies, what would you advise?

Salnoske: There are three things I wish every teenage student understood about technology as it relates to their education:

* In 2015 the digital footprint of each individual is unprecedented. Understanding beyond how a device or platform functions, and understanding current and future implications of recording user history and capturing data is essential.

* Students have more options of higher education providers than they can imagine. It's now possible to find institutions that provide the exact content, model of delivery and access to support that is most suitable for them. Most, if not all of these providers will integrate technology in some or all aspects of their offering, and students should look closely and broadly at the options available to them.

* It's likely jobs today's teenagers will have in the next 10 or 20 years don't yet exist. It's even more likely that most of these jobs will integrate technology in significant and complex ways. Furthermore, many current jobs in IT are far more diverse than students imagine. From management and operations, to design, there are many fields within IT that are well worth exploring.

CIO insight: You have always been a very end-customer-centric IT leader. How have you encouraged your IT team to become more cognizant of the customer's experience with Laureate?

Salnoske: I've always believed there is immeasurable value in creating greater interaction between IT teams and a broad range of internal and external customers. It's imperative IT teams have first-hand experience of the challenges faced by users, many of which will never be identified through formal reporting processes.

Equally, it's important for customers to see IT as a resource that can understand their needs and add value.

Peter High is the president of Metis Strategy, a business and IT advisory firm. He is also the author of Implementing World Class IT Strategy and World Class IT: Why Businesses Succeed When IT Triumphs, and the moderator of the Forum on World Class IT podcast series. Follow him on Twitter @WorldClassIT.


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