Getting the Most Out of Your Technology

Senior Analyst

Top of Mind: Getting the Most Out of Your Technology
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

During my time as a university professor in a college of education, I taught several courses on integrating technology into teaching. One of the frameworks discussed often was the SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) model, which categorizes technology according to its transformative power. Each level within the model represents increased sophistication and ability to make an impact. As we think about the technology at our institutions, we can use the SAMR model to improve our business processes, leverage our existing tools, and look for the next generation of technology that can transform how we work and serve students. During my time as a university CIO, I often thought about innovation through this lens.

In March, April, and May of this year, the Tambellini Group is publishing research on leading curriculum and catalog management technology in higher education. Let’s use the SAMR Model as an example of how we can think about our technology and get the most out of it. However, you can substitute any technology or process for your application.


While you will be hard pressed in 2023 to find a technology that would qualify at this level, I would argue that simply using Microsoft Word is about as basic as it gets. Yes, there are advantages over handwritten documents, but we have come so far that we can consider this a baseline for innovation. Many institutions still rely on faculty to type out various curriculum changes that get either emailed or printed and then routed through some manual approval process before eventually being voted on by the faculty body. Sometimes these curriculum changes are manually added to a document version of a catalog before ultimately being approved and memorialized into a PDF and published on the school’s website. While this process may have been in place for a few decades, it could be more efficient and presents many opportunities for mistakes that can cause students problems in their degree programs.


At this stage, we will likely establish a realistic baseline that the technology will afford us in 2023. We can take the Substitution example above and add the sharing and synchronous editing features found in Microsoft O365 and Google G Suite to increase collaboration efficiency and route curriculum changes through appropriate channels before they enter a catalog. We might even be able to publish the catalog on the website in a way that makes finding the information much easier for students.


Modification is where things get interesting and where most products on the market come into focus. Curriculum change requests are made via online forms and process workflows, and automation routes the changes through the appropriate channels. Electronic approvals and signatures are gathered, and changes can automatically be added to a digital version of the catalog. These systems not only make the process more efficient by reducing the amount of manual work, but they can also increase the accuracy of the changes by removing unnecessary manual intervention along the way.


Redefinition is the next era of tools for curriculum and catalog management software. For this level, imagine adding advanced analytics into the mix. Rather than faculty making changes based on anecdotal evidence, what if the software could suggest degree plan changes based on past and current students’ enrollment history? When we live in a time when the cost and value of higher education are coming into question, institutions need to be strategic and data driven even when deciding what courses to offer, determining how to build degree plans, sunsetting old programs, and bringing on new programs. There is a large volume of data that exists to assist institutions in making decisions, but we need tools to help us make those meaningful connections available and apparent.

What Now?

While we used the SAMR model to think through just one example of curriculum and catalog management software, the same thought process could be used to evaluate your current technology tools and perhaps your next selections. Change is hard, and sometimes higher education needs to be faster to adopt those changes. However, with increasing retirements within our institutions and margins narrowing, we must innovate and begin to think about how technology can help us navigate a changing landscape in ways that help us improve our ability to serve our students well. If you want to learn more about modern curriculum and catalog management solutions, please visit our Peertelligent or Market Insights portals.

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Senior Analyst
As a senior analyst, Dr. Matt Winn focuses his research initiatives on academic administration, LMS, and other teaching and learning technologies. He has led numerous modernization and implementation projects within the SIS, LMS, and CRM landscapes. Passionate about using technology to serve and improve education, he seeks to help institutions integrate disparate systems, create automations, and improve various processes across campus. 

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