Thursday, December 19, 2013

Survey: Do resident college students want to take courses online?

First, let me say that I work at a medium/smallish public college in New Jersey. The College of New Jersey is very selective. If you walk the campus you will get the impression that you are on an intimate private college. Over 60% of the students live on this very walking campus. Distance learning. or eLearning, has not been a strategic initiative. The college does utilize a learning managment system and offers a limited number of blended courses in the winter and suummer sessions. The faculty and students have been very committed to the "traditonal" face to face faculty/student relationship.

Here is where the surprise comes in. In my annual fall technology survey I asked students "Would you consider taking a totally on-line course during the fall or spring semester, if they were available?" Of the 844 students responding 62% said yes! This was a bit of a surprise because the overall tone I had picked up on around campus has been that "we don't do that here. We are committed to the traditonal classroom experience." I also asked students if they would consider taking a blended course or totally on-line course during the summer or winter sessions. Of the sample 8% said they would be interested in taking a blended course during the shorter sessions and 15% said they would be interested in taking a totally online coure in January or over the summer.

Let's step back and look at the larger numbers. TCNJ has about 6500 undergraduate enrolled. Exptrapolating the percentages this would mean that approximately 4030 students would like to take a fall/spring course totally on-line. Based on an average load of 16 credit hours and 4 credits per course, this means that perhaps 500 course sections could be offered on-line every semester. This is about 25% over the totally sections taught. What does this mean for classrooms needed, building support, utilities, and other infrastructure costs. This could also reduce the amount of on-campus needed for adjunct faculty and even effect faculty parking! As colleges struggle to maintain, and even build more, facilities what does this mean for the total cost of instruction and services. What does it mean for the budget, the number of support personnel needed, and ultimately tuition? Hmm. Worth thinking about.

Looking at the interest in January and summer session courses we could guestimate the 22% of the same 6500 students, or 1430 students, might take a class if it were offered totally or partially online. At roughly $2,000 per course, this could be up to $285,000 in potentially lost revenue. Since some blended courses are currently offered now, its hard to say exactly how much revenue is lost.

So we know that eLearning courses require less infrastructure and probably fewer staff to support physical classrooms. We can also at least see that even with minimal promotion, there is some lost revenue. With some promotion and prehaps the creation of certificate or other programs, this could grow significantly. I am in no way throwing stones at my employer. No way. At my last instution there was prehaps more eLearning going on, but there was not strategic direction or analysis done to see where costs could be cut and perhaps additonal revenue generated. I think community colleges (some at least) are much more attuned to the market than the traditonal four year residential colleges. Its probably time for many public colleges to at least dig into the possiblities.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

What tech gadgets are college students using? - Fall 2013

Each year I do a survey of college students to see what technologies they are using for both school and personal activities. This is helpful in IT planning and often has implications for the instructional use of technology. In the fall of 2013 I surveyed 864 students at The College of New Jersey(TCNJ). TCNJ is a mid-sized (6500 undergraduates)state college in Ewing, New Jersey. Most students are residents of NJ and are very strong academically. TCNJ is highly ranked by US News and World Reports every year and is quite selective. That said, the students are like many others in terms of their academic and personal use of technology.

In this post I want to focus just on the gadgets or devices that students own. The survey goes into many other areas, but I want to focus on this one area. After all, this might also help some parents with their Christmas gift giving for 2013. Back to the survey. I asked students if they owned any of the following devices. The results are:

2013

iPad 15%
Tablet other than iPad 6%
iPod 40%
iPod Touch 33%
eReader 22%
Personal printer 66%
Television 69%
Gaming console 39%


2012

iPad 13%
Tablet other than iPad 4%
iPod 47%
iPod Touch 41%
eReader 19%
Personal printer 67%
Television 73%
Gaming console 47%


The first thing you will notice is that students own multiple devices. In most cases they own 3 or 4 of the devices listed. It should also be noted that most of these devices are potentially networked attached devices. This tremendous implications for the capacity of the campus network and the bandwidth provided. All college CIOs will tell you that you will never meet the demand. You just keep chasing the demand.

A couple of other trends to note. Tablet ownership is rising with the iPad leading the way, but adoption is fairly slow. With lower cost Android tablets hitting the market, overall ownership should rise, but slowly. Other surveys show tablet ownership by college students at just below 20%.

iPod ownership is dropping, but is still strong. Another question of the survey asked about smart phone ownership. Smart phones are now carried by about 90% of the students. This has risen by about 10-20% a year for the past four years. Of course smart phones include MP3 music storage and playback. This has to be cutting into iPod sales.

eReader ownership may be increasing slightly. We don't see very many eReaders on campus and eTextbook sales have not really taken off, so I would say this device appeals to a certain group, but is not growing rapidly. The tablet is a more versatile device and will likely be adopted faster. Students are not looking to own many devices, they want versatility and multi-use devices.

I always ask about television ownership. I have a hunch that this device will disappear over the next ten years. You can see that TV ownership is dropping slowly. Live sports and the use of the TV as a gaming display are probably keeping its ownership fairly high. On demand TV over the computer or tablet will continue to force these numbers down. Colleges are watching this trend since most are spending $100,000 or more to provide TV in residence halls.

Although this this survey shows a drop in gaming console ownership, I actually think this will be a consistent number for years. game enthusiasts will always be on campus. I don't see this number growing. It may drop as students use the laptop or tablet as a platform. Of course this will require strong wireless networks. More games will move to the cloud. Right now many games require too much local CPU power to operate from the cloud, but this will gradually change.

I did not even include laptop ownership on this list. This got its own question. At TCNJ virtually all students own a laptop. Only four students of 858 respondents said that they did not own a computer. This question showed that about 20% of students own a desktop and a laptop computer.

These are interesting results for 2013. Technology ownership is very strong at this and other mid-sized residential campuses. I think these results would be similar to surveys at public and private colleges of almost any size. Results from community colleges would most certainly vary and in most cases show lower adoption of most devices. That said, life is good for almost all undergraduates.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Do college students prefer eLearning options?

With all of the hype about MOOCs, blended learning, flipped courses and web supported courses where do college students stand? I was looking at the recently publiched Educuase ECAR Student on Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2013. This recent version of the annual survey has lots of good information about students and their technology use. A few things jumped out at me in light of all of the talk about various types eLearning teaching/learning options.

- A little less that 70% of college students have taken a blended learning course (A course with a mix of web based learning and face-to-face teaching).

- Few students have taken a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). Less than 5% in most college categories.

- Students are more prepared for "mobile learning" than most colleges (using smart phones, tablets, or laptops to consume course content)


Blended learning, whether a straight up mix of traditonal lecture and web assisted instruction or a strict formula of so many class sessions and so many virtual session, seems to be pretty common place. There are several leading vendors in this space and most colleges use one or the other. Four year colleges (not for profit)seem to allow faculty decide how far they want to go with incorporating digital content into courses. often the IT department does not know how much the faculty are leveraging the technology. This comes too close to an academic freedom issue. That siad, i cannot think of a college that does not have a learning managment system in place. We are afraid not to do so. The LMS is now one of many expected technologies that both students and faculty members just think needs to be there - like email and wireless. Even a small campus can expect to pay over $100,000 a year for an LMS. So where is the strategic use of the LMS being discussed. I think that for the most part this is not happening at non-profit colleges. As a result we just don't know if its cost effective or contributing anything to the learning experience. BTW, I personally think that a well leveraged LMS can enhance any class and probably lead to greater learning. Although I have this hunch, most schools just don't know. No strategy and no outcomes assessment.

MOOCs are intriguing. They are noted in the education press and the New York Times almost daily. Legislators are looking very hard at the MOOC to reduce seat time, reduce time to degree,reduce facilities costs, increase graduation rates, and lower the cost of a college degree. These are pretty high expectations. As MOOC providers refine their deliver methods, most colleges are trying to figure out whether they are in or out of the discussion. Frankly, most are out and will be out. Another hunch, I think MOOCS are more about access than a replacement for traditonal instruction. I can see MOOCs playing a large role in continuing education for various professionals. The concept already exists, just on a smaller scale. I can also see MOOCs provding access to the higher education in the larger global community. Most surveys show that MOOCs are being embraced more quickly outside the US. The MOOC may also be a viable alternative to the traditonal masters degree program offered by many colleges. Perhaps not in every discipline, but certainly in education, the social science, and business.

- Most students have at least one mobile device. This could be a smart phone (78%), a tablet (18%), or a laptop (90+%). I don't see colleges leveraging this. Students access the LMS, but that's about it. There are a few small exceptions in allied health, education and sciences, but I think these prevalence is exagerated. There are lots of opportunities, but smaller levels of adoption. I am not seeing specialty software for the disciplines and certainly don't see colleges developing their own mobile tools. This is slow moving. We will see adoption of mobile in student and academic services before we see it to any degree in the classroom. That said, if faculty can create opportunities to exploit mobile technology, students are ready for it. Again, a case where the students are ready, but the academy is lagging behind.

In summary, I think that we are still at the start of using technology in education. We have many tools for teaching and learning both in the traditonal classroom and outside of it. I do not see a strategic push on most non-profit campuses. I think we are still in a bit of a wait and see place right now. Students seem very ready to embrace eLearning, at least as a part of their education. Colleges seem to playing wait and see.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Effective Leadership is like cultivating the soil to grow positive results. Hitting the ground with a shovel is not cultivating.

Bad leadership can effect campus technology in very large ways. I felt I had to write this post after witnessing bad leadership on so many levels for so long. This is not whining, just a warning. Effective leadership is really hard to find these days. Perhaps it always was hard, but we just need more good leaders right now. I want to focus on bad leaders for a moment and then talk about what makes a good leader. First, there are many types of bad leaders. Some just got the job because they are charismatic or politically connected. There is such a hunger of good leadership that many institutions will take a leap of faith based just based on a resume or an impressive pedigree. Finding a strong leader is harder than most institutions think. In higher education we typically form a committee, look at job posts from other colleges and put together our own advertisement. We do this for most senior level jobs - deans, Vice Presidents and even Presidents. The results of a bad choice can be disastrous - FOR YEARS! Have you witnessed a bad choice of a leader that then haunted and hurt your campus for years? I have.

Bad leaders are often persuasive and engaging. They may be great at cocktail parties. They may even "light up a room" when they enter it. Often, however, these turn to be bad dates where what you thought you were seeing as attractive and exciting is not that at all. After a bad date you can just walk away, when you hire the bad date you own them or they own you. The bad leader often fails to articulate a vision; changes directions constantly; throws out the “vision of the day” and barks at direct reports to get it done; leaves his/her direct reports to sort things out and spends much of their time doing other things; and only shows up at public events and has little or no visibility to the campus. The bad leader’s motivation is often simply to remain in the job.

So what makes a good leader? There are many elements that make a good leader. We all like a visionary who can see around corners and tell us what is coming with great certainty. We like a leader who is a great communicator on stage or off. We want someone who is inspiring. We want someone who makes us all want to be a part of his/her team. We want someone who is not so full of themselves that they can talk to anyone on campus - anyone. We want someone who can represent the college off campus as they raise funds, promote the college, or serve as an icon for what is good about our college or institution. Do you know many leaders like this? I don't either.

It is pretty hard to find this perfect leader. That's not making you feel very good right now, particularly if you’re serving on a search committee. There is a good chance that you will not find your dream date. So what should you focus on? All of the attributes above are important. I like to be inspired by a visionary who is a great communicator. This is great, but what about the everyday leader. Leaders spend most of their time in their offices just like you and me. Hopefully they get out on campus and connect with the people they serve - yes serve. Most spend lots of time working with a small number of direct reports. Leaders can be VPs, directors, and support staff in a small department. Whatever the level, I think the most important skill that he/she needs is to have is the ability to relate to their team. Here is where the cultivating comes in.

Leaders cannot do the work of the organization. They just can't. They are there to lead. What they can do is create an atmosphere where good things can happen and good service and solutions can grow. They need to be able to cultivate the people on their team. They need to be able to be accepting, yet demanding. They need to keep the focus on the goals of the institution every day. They need to live the line or "walk the talk". They cannot cheat or like the Emperor with no clothes, they will be found out and their credibility will vanish.

Effective leaders need to work at connecting with all the people on their team. Even in a large organization and effort to do this needs to be made. This is hard work and there are only so many hours in a day, but even trying is setting a good example and people notice. Back to cultivating. Have you known a boss who seems to get so frustrated by their inability to move an organization or team forward that they try to beat the team in submission. They start pounding the ground with a shovel, metaphorically, by yelling, sending nasty emails, and generally trying to rule through fear. Some use a surrogate to deliver the angry message. I worked for a boss like that once.

So what is cultivating? Cultivating is learning as much about your team as you can. Find out who they are and what they want from life and their careers. Explain what your vision is and encourage them to help you get there. Create an environment where they can share their ideas without fear. Have you ever been at a leadership meeting where after a long diatribe from the leader the group is asked what they think or what their teams are doing to support to the mission? Have you witness dead silence at these moments. People are afraid to say anything for fear that they will be judged or ostracized by the leader. Striking fear into people does not create the kind of team oriented "we are on the same page" environment that makes for a good place to be or work. Now I am not suggesting that every meeting be a Kumbaya love fest. The process of cultivating a team at any level takes time and the building of trust. There is nothing wrong with challenging people. In fact this is a good thing. It builds self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment. Even failures, or failing to meet a goal, can present a mutually educational moment.

So the next time you are looking for a leader, look below the surface. Make every effort to find out what the persons management style really is. Don't ask them. They will tell you how inclusive they are. Dig deeper or pay someone else to dig deeper. Ask their former leadership teams or employees. Ask leaders from the profession who may know them and their style. Find out how they live their daily lives on the campus or in the organization. If they cannot cultivate their team, they probably are not the person you want. I love a good visionary speaker. They can be thought provoking and even exciting. Those are great skills, but the day to day cultivating skills are the most important. Now you can see why good leaders are so hard to find. BTW, if you don't get a good feeling about a potential leader, keep looking. The pain of starting a search over is far less the pain of making a bad choice.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Are college IT departments starting to write programs again?

I have been in the college game for more years than I want to admit. "Back in the day" (70's and 80's) college IT departments actually wrote programs do do things. Really! If you wanted to do anything on a computer you had to write the program. Most colleges were lucky to have a registration system that was written in house or by a computer science faculty member. In the 1980's we began to see the first integrated commercial systems. My first experience was with the Information Associates' SIS system. This was just for registration, records, admissions and financial aid. Development or programming began to die at around that time. In the later 80's HR and Finance became commercial products as well.

Fast forward to Y2K or year 2000. We all feared these legacy programs would die. We patched furiously with great fear that the end was near. It wasn't. We survived. Then came the web. Most us adopted ERP systems. The services were the same, but on the web. For five years this took every ounce of effort and talent to keep up and running. Years later only two companies are in the market - Sungards Banner product and Oracles Peoplesoft products.

The world may finally be changing again. Banner and PeopleSoft are the new legacy systems. Sorry guys, you have been long and faithful servants. We all use one or the other (yes, Datatel is in the space too but owned by SunGard). Enter WorkDay and SalesForce. The world of higher education is about to change again. I forgot to mention that for the last 5 years colleges have deployed dozens of third party niche systems. We did not build we bought. For those of you in the business, you know that this cannot continue. IT shops on college campuses are too small to manage a big ERP AND dozens niche products used all over campus from campus police to residential life to medical records to judicial affairs ... .

Back to WorkDay and SalesForce. Workday is a new player (created by Dave "the legend" Duffield). Mr. Duffield created PeopleSoft back in the 90's. This totally web architected cloud system is doing well in the HR and Financial Management space. Higher Ed has not been real interested because they have not had a student systems module. Rumor is this will change this summer (2013). Workday will get into the higher education space for real with the new student system. I will learn more about it at a meeting with Workday next week. This is exciting. A cloud system, developed for the cloud, by innovators who we know have what it takes. There are two big wins for higher education here. If we move to systems like this, much of the time spent on maintaining our ERP can be spent on development again. Imagine programmers programming!!

Next, the SalesForce Foundation offers an inexpensive way for colleges to reduce the number of niche apps they are running by creating home grown targeted apps on the SalesForce framework. Programmers get to program again. Colleges can reduce their inventory of third party apps, save annual maintenance costs on dozens of products, and become more self sustaining without adding lots of new staff. Better service to campus users, lower costs, and interesting work for programmers. Thank God we are headed back to the future. A few predictions for the next 5-10 years:

The current big players with still be around, but will not be growing customers.
College spending on bandwidth will jump, but costs will be recovered from reducing spending on campus data center infrastructure.
Data centers will shrink even more than they already have as colleges become more comfortable with having their data in the cloud
Colleges need to start developing again and reduce the number of third party apps they are now supporting. New development tools can enable this.
Development for the mobile device will never get traction because tools like SalesForce do this as you develop.

So what do ya think?

Friday, March 8, 2013

So what role will IT play in teaching and learning in 5 years?

So what role will IT play in teaching and learning in 5 years? Now that's an interesting question. I guess to even start address this question you have to take a big step back and look at who will higher education be serving in 5 years and in what will delivery systems be like.

Who will we be serving? Look at who we are serving now. At community colleges we serve working adults and younger students with specific career goals or a desire to transfer to four year schools. This number has always been large, but will get larger with a continued need to train and retrain for careers. The more traditonal 18-22 year old student bachelor's degree seeking is not going away. At many public colleges the applicant numbers are generally strong, although some surveys show declines particularly at four year private colleges. Students and parents feel that a bachelors degree is a necessity. At private four years colleges the applicant numbers are mixed with smaller less famous schools struggling a bit to fill their classes and more elite colleges doing well in this area. Graduate school enrollments are declining according to the New York Times . It probably safe to say that this will not improve a great deal in the next five years. What we will see is probably an environment where people want to go back to sschool, but they have more critical issues to address. Layoffs of part-time students, parents or spouses has something to do with the decline, but so does the general uncertainy about investing in anything. Even if you have a job, will you have one next week? Will this still be the case in five years? Maybe.

So what role will technology play down the road a bit? I think for the 18-22 year residential student, things will not change dramatically. This faculty in this space has totally embraced in-class technology, but sadly many just use PowerPoint. There are a few innovators, but these are the few exceptions. We will see more blended courses (mix of traditonal lecture and web content including audio/video) and some additonal flipped courses (pre-recorded lectures presented online before face to face classes). The college faculty of today, in this environment still seem resistent to new modes of teaching. Blended learning and flipped courses will do very well at community colleges where the students are often older and have jobs or family responsibilities. Tech assisted courses will be a major attrraction for these students who value flexibility. I am curious to see how MOOCs (massive open online courses) will do. I am expectng that these will not offer a challenge to more traditonal programs, but they will provide access to under served groups and will be profitable. I cannot imagine someone doing an entire degree using the MOOC option. I am VERY curious to see how companies like StraighterLine will do. Straighter line offers general education courses for a monthly membership fee of $99. They have a number of accredited colleges that will take their courses in transfer. This will have great appeeal to the adult learner who needs flexibility or wants to "catch up" enroute to a degree. When you start looking broadly at the global community of learners, you have to wonder how programs like the University Of The People will do. Free college degrees for the financially challenged? Wow.

Graduate education will change quite a bit. The costs have risen and most employers are not willing to subsidize it. Going full-time is hard because of the costs and graduate assistantships will be hard to get. If the country needs for advanced degrees in the science or technology ares, there will have to be more financial aid. The return on investment for a graduate degree is just not there. For those who do go to graduate school part-time online, there will be many options. There are many online degree programs and these are not nearly as unacceptable as they once were. Colleges that are not developing online graduate programs may find themselves with few or no students in the next few years.I think this will be particularly true of the non-research colleges that offer masters in education, the liberal arts, or business. Many of these programs will dissappear.

So as we look down the road a few years I think we will see few changes on the four year undergraduate college/university, although there may be a few less of them. Graduate education will move online for all but heavily research based degrees. Enrollments will generally continue to fall. The most interesting area will be the options open to part-time learners in the North America and the online options for potential learners in the third world. Degrees and advanced education for this group will soar, thanks to the internet and growing connectivity. The landscape will change pretty quickly as more education is needed in order to find the few "good jobs" out there, but cost and the lack of flexibility of traditonal models are major obstacles.

(Special thanks to Educause Live for some of the info about alternative higher education providers.)


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Technology Issues for 2013 - My list

There are lots of lists on the web. Some recognize accomplishment. Some show the "worst of this or that". Some are just list of stuff that someone thinks are important. This is my list of things that I think most colleges an universities have not figured out yet. Maybe these are opportunties for smart entrepreneurs to tackle or maybe they are just destined to stay on the list. These are not in any special order. They are just issues or questions that have been on my mind for a long time.

Working with faculty to enhance teaching and learning with technology.


I have spent much of the last 15 years trying to gently introduce technology into teaching and learning. It started slow with the creation of a few "Smart Rooms" and creating an easy way to help faculty post syllabii and course materials on the college web site. We then added a learning managment system and supported it. Then clickers. Then plagerism protection software. Then Smart Boards. Then library databases. Then podcasts. Then two way interactive video connections to virtual guest speakers. Then lecture capture. All of this but we are almost 15 years down the road and I don't think we have established critical mass yet. The early faculty evangelists are still there blazing the trail. Retirements have brought in young faculty with energy and expectations for the latest tools. Adoption has grown and we are spending more and more money to maintain the hardware and software. We are spending much more money now in outfitting the classroom than ever before. Figure this into the rising costs of education. I have noticed two things along the way. Faculty adoption is totally a personal preference and most senior academic admnistrators have not taken a position on technology adoption or referred to it as strategic. So where does instructional technology fit? Its expensive. Most campuses have provided some technology in almost every classroom. Many colleges have staff dedicated to supporting technology use. Students seem to like some level of technology in their classes, although surveys suggest that they still value the personal touch. All of this and its not srategic. Its just a slowly growing set of tools that are made available. I think all of this is very nice, but as we look at the cost of education, I think we need to decide if its important. If its not, we should put most of it back in the box and save the money. "Are we in, or are we out" (to paraphrase Heidi Klum from Project Runaway).


Reporting

It has been 10 years since I help implement PeopleSoft on my last campus. It was a BIG deal, as it is on all campuses. The upside is that we now have web based services that are available 24x7. This is a big upside. We are collecting more data that ever before. We probably have what many would call Big Data. What most colleges don't have is a way to make use of the data. Every campus I have worked at or visited, or heard about struggles with reporting. Why is this? It seems odd that ERP companies like Oracle and Sunguard have created large and complex systems without "plug and play reporting tools". I know there are many third party products that, with much heavily lifting, can do reporting to some degree or another. Schools that have done this well generally have many people and dollars to throw at it. It just seems odd that ERP companies would not have provided this from the get go. I am even more surprised that 10 years later many schools still identify reporting as a major concern.

Sufficient bandwidth

Bandwidth is like a drug or so it seems. You just keep needing more and more to get the "feeling". As a CIO on two campuses we have added bandwidth at an average rate of 20% per year. Remember bandwidth was not an issue 15 years ago right before college costs started rising rapidly. Just one more thing that was that not a part of the mix back then. I am on a small/medium sized campus and our main internet circuit is about 300MB. I know you laugh at me large schools. I have to say that the difference in our bandwidth is probably proportional to the difference in our size and budgets. It is not uncommon for a smaller college to spend $100k to $200k per year on bandwidth. This does not count the routers and related security tools. Looking down the road, I see cable TV dissappearing. More audio and video in course web sites. More of the same from the colleges PR department. More video conferences and distance learning classes via video. Oh, and voice over IP. Look out 5 years and the average small college will need gigabit connection. We could be looking at $400-$500k per year. Very few existing services will go away. In the words of Tim Gunn we will have to -- "make it work".


Determining if technology plans are worth writing.

I think I have written 4-5 IT plans over the past many years. They seem to take forever to write, but I actually enjoy the "looking into the future part". You get to look at what is happening or might happen in IT down the road and develop a game plan. Actually, its part plan and part warning. You end end up trying to warn the powers that be about what is happening over the hill and letting them know how you think your campus should react. This can be dangerous territory since they may not share your view and almost never share your sense of urgency. I always like to circulate the plan for input, but truthfully its more to float the ideas and see what happens. The real value is within the IT unit. I find that my team likes to know where we are headed, even if we change course down the road. We almost always change course down the road for some reason. I think this is linked to the human desire to minimize uncertainty. So I am not totally sure if IT plans matter in the grand scheme of things. I like to think so. They do help me crystalize my general direction even if there is a big question about whether the college needs them. I guess I will keep writng and reading and looking over the hill in case someone want to know what's over there.

Other CIOs will have their own lists and I may also -- tomorrow.