Tuesday, June 24, 2014

An Acadmic Commons: Library, Meeting Space, Lounge, Gallery, Coffee Shop, Student Services Center, Faculty Development Center, or Digital Repository

So what's happening in your college library these days? My former campus, Salisbury University (MD), is in the early stages of building a learning commons. What is a learning commons? Well, it seems that a learning commons is a mix of teaching and meeting spaces, student services centers, computer labs, lounges, theaters, maybe the IT Helpdesk, video edit bays, paper resources (previously called books and newspapers, coffee shops with lite fare, and soft seating. These academic playgrounds are an amazing new addition to colleges that are lucky enough to have waited until now to build such a place. Those who built and ordinary library in the last 10 years really missed the boat. Imagine a library (sort of) that looks like a shopping mall, but has the contents of the college center, IT labs, auditoriums, bookstores, and has a few student and faculty services thrown in. All of this under a cloud of Wi-Fi. If you classes are online, hybrid or blended, you may have to rarely leave this amazing new place. Here are a few examples:

The Anderson Learning Commons at the University of Denver includes:

154,223-square-foot building
98,000 online journals
39,500 linear feet of library collections onsite
4,000+ pieces of furniture refurbished and reused from Penrose Library
1,864 chairs each with access to power outlets
1,000 databases
200-seat event space
135 computers (Macs & PCs) for patron use
75-seat café, 50 seats on the porch
32 group study rooms, six seminar rooms and dozens of group booths
2 fireplaces

I don't see a running track or showers, but they must be in there. Special thanks to Campus Technology the magazine for this lead.

The University of South Dakota learning Commons looks to be more of a mega services center - with coffee.

Academic & Career Planning Center
•Seek academic advising
•Explore majors & careers
•Understand graduation requirements
•Excel at job interviews
•Discover internship opportunities
•Succeed through First-Year Experience

Academic Support
•Writing Center
•Presentation Center
•Math Emporium
•Student-Athlete Success Center
•Lab Consultants
•Supplemental Instruction
•Learning Specialists

Center for Academic and Global Engagement
•Learn through service-learning
•Study abroad
•Conduct undergraduate research
•Explore National Student Exchange
•Compete for a national scholarship
•Help for International Students

ITS Help Desk & Equipment Checkout
•Receive personal computer support
•Request technology assistance
•Checkout computer & media equipment

University Libraries
•Get research help in person and online
•Research 24/7 in 250+ databases
•Find scholarly research sources
•Check out books & media
•Access local & regional historical materials

I started by mentioning the Salisbury University Learning Commons. This is very early in the construction phase, but will included:

2 stories in the Internet café
12 classrooms
18 group study rooms
24/7 = hours of the café study room
40+ seats in board/meeting room
48 bells in carillon
62 feet = height of the central atrium
115 laptop computers in the building
290 desktop computers in the building
290+ large monitors for classrooms and study areas
350 area jobs supported
418 seats in the Assembly Hall
1,020 square feet for the IT Help Desk
1,650 square feet in the Math Emporium
3,940 square feet in the Writing Center
4,287 square feet for Instructional Design and Delivery
9,841 square feet in the Center for Student Achievement
25,610 square feet in the Nabb Research Center and archives
224,071 square feet overall

These are some amazing spaces. For those who have been thinking that the traditional college campus was going to vanish and that all 19 year olds would be earning their degrees online - forget about it. Who would not want to come and spend your day at any of these places. What about the cost you say? You gotta play to win. These schools are betting that if you build it, they will come. I think they are right (at least for many 19 year olds).

Monday, May 12, 2014

Educause Top Ten Issues for 2014 vs 2009

The annual Top Ten Issues list for 2104 was revealed in the Educause Review in March/April 2014 . If you have followed the list for more than a few years you will notice that the list seems different this year. Usually the same items shift positon a few spots each year and maybe one new item pops up. This year it has a totally different feel. It should be noted that the panel that puts this list together costs of about 20 leaders from large, small, private and public colleges. Of the group of 20 or so leaders, only about 4 are presidents or non-CIO types.


1. Improving student outcomes through an institutional approach that strategically leverages technology.

2. Establishing a partnership between IT leadership and institutional leadership to develop a collective understanding of what information technology can deliver.

3. Assisting faculty with the instructional integration of information technology.

4. Developing an IT staffing and organizational model to accomodate the changing IT environment and facilitate openness and agility.

5. Using analytics to help drive critical instititonal outcomes.

6. Changing IT funding models to sustain core services, support innovation, and facilitate growth.

7. Addressing access demand and the wireless device explosion.

8. Sourcing technologies and services at scale to reduce costs.

9. Determining the role of online learning and developing a strategy for that role.

10. Implementing risk management and iformation security practices to protect institutional IT resources/data and respond to regulatory compliance mandates. Also included in the #10 slot was developing an enterprise IT architecture that can respond to changing conditions and new opportunities.

For so many years the list mentioned Funding IT, ERP, infrastructure, and a little about instructional technology each year in different orders.

In 2009, five years ago, we saw:

1. Funding IT

2. Administrative Systemes/ ERP

3. Security

4. Infrastructure

5. Teaching and learning with technology

6. Identity and access management

7. Governance, Organization and Leadership

8. Disaster recovery and Business Continuity

9. Agility, adaptability and responsiveness

10. Learning management systems.

It is refreshing to see that IT may be breaking out of the self perception as an infrastructure provider and is now thinking of itself as more strategically. I am hoping this is a good sign that the leadership on campuses is seeing IT as a partner and as part of the solution. I know this is not true on every campus. The 2014 CORE Sata Survey, also an Educause effort, notes that 47% of CIOs are a part of the presidents cabinet on their campus. Another good sign. We are in a time when colleges need to redefine themselves, or at least reaffirm (to themselves) who they are. Colleges that don't recognize the role of technology in the delivery of all products and services will be in trouble.

So good job Educasue and many college presidents for bringing IT to the table. I would like to survey college presidents and see if they agree with the Educause panel. Maybe Educause will do this too!

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:


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


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?