Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Cloud and Colleges: Are we there yet?

Well Christmas is almost over and my holiday blog is so last month. Time to look ahead to 2013. I am thinking about mobile, BYOD, security, a decent reporting solution (that I can afford), and the cloud (not Saas).

I attended Educuase last month and made sure to see Casey Green's session on the Campus Computing Survey . I always enjoy seeing what Casey has come up and comparing it to the ECAR study produced by Educause. The Core Data Survey provides some pretty good metrics for comparion on all sorts of issues.

There are many things to look at this year, but I was struck by the low numbers associated with cloud computing in higher education. In late September I made my first trip to Oracle World in San Francisco and heard Larry Ellison talk almost totally about cloud computing and how his products (almost every product you can think of) will serve us in the cloud. Well he said "your cloud, the Oracle cloud or a cloud hybrid", not just the cloud. A cloud hybrid is a little of yours and a little of his. this was a new term for me. He must have heard that most of higher education and business is just not quite ready to give of their data and their customizations for a single cloud flavor of their ERP system.

For a moment try and imagine that you a CIO who is looking hard at the cloud as the future resting place for all computing. We can see the benefits of smaller or no data center; fewer database administrators, if any; and a disaster recovery plan that is clearly "Larry's problem". This is where we all want to be, but the message from most big providers is that all you have to do is run "vanilla". All customers use the same software and pretty much follow the same business practices. What a concept.

I do not intend to mock the cloud as a concept. It probably is where we will all go some day. In the real world we all have those things that make us just a little bit different. In higher education we generally think that these differences are not problems, but are part of our identity or features. Our way is in fact the right way and is a reflection of who we are. Obviously, this cannot be compromised and we need find a way to incorporate our uniqueness into the systems we run.

So, back to Larry's idea of "your cloud, the oracle cloud, and the hybrid cloud". I think he means that we could run part of our major systems (ERP) on the campus and part on his cloud at the same time. This is facinating, but hard to get your head around. Back to the Campus Computing Survey , in 2011 it showed that about 4% of colleges were putting their critical business systems in the cloud. In 2012 this jumped to 6%. This is a 50% increase in one year, but looks like a slow moving trend.

To date only email (75%) and and learning management systems (37%) are moving to the cloud (GRCC, blog on CCS 2012 results). On the email front most of this is student email with Google and Microsoft offering free products. Low risk, since its only student information. I have dipped my toe in the water with smaller systems like medical records, judicial records, and student job services. I am uncomfortable with all of these since I cannot help my users when they have issues. I also don't know where the data is or what happens if "company X" goes out of business. BTW, we are trying to move away from one cloud vendor and they want to charge us for our own data!

The Educause Top Ten Issues 2011 paper talks about cloud computing as a key strategic issue, but also provides questions about security and even the definition of cloud computing. So as we start 2013 maybe we can keep whacking away at the definiton of cloud computing; learning more about where the data is and how secure it is;and determining how we can maintain all that is important to our campuses business processes while being "vanilla" in the cloud. More work needs to be done and more questions answered before many colleges adopt cloud computing models.

My advice is to focus on what you can control and achieve in 2013. Go for some lower hanging fruit like deploying mobile applications, encouraging/supporting the use of teaching technologies, staying focuses on security, and keeping the wireless services "always on" and seemingly open. The cloud discussions will continue. I don't think we are there yet.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas and the college student 2012

Time for the annual gifts for college students blog. This is the third year for this topic and I have to say that it appears that most college students have everything they need. Of course this is never totally true. The tech wizards would never let that happen. You can look at my blogs for the past two years on this topic for more ideas, but here are a few new options.

In the past year or two I have become aware that I am adding a few extra pounds. Imagine. I think this is a universal feeling that even college students share with the rest of us, even though they are often blessed with a great metabolism. Well I had a birthday last month and my resourceful daughter new about my recent weight concern and bought me a FitBit ($99). This is the coolest thing if you have a touch of OCD. You wear or carry this little electronic device around and it monitors your activity level from walking to climbing steps. On the fitbit web site you can also add workout information, if you are extra active. It doesn't stop there. You can enter in the foods you eat noting calories from an extensive drop down dictionary of foods -- even restaurant foods. All of this tracks toward your personal weight loss goal. Whatever it might be. Its all about calories burned and calories consumed. Oh, you can also track your sleep patterns. There is also a mobile app available on iTunes if you want to use your phone to track you activities and other data. Very cool for the compulsive geek who wants to lose a few pounds. It also has a social networking piece if you want to share your progress and encourage others.

The other cool thing I am looking at is the Kindle Fire HD. This came on the market last year, but there are two sizes now, 7" ($199) and 8.9" ($299) display. I am looking at the larger one that competes directly with the iPad3 ($499). There are a few things that make it more attractive than the iPad. The price; the dual stereo speakers; and the USB input. I like the iPad, but this is hard to pass up. Its a great extra device with great power for the mobile college student. BTW, I would only buy the wifi version. Going with a 3G version just adds more monthly data costs. You probably already know that 3G is pretty slow.

Have you thought about electronic stocking suffers? You can use an iTunes gift card for apps and for music. Here are a couple of articles with lots of app ideas for college students:

US News: Five Apps College Sudents use this year

GeekSugar - 10 great apps for the college student

There are many neat apps on these lists. I like free WiFi finder. This notes where you are and where you can find WiFi in your immediate area. I use this when I travel. I also like Notability for taking notes and evernote for organizing activities. You can Google Apps for College Students and get even more ideas. These are often either free or offered at just a few dollars. Again, the iTunes gift card can cover these.

One last cool idea. The backpack that also charges your devices. You carry backup power with you. The Powerbag lets you charge your backpack and you then have power all day. You can also carry other stuff. It lists at a pricey $139 at the company site, but I suggest looking at Amazon or Groupon. I have seen it as low as $59.

Have a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Rapid progress of MOOCs. When will the business model be discovered?

I have been wondering how long it would take for an accredited college/university to grant college credit for free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs. That was last month. Colorado State has started to do it! In the recent Chronicle of higher Education article, A First for Udacity: a U.S. University Will Accept Transfer Credit for One of Its Courses, Colorado State took the step. It is their course offered through Udacity, but the implications are interesting. Typcally. colleges and universities in the US will accept college credit transferred from regionally accredited colleges and universties. CSU fits this criteria.

This should mean that almost any school in the US will also grant credit for the course(s) when transferred from CSU, or will they? I would guess that over the courseof this academic year many college curriculum or admissions committees will have to decide how they want to handle this.

"Some 94,000 students worldwide took the course when it first came online early this year, and 98,000 more signed up for the second class, which started in April. "We have students from well over 100 countries, from 13-year-olds to 80-year-olds, sharing in the experience," Mr. Evans (course instructor from UVA)said of the class, one of a growing number of massive open online courses, or MOOC's, that have been attracting national attention this year."

Once colleges deal with the transfer issue, they will have to think about creating their own policies for granting credit for MOOC courses. According to the Chronicle article "in order to earn the three transfer credits toward their bachelor's degrees at Colorado State, students will need a "certificate of accomplishment" from Udacity showing they passed the course. Then they have to pass a proctored examination offered by Udacity through a secure testing center. The exam, administered by the Pearson VUE testing group, will cost $89."

So Pearson is already stepping in to provide testing and assessment services. How different is this from the College Board or the Educational Testing service providing verification of accomplishment tests for high school advanced placement students. Not very different.

Time to ask more questions:

Does this mean that with the proper assessment from a respected assessment vendor or college that other colleges will accept the courses in transfer and grant credit?

Will traditional colleges limit the amount of MOOC credit that they are willing to accept toward a degree? Many do this with transfer credit now.

What does this mean for the student and the cost of a college degree? If students take as many MOOC courses as they can transfer to the school of their choice, how will this reduce the total cost of their college degree?

Will "for profit" colleges start granting degrees totally on the basis of MOOC classes (for a modest processing fee?

When will someone find a business model that makes MOOC courses viable on a large scale. Let's see, if "College X" charged $25 for a MOOC class and $75 for the "verification of learning exam" with 98,000 students in the class -- a single class could generate $9,800,000. Most of these students could transfer the credit to the school of their choice and apply it toward a degree.

Most colleges are still shaking their collective heads and writing the whole MOOC thing off. I am glad to see the Gates Foundation funding some research on MOOC courses. This will be good information for the education community to consume and use for even further discussion. I feel more committee meetings being called.

Monday, August 13, 2012

What in the world is a MOOC and what does it mean to higher education?

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course."A massive open online course (MOOC) is a category of online course where the participants are distributed and course materials also are dispersed across the web. MOOCs are a very recent variant of online education, which itself is a form of distance education." Wikipedia . MOOC's are free courses offered by some of the best schools in the world and by the best professors. If you have an internet connection, you can take a course. The technology used is available at reasonable prices to any college, not just the elite. Some are already using tools like learning management systems and class video technology with their own students, in regular courses. This content is most often strongly protected behind a userid and password.

This has been a topic of interest to those who think about the future of education and teaching, and the growth of advanced learning around the world. Stanford, Princeton, MIT, the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania are some of the early players. They are providing free on-line courses to the world. Coursera, MITx and a few other organizations are the delivery systems.

You can Google and get lots of information about MOOC's. I visited the Coursera site last night and found that they offer 117 courses in 16 content areas, for free. This is a limited number of courses and it does not look like the courses lead towards a degree -- yet, but what an opportunity. When you look at this list of courses and the schools that are offering them you have to come back to other questions that are abuzz in higherd education these days:

Does a degree mean anything anymore?
What are college students learning in college?
Is a college degree worth all of that money?
Is the four year residential college seeing its last days?
Will this greatly empower those living in remote areas of the world and what does that mean?
Will the 3rd world leap over the west?
Will this find its way to K-12 and make home schooling the preferred method for many more families? (See the Kahn Academy, if you think this is far off.)
Will college students assemble a group of MOOC classes, a few regular on-line classes, and in person classes and earn a degree?

I might revisit these questions over the next few months, but more importantly I think all colleges and universities need to consider them themselves. We are always developing or refining strategic plans, planning for regional accreditation, or trying to think of how our campus can be "distinctive". With all due respect to my colleagues, most have their head in the sand over this topic. Many consider it to be just another game for the rich schools. I am pleased that the term "blended courses" has almost become mainstream on many campuses, but this is just the start. The cost of education and the market place will decide whether the product we have been providing for decades is still going to hold up. I am a great advocate of the traditonal baccalaureate experience, but its day may have come and gone. I urge every college president to learn what MOOC is and to start a discussion on their campus.

Will a degree from Western Governors University, the University of Phoenix, or the University of Maryland University College be as valuable as those from other schools? They already are!

BTW, last night I signed up for a course entitled "Information Security and Risk Management in Context" offered by the University of Washington.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fall 2012 Technology for the College Student

Its time to start another year on college campuses. Colleges have become so rich with technology over the past few years that you would think that students have everything they need. Of course, enough is never quite enough. There are still some basics that most students seem to want , or need, for their very own. I am from the hot pot, telephone, and refrigerator generation. Colleges don't allow hot pots anymore. The fridge and the microwave are still staples. I thought the need for a TV might die off, but not yet. Most students still have a TV in their rooms. Many campuses are moving to all digital TV services with HD channels. At my last post we offered 100 channels, including 15 HD channels. Of course Netflix and Hulu on the laptop are gaining fast.

Here is my list of digital staples for the fall of 2012:

Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse. Who wants to write a paper on a laptop keyboard when you can turn your laptop into a desktop for less that $50.

Audio speaker system. I have talked about these before, but now there are so many choices and price points. Why not turn your laptop into a powerful sound system for moveies or music. Here is a comparision of a few products that run from the fairly cheap to the pricey. You have to decide how far you need to go. If you like the more traditional three speaker option (pretty good, for cheap) check this one.

Decent ear buds or headphones. Here again beauty is in the ears of the beholder. There are choices to be made, but even the cheap ear buds or headphones would probably be adequate. there are plenty of places on campus (the gym, library, dining hall, computer labs...) where you have to keep your music to yourself. Keep in mind that these are often lost or misplaced, so I would not invest too much. Update: I just bought some nice sounding ear buds at Five Below for $4.99!

Small LED TV. As noted above, TV is still alive and well and most campuses are going digital to offer many channels and HD services. Most students still bring a TV to campus. I think the 24" or 32" are generally adequate, but sports intense students might disagree. I have seen 50" LCDs on campus. Yes the rooms are still pretty small, so imagine the dominance of the big units. I like the new LED models for a sharper picture and lighter weight. The prices on these have come way down.

IPhone apps for free. In the past few years we have seen the number of Smart phones jump on campuses. The numbers stand at 70% on most campues now. The Smart phone is the new laptop. Well sort of. IPhone has the dominant position in the space at the moment, so I found this list of free apps for the iPhone connected college student. Most of these are not toys or games. They are cool useful tools and they are FREE.

So this is my short list for this fall. If you can think of more, please comment.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Surface tablet by Microsoft

This is an amazing new entry device that will be entering into the tablet space. It could give the iPad a run for it's money. Price and the success of Windows 8 will make all the difference. Here is a guest post from Jeddel Yeras from The College of New Jersey (with permission).

Microsoft Surface

Break on through... Surface. Last month the Redmond Giant, Microsoft, announced some details for its upcoming tablet offering called "Surface" and set the media in a frenzy of speculation as to whether this could be the long waited for "iPad Killer". Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed Apple's products as much as the next guy, but frankly, I've grown somewhat tired of their market dominance and arrogance. Yes, the iPad is an excellent piece of hardware and there is no argument that iOS offers a plethora of applications. But do you really need that many apps? Is the iPad truly a versatile system that can revolutionize the computing industry and replace the PC? Arguably No. Microsoft has been patiently studying the market and analyzing its competition. The shortcomings of Android, and the success of Apple as well. It's response is what I would consider a truly "next generation" device that incorporates the option for both tablet as well as PC. Yep... You heard right. A tablet that can actually replace a notebook PC. Microsoft Surface will be offered in two variants a slimmed down version for the more "tablet-oriented" consumer dubbed "Surface RT" (code for "runtime") and a full featured version dubbed "Surface Pro" which will run the Windows 8 Pro Operating System. Pricing information is sketchy and rumors have a price range of $599-$999 but this is purely speculative as no formal announcement has been made by Microsoft on pricing structure for the much anticipated device.

I personally do not own a tablet. I've played around with borrowed iPad's and didn't even bother to touch an Android tablet. I found the concept of a tablet interesting, but the functionality just wasn't there. They just seem like an overpriced electronic toy. Microsoft Surface, on the other hand, caught my interest. These machines will run Windows 8, carry a ClearType 10.6" HD display, configurable with up to 128GB of memory, runs Office Apps, and comes with a built-in keyboard that folds to a screen cover? I smell a winner! The perfect synergy of productivity and portability without skimping on the fun factor. Now this is a product that I would strongly consider investing in. Another unique aspect for this device, which strays from anything Microsoft has done in the past, is that the hardware and the software is all Microsoft. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is still to be determined, but it's a bold move by the company who previously was only interested in software distribution, leaving vendors to handle the hardware aspect.

The value in a device such as this is broad for any consumer. Students would have portability and accessibility to familiar applications such as Office. Business users would be able to seamlessly integrate to corporate systems and possibly even run business applications compatible with Windows 8. If I could have a portable machine like this, weighing at just a hair over 2lbs, that runs all of my essential Microsoft apps AND plays Call of Duty??? Well, I'm sold

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

One thing for the college student in 2012

I have been thinking about THE really nice thing to have for a college student to have this fall. Virtually all students have a laptop these days, and I still think this is a great investment. Prices are all over the place. The cheaper $500 models are probably alright, but don't expect them to last four years. If you spend about $800 for a business class laptop, you can be pretty well assured of getting four years from them. Many students are opting for the $1500 MacBook Pro and of course this will most likely make it four years as well (keeping in mind that accidents do happen.)

If I could buy just one more gadget this year I think I would buy the iPad 2. Yes, the iPad 2, not the 3. Why you say? Apple is still selling version two of $399 for the low end wifi model. Although it only has 16GB of storage and is not a 3G machine, it still has many of the features of the iPad 3 for less money.

Apple iPad 2

If you don't want to buy from Apple, you can buy it at the same price from Walmart.

Most colleges are already WiFi everyone, so connectivity is rarely an issue. Although the iPad is not the best work machine, it is great for research, movies, email, Facebook, listening to music, taking notes and keeping track of assignments. Most campuses these days are using Blackboard or some other learning management tool and these will often work fine on the iPad (if your school supports the mobile app for the software). You can buy the 3G model, but expect a data plan charge of $30 to $40 a month. Ouch.

BTW, I am not a big Apple fan, generally. I just hate spending the big dollars for Apple laptops, when another brand is often as good and much cheaper. That said, other tablet makers just don't seem to be in Apple's league at this point. Android tablets don't have the "instant on" and generally the sound is not as good. With Windows 8 coming, this might improve and present more options. The only downside to the iPad is the lack of standard USB ports. I have heard many people say "how do I get my pictures from my camera to the tablet? You can work around this with a card reader for a few more dollars.

I think higher education is just starting to embrace the tablet and it's still primarily a tool that is more fun than it is practical. I think this will change so if you have a few graduation gift dollars, I would take a hard look at the iPad 2 while they last. The price is right.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Technology Rage

Technology Rage, or rage against the machine, is a fairly new psychological disorder. I am not sure that the American Psychiatric Association has recognized it yet, but its a growing disorder in the work place and in education settings. Here is an extreme example:

The higher education world is an interesting mix of typical officer tech users, resident student users, faculty instructional users, and excutive users. With the growing complexity of college environments Tech rage is being seem more often. Who ever thought the technology and emotion would become so linked.

The video example only shows the distruction of a device. In the real world, Tech Rage is often seen when one person becomes agressive or even abusive toward another person. Usually the target is a technology support person or the Helpdesk. This is much like shooting the messenger. Increasingly malfunctioning technology, or a users lack of understanding of how a particular technology works, can result in explosive behavior or a series of what we call "the email bombs". The email bomb is the expression of one's feelings fired over email to a person or the world with full raging emotions contained in it. An email bomb is generally filled with things that you would never say to the recipients face, but the faceless email transaction enables the angry user to blow off steam without having to feel bad -- at least until the calm down and realize what they just did.

How do we avoid Tech Rage?

1. Take your fingers off of the keyboard
2. Close your eyes
3. Take 3-4 to four slow deep breaths
4. If needed, go to the restroom
5. Create a picture in your mind of the cutest small child you can think of
6. Wait at least 1 minute and slowly open your eyes
7. Think the person who might best give you advice on your problem and call them. DO NOT SEND EMAIL!
8. Using your church voice, slowly explain your problem and ask for advice.
9. If you are referred to another office and this frustrates you, repeat this process starting at step 1.
10. If your problem is not resolved to your satisfaction within 15 minutes, leave your desk and take at least a 10 minute break and then repeat steps 7 to 9.

If all of this fails, call it a day and watch your favorite movie or TV show on Hulu and before starting to work again, reboot.

Remember, IT is here to help -- really.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Tech advice from the class of 2012

In my 2012 tech survey of students at Salisbury University (my former institution)I asked a new question: "What do you think is the one most important technology skill for a college graduate to have?. My survey received over 600 responses. I may come back to this question in future blogs, but since we are in the month of graduations, I thought it would interesting to see how the seniors 2012 answered this question.

A couple of interesting observations about seniors first. This is a group that spends a great of time online.

How many hours a week to you spend on the internet?

11-15 31%
16-20 18%
more than 20 hours 26%

I also asked seniors which technology tools the used the most.

PowerPoint 94%
Blackboard 95%
Campus library site 72%
Spreadsheets 62%

I did not ask about word processing programs since I was pretty sure that with 99% computer ownership, word processing was pretty universal. So we see that these are students who are on the web a great deal and use productivity tools extensively. So what did they think were most important tech skills college graduate should have?

Well, I got 126 student open ended responses. Almost half felt that all graduates should be well versed all of the programs included in the Microsoft Office Suite. Almost half of the responses focus on the suite or parts of it (Word, Excel and PowerPoint). They think that this is the basic tool set of almost any career, regardless of the field.

The second most often skill noted was the ability to do critical research on the internet. By critical I think they mean knowing the difference between opinion and scholarly research. They phrase it differently, but they seemed to know that not all web content is equal.

The third most often mentioned skill was general computer literacy. Knowing how operating systems work, storing data, dealing with different files and formats seemed to be important. A fair number singled out email use as important.

Several respondents also mentioned that knowing how to type is an important asset. There were many others carried opinions touching on knowing how to effectively use social media and using the web for business networking. Two students focused right in on learning to adapt new technologies.

A summary review and aggregation of responses suggests that the class of 2012 feels that college graduates need to know the tools of business that(or the world of work) focus on the communication of ideas and communication between people. Many are thinking critically about what is good information and bad information on the web. They also think that they should know something about about how a computer works beyond the basics of a particular program.

I know that my sample is small (126) and that the opinions they expressed varied. I think the "take away" for colleges is that we need to acknowledge what students think is important and spend even more time making sure that we provide what they think they need, regardless of the academic discipline. I am not at all suggesting the technology become the center of their education, but noting that they recognize that they are entering a world that requires certain skills and we should too.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How viable are tablets for schools

This is a guest blog from Estelle Shumann, with permission. I think the topic and point are perfect for these times. I see too often that colleges, schools and even individuals think that spending money on technology will fix "whatever ailes them". All too often hardware and software are wasted because little or no planning was done. Thanks Estelle!

The classroom is typically quick to adapt to advances in information technologies. High schools, colleges and universities are among the first places you’re likely to see cutting-edge computers, laptops and other technological equipment. In fact, many are turning cutting edge technologies into accredited online universities.

One technology that’s just starting to make the leap towards widespread use in higher education is the tablet computer. In institutions of higher education, tablets are perceived less as luxury commercial technology than as useful tools with the potential to make education more efficient.

Grandview High School in Jefferson County in Missouri is one high school attempting to increase the use of tablets for schools. A St. Louis Post-Dispatch story from August 2011 reported that the school spent approximately $164,000 to provide tablets and wireless Internet access for each of its 330 students. Grandview principal Matt Zopf said that students would retain the same tablet throughout high school and keep it after graduation.

Once the tablets are in the students hands, there are several ways that this equipment can impact their educational lives. Tablets can be used to take tests or complete and submit homework. Entire online classrooms can be created through different tablet applications, such as Moodle. Textbook software can also be downloaded to the tablets, giving students a digital textbook and cutting down on paper printing.

Although Grandview’s tablet implementation has progressed smoothly, other school districts have suffered different fates. Jennings School District in St. Louis County spent $1.25 million on 2,500 handheld computers. Poor management led to seldom-used tablets and $77,500 in missed rebates, costing the district $300,000 more than was budgeted for the project.

Cost is a big factor in implementing any new technology in education, and tablets are no different. An infographic printed by McClatchy Tribune compares the prices of tablets and educational software over the course of the six-year life-span typical of most college textbooks. For a typical classroom of 32 students, the cost of equipment and annual software upgrades would total approximately $36,000. This figure is almost three times the estimated cost of traditional text and workbooks for the same classroom.

Statistics indicate that tablet ownership among students is growing, especially at colleges and universities. A 2012 study conducted by the Pearson Foundation found that 25% of all college students own a tablet, up from only 7% the previous year. Of those students who owned a tablet, 90% felt that their tablet was useful for educational purposes. Approximately two-thirds of all college and high school students surveyed believed that tablets and digital textbooks would replace traditional textbooks within five years.

The use of tablet computers has encouraging potential for the future of education. Like laptops and other recent technological advances, tablets take the power of computing and wireless Internet access and make it even lighter and more portable. Although cost-prohibitive at the moment, technologies have a way of becoming cheaper with time. As the price tag on tablet computers plummets, so will any major obstacles keeping schools from implementing the use of tablets on a much wider scale.

Friday, April 13, 2012

How do college students use their cell phones?

In an earlier post I noted that in our student surveys running from 2009 to 2012 we saw that the percentage of Smaarrt phones has jumped from 5% (2009) to 70% (2012). As you may have noticed, buying a flip phone is almost impossible these days. I wanted to get a sense for how students are using their phones, besides making phone calls. Here is what 620 students said in March 2012:

- Browse the internet 72%
- Text message 99.5%
- Take pictures/videos 94.5%
- Send/Receive email 62.8%
- Watch videos 55.8%
- Listen to music 60.3%
- Read 28.0%
- Access class materials 53.0%
- Don't own a cell phone 0

There is a great deal going on here. It can be seen the the phone is the portal office and recreation center for most students. Keep in mind that this same survey showed growth in tablet ownership (18%, double what we saw in 2011), but this is not close to the Smart phone ownership numbers. We see that texting is preferred over email, no surprise. I am surprised that 53% of students surveyed use their phones to access course materials, including the learning management system (Blackboard). We only deployed Blackboard mobile in January 2012. I was also surprised that 28% said they use their phones to read. Personnally, I cannot imagine doing much reading on the cell screen. Perhaps this is for younger eyes.

Recreational use is also interesting to note. Taking pictures and videos (94.5%), watching videos (55.8%) and listening to music (60.3%)all show that the phone is for more that making calls and texting. I think these numbers show us how students are using their phones, but they may also show us how to communicate with them and how to shape a message, whether it be educational or informational. Colleges should be taking note as they think about communicating with prospects, creating and delivering courses and course materials, and marketing. The mobile is the device of choice.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Trends in College Teaching and Learning 2012

This has been interesting year in the instructional technology world. Blackboard is still buying much of the competition. The latest being MoodleRooms. You can still use Moodle as your learning management system, but you have to either maintain it yourself or find another partner. Sakai is still going strong as one of the few remaining alternatives to Blackboard. Putting this aside, there are some major trends to watch with multiple vendors in each space. Regardless of the discipline, I think all areas of higher education should be looking at the following to extend their teaching and extending learning is THE major trend. Extending learing beyond the traditional classroom.

First, let me state that I am not talking about making major changes in the content of courses or suggesting that ALL faculty should be pressured into adopting any of the followign trends or technologies. These are personal choices that individual faculty have to make. Here is what I am seeing:

Communication/Collaboration - Collaboration outside the classroom is the biggest change I have seen in over 30 years in higher education. A few years back we have been amazed at the idea of answering student questions in virtual office hours; having students in traditonal classes collaborate online without regard to to time or distance; working with students or colleagues from other universities in real time or asychronous research or class projects; bringing virtual quest speakers into the classroom using Skype or some other free tool; continuing relationships made during study abroad experiences well after returning home with teleconferencing; creating a class or campus research publication with a tool like Digital Commons or a class wiki; having creative writing students share their work with a personal blog; and creating short instructional videos with a cell phone or Flip camera. This list could go on. Notice that I did not mention Blackboard or other learning managment system (LMS) in this paragraph. The LMS has become a baseline toolset for teaching, but any of the tools noted above can be used without the LMS.

Mobile Apps - This is a really new space and largely undeveloped in my view. It has great potential, but the jury is still out. At the very least though colleges should have a campus level mobile strategy that includes a smart phone hehicle web site and access to the LMS. I have said before, ALL of your student prospects from this point on will likely get their first impression of your campus on their phones. The view had better be good and easy to navigate. I have to say that the Blackboard Mobile Learn product is easy to deploy and gets the job done in a flash. Your students can access their class pages and see grades, assignments, and even turn in an assignment all from their phone. Now that 70% of current undergraduates have smart phones, this is the bare minimum that a college can get by with. The next step is access to your student administrative systems. Within a year some basic access to grades, financial aid status, admissions application information, and perhaps bill payment will be expected. I would look for apps that can help student researchers to collect data, take photos, record audio interviews, and other data collecting activities. Speciality apps that can do all sorts of things will be available in short order. After all there are over 600,000 Apple apps already out there.

Big Data - This is the latest buzz phrase in IT referring to lots of data, as the name implies. Applied to higher education, I think big data refers to data warehousing and/or analytics used for decison making and of courses research. Here campuses have options. For analytics are their a host of analytics tools and dashboard type applications. The key question here is "what do you really need?". Most vendors are selling very slick user interfaces with green, yellow, and red lights and other cool do-dads. Frankly, I have not seen a campus use these to date. Most could do just as well with timely automated reports. I have not found a President whop really wants to look at an Admissions dashboard. Collecting lots of data and creating useable data models for decison IS adviseable, but it can be done in may ways. My advice, is to generate questions first and then find the data to answer the questions. I would also take a look at constituent relationship software like Sales Force for Higher Education (CRM) or Blackboard Analytics. Of course there are other products out there as well. Again, I suggest thinking about what you need and how you want to see it before buying. This will help you leverage your big data about potential and current students to make decisions, communicate, inform, and intervene at just the right moment. On the research side, things are even better. You can create virtual computing environments in a flash for on campus applications and you can rent space and computing cycles in the cloud for a very low price. Just for an example, chack out Amazon and for smaller storage needs drop box. More on research tools later.

Communication, mobile, and big data are the hot items right now for higher education technology, in my view.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Digital Devices and College Students 2012

Each year I do a technology survey of our students to see what devices they own and how they are are using technology. The 2012 survey had some interesting findings. I have written about the rapid growth in Smart phone ownership (now at 70%). I looked further to see what other devices students own. Here is what I found in the March 2012 survey of 616 students.

iPad 11.7%
Tablet(other) 6.0%
Netbook 3.1%
iPod (traditional, Nano, etc.) 58.8%
iPod Touch 43.7%
eReader (all brands) 17.4%
Flip or other video camera 26.8%
I don't own any of these 8.8%

We see a couple of interesting trends. The number of tablet computers has doubled over the past year. Netbooks never got traction and are probably not going to go anywhere. Virtually all students own an Apple portable music player. With the iPod Touch at 43% we have many more additonal wifi ready devices. When added to the many more Smart phones on campus and the almost 100% laptop ownership, we see some heavy new loads on the existing wireless network. We have more devices now than we do students.

The number of eReaders has increased with the percentage of readers jumping from 9.3% in 2011 to 17.4% in 2012. Again, another wifi ready device. Cameras ownership has dropped a few points from 30.2% in 2011 to 26.8 this year. With most Smart phones including a digital still and video cameras, these numbers will probably continue to drop. The percentage of students reponding that they "do not own any of the devices" dropped notably from 36% in 2011 to 8.8% in 2012.

So in additonal to the now ubiquitous laptop and cell phone we are seeing more decices in general with some students owning 3-4 wifi ready devices. The next question is, how are they using these devices? Is it for educational or recreational purposes, or both. More news coming next time.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Colleges going mobile?

I have written about tech mobility before. Most recently, I wrote about the "Bring Your Own Device" culture that is rapiding growing on college campues. I am in the middle of doing our annual student technology survey. In less that 24 hours I have had about 550 responses to the web survey. Trends are already developing and they show interesting results. These trends show an amazing shift in the tools that students are using to work and communicate. The speed of this change is what amazes me. Here is some early data, since the survey is still open:

Smart phone ownership:

2009- 5%
2010- 36%
2011- 48%
2012- 70%

This is consistant with national data, but is truly amazing. The shear speed of this change is uprecedented and presents challenges and opportunities for colleges and universities. If we are not already creating mobile web sites and adding apps to connect our Learning Management Systems to the web, we should have done this yesterday. Can students see a campus map; find out what is for lunch; see their academic schedule; check their email; see what their homework might be for a given class; or view the bus schedule and bus locations on their mobile device?

Smart Phone ownership by vendor:

2011- iPhones 8.7%
2012- iPhone 36.6%

2011- Blackberry 11.1%
2012- Blackberry 5.1%

2011- Android 19%
2012- Android 25.5%

The Apple iPhone has made a huge surge in just one year. Blackberry is fading, as the market news suggests and Android has lost some ground. In our area Verizon has the best 3G support (soon to be 4G), so this could be a factor, coupled with the recent availability of the iPhone with Verizon. It could also be that students are consolidating their music, email, web surfing, texting, and photos on a single easy to use device.

The last factoid discovered so far is the expected increase in the ownership of tablets:

Tablet Ownership:

2011- 7.6%
2012- 18.1%

The 18.1% is still fairly modest, but noteworthy since the devices have only been on the market for two years. We are seeing more mobile devices per student. I think this will have an impact in areas that we cannot yet imagine on college campuses. Stay tuned for more College Tech Trends for 2012. If you want to learn more about college trends take a look at the the New Media Consortiums 2012 Horizon Report.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Next generation of ERP systems for colleges and universities

Our campus went live with the PeoleSoft (now Oracle) suite of products in 2003 and 2004. Like most campuses we had our bumps early on. After all, ERP systems change the culture, not just the technology. As we sit in 2012, I have to wonder what will come next for College data management systems will look like. The current systems, although only few years old, are already old looking and their functionality does not satisfy new and growing needs of campuses. If current leaders in this market space don't adapt, I think we will see new players, soon.

Here are a few things that I think need to be in the next generation of ERP systems:

1. The ability to customize the look and feel of pages needs to be building. Now, adding branding, chaginging fonts and the location of data boxes is hard or not possible. This makes the current systems look almost "legacy" like when compared to other interactive web sites. Campus portals for example, should be able to be consistent with the universtiy brand and "moderized" as needed, without effecting functionality.

2. Mobile is here and is not going away. Just as campuses need to develop a strategy for presenting their image on mobile devices, ERP providers need to format pages for mobile devices. It is early in the game, but pushing this task off to third party vendors adds to campus expense. Since we know that mobile will not go away, vendors should have plans to build this into to the base product. BTW, I do not think that all of the ERP functionality needs to be in mobile format. Starting with the parts of the system that students and faculty deal with would be great. Back office staff will likely continue to do their work in the back office.

3. Security needs to be easier to manage. For the past several years we have had to dedicate almost one entire FTE to managing security and provisioning. We have since automated this process ourselves and reduce this time to about 10% of an FTE. It can be done.

4. Reduce the anumber of third party tools that are needed for reporting, refunding, electronic payments, eTranscripts, admissions applications, judical management .... . The list goes on. These are all areas where many campuses are using third party solutions with, again, more cost for products, integration isses and personnel costs. Not all functionality can be built in, but if someone can build a product with most of this, they will be the new leader in the market.

5. Build in things like a work order system (in Financials), an event room scheduling system, and maybe even HR contract automation. This would be real "value add". Again, the new leader will have most of these.

6. Lastly, think hard about a cloud solution. Data centers are expensive to run and staff. Many small or medium size colleges would probably like to phase out most of their data center activity over the next 5-10 years. It has to be affordable, secure, and with great service levels and tools.

Off the soap box for awhile. The College ERP market is getting dated fast. This is a problem, but a great opportunity for the next big thing. Check out WorkDay for a glimpse of the future. They work only with HR and Finance, but the model is here.

Monday, February 6, 2012

"Bring you own device" hit campus years ago

Over the past few months we have been hearing a new buzz phrase on the IT scene. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is the newest phrase. This means employers, schools, universities, and restaurants should all have networks which are open, secure, robust and ready for anyone to jump on and use the network with their own PC, tablet, Smart phone or whatever. At first, as a consumer, I thought this would be a new and great thing. As a CIO on a college campus it hit me that we have done this for years. We struggle with the secure and robust parts, but we do pretty well. At my campus we have 8,600 students (3,400) living on campus. We also have about 1,000 and an unknown number of visitors for conferences, lectures, camps and hundreds of other things.

Over 99% of our students own laptops and about 75% own Smart phones. Tablets are still not often seen, but I am betting that about 20% of the students have these as well. We will know more after our spring survey. So what does BYOD mean to a campus? Well, at my campus we have been building in security at multiple leves -- from the device to the core of the network. Of course we have firewalls, packetshapers, network access control systems, and steer students to free virus protection and malware software. In order to run a "clean machine" we suggest that everyone run their virus protection and malware software at least once a week. Our HelpDesk provides lots of online documentation to try and educate the campus. Still, BYOD adds problems and expectations. We are in that kind of world now. Always open, ready, easy and secure. Gotta love it if you are in the IT business. Here are some tips for students and others who want to BYOD to get your work done wherever you might find a hotspot.

- read any authentication instructions available or ask someone how to get on. Most "Open Systems" still have you sign in. Even McDonald's has a process. You can ususally get to these by just loggin on and opening your browser. If you are a student and this does not appeaer, call your HelpDesk. Some older operating systems can be tricky and sometimes you have to select your wireless network from a list. On a Windows PC you can usually see the list by clicking Start> Settings > wireless networks.

- Run the newest operating system you can. This would be Windows 7 for most comptuers; Apple OS 10 Lion for Mac users; and iOS 5 for Apple mobile devices. Android has so many options, I would checking the web or your device manufacturer for details.

- Run your virus protection software at least once a week. If you are a Microsoft user you can get Microsoft Essentials for free. I also recommend a full scan with Malwarebytes every week. This is also free.

- Check you hard drive and see how much space you have left. If you are using Windows, a quick way to do ethis is to click Start>Documents>My documents>view your C: drive by selecting from the list of options (see black arrow to the far right of "MY Documents"). Once you are here, right click and select Properties to see your drive capacity. If you have little hard drive space left your machine could run slow. If so, follow the next step.

- Most college students now have Microsoft Live or Google for their campus email system. These come with lots of cloud storage. MS calls it the Sky Drive, not sure what Google calls it. Move all pictures, music and videos to the cloud. Now it's safe and backed-up should your computer die. This will also create lots of free space for work.

These are just a few tips to help you BYOD and to help your computer's performance. Hope this is not too much information. I came across another blog with a different perspective on BYOD, OnLine You might want to check this out for more information. Best of luck BYODing.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Students benefit from intensive music recording experience

I have written about the convergence of technology and specifically digital media in the past. I still feel very strongly that this convergence is being missed by many colleges and universities. We are still working in our silos for the most part. The students are seeing the opportunties for collaboration and are often "cherry picking" among digital media courses (credit and non-credit) to build a personal portfolio of skills.

This week our campus experimented with a short non-credit workshop focused on music recording. The whole process was explained and demonstrated by professional engineers. Students paid a small fee for the workshop, but got two 8 hour days of instruction. Keep in mind this was not a credit program, was not sponsored by the university, and was not required. Students signed up to become immersed in the music recording process for the fun of it. This is pretty unusual these days. It was also interesting that many of the students had also had credit courses in video production and other digital media areas.

You can learn more about the program at The Recording Experience web site. I stopped by the studio to see how this were going and found students standing for hours in the sound studio totally focused on what was being explained by the professionals. They spent day one working in the computer lab learning how Avid Pro Tools is used in recording and mastering music tracks. They spent day two learning how to mic instruments and voices, and doing the actual recording. A touring band provided the talent. The band members of Honor By August interacted with students and really got into the instructional nature of the sessions.

Johnnie Kearse, one of the students said " It was awesome man! I'm incredibly inspired after the last two days. Thanks again for having something like this. Makes me love what I wanna do with my life even more."

Th lesson for me is that the technology and exposure to practicing professionals can, and will, engage students at a high level. This is not to say that this can, or should, replace the role of teaching faculty. The "real life" interaction with professionals provides context for the student's education and is also motivating. Connections between what students learn and how they might use it after gaduation is often missed in some disciplines. I hope that colleges can learn leverage the overall excitment coming from students and alter the way they teach to inlcude hands-on immersive experiences like this one. You could feel the interest and excitment coming from the studio. Very cool.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Laptop prices at an all time low

While others might be looking to buy a large flat screen TV for the Super Bowl, I am thinking, "what is the one best thing for a colege student to buy going into the spring semester". January can be a great month for bargains, but this year it is amazing to see how laptop prices have dropped. You can buy a 15" laptop with 4GB of RAM and as much as 5000GB hard drive for well under $500. These incude the now expected webcam and microphone. Of course the latest 802.11n wirless is also included. Here are a few links to some of these great prices, but they are all over the web:

Toshiba 15" laptop for $399

HP 15" laptop for $418

Sony 15" laptop for $399

HP 14" laptop at $499

Acer Aspire 15" laptop at $483, with 500GB HD

All of these are probably just fine for a college student. I would check the warranty both from the seller and the manufacturer, but at this price the laptop has become a disposable item. I always recommend backing up your critical data to a cloud service like dropbox . There are many free services now that giveyou 3 to 20GB of free cloud storage. Also, always check the weight on the laptop. Anything over 6.5 lbs can be a boulder to drag around. Lastly, DO NOT BUY THE VISTA OPERATING SYSTEM. Some of the lower pricesd units include Vista.

I know that this is the new era of multiple devices. After Christmas we are alrady seeing the new iPad, the new Smartphone, and the new eReader. At these low laptop prices you can get almost everything you need in one box. Once you have your new laptop ask at your campus Helpdesk about low prices on software. Never buy software with your laptop! lamost all colleges have great deals on software.