The annual Educause conference is the premier teaching and technology showcase for higher education, and this year's expo, held in Dallas in October, was no exception. Attendees got sneak peaks at new products planned for early '07 rollout and saw the first fruits of some much discussed mergers from last year's conference.
In the Pioneering New Territory and Technologies session, members of an Evolving Technologies Committee presented their visions on how institutions can reach their full potential as pioneers in the use of evolving technologies. They pointed to three institutions leading the way:
Drexel University (Pa.), for its plan to fund only one more generation of campus wireless technology, which will be replaced by a move to personal broadband technologies
Wake Forest University (N.C.), for its Mobile University, Mobile You initiative, which demonstrates the value of speech-enabled smart phones
University of Notre Dame (Ind.), for being one of the first major schools to completely remove mandatory landlines from its dorms
Speakers also highlighted the pros and cons of open-source learning management systems, which are expected to coexist with commercial platforms for the next few years; Web 2.0 applications, which are low cost or free and aspiring to be mainstream; and the evolution of portals to "vortals" in research.
Here's a look at some of the products and innovations announced at the show that caught our eye.
With increased calls for demonstrable student outcomes-and in anticipation of what may come out of the Spellings Commission summit next spring-several vendors introduced new or updated products geared to complying with outcomes reporting.
Blackboard (www.blackboard.com) announced development of the Blackboard Outcomes System, a comprehensive software solution to meet the needs of the entire enterprise for coordinated outcome assessment. IHEs are looking for ways to meet accreditation requirements for student learning outcomes; communicate their effectiveness to parents, businesses, government, and other stakeholders; and comply with accountability requirements. Due next year, the Outcomes System will help improve institutional effectiveness at each level. It's designed to provide better transparency into outcomes for effective decision-making and resource allocation, and it will streamline regional and specialized compliance requirements.
Desire2Learn (www.desire2learn.com) unveiled the latest version of its Enterprise eLearning Suite to provide solutions for institutions to measure and assess organizational effectiveness and learner outcomes. Components include the Learning Environment 8.1, Learning Repository 3.5, and LiveRoom 4. The Enterprise eLearning Suite Learning Environment 8.1 gives faculty new options for measuring competencies and learning outcomes, as well as reporting and data warehousing, special e-mail features, and blogging capabilities for communication and collaboration.
Datatel (www.datatel.com) introduced the ActiveCampus Experience to give faculty, staff, students, and alumni complete access to the information and enterprise resources they need to achieve their goals. Datatel is teaming with SAS, Microsoft, and others to help IHEs engage constituents in the ActiveCampus Experience, delivering solutions that streamline the flow of information, increase productivity, and improve job satisfaction.
ActiveCampus components include: The ActiveCampus Portal to aggregate, organize, and locate information; ActiveAdmissions 2.0, an online recruiting solution to reach recruitment goals in terms of quantity and quality; ActiveAlumni 2.0, an e-Marketing solution that helps engage, build, and grow personalized relationships with alumni and donors; ActiveCampus CMS, a content management system that enables users to create and fully control web content across the campus environment; and Colleague Advancement, a fundraising and advancement solution.
Institutions will be looking for ways to assess learning outcomes.
Google (www.google.com), the search engine whose name has become a verb, introduced new features for its Google Apps for Education. Google Apps for Education enables institutions to offer innovative e-mail, instant messaging, and calendaring, all hosted by Google, so there's no hardware or software to install or maintain. The company also announced beta testing of new web-based APIs (Application Program Interface) that make it easier for organizations to integrate their user directory, single sign-on systems, and mail gateways with Google Apps for Education.
Adobe (www.adobe.com) has a number of new and updated products, the first batch to result from its acquisition of Macromedia last year. Adobe Acrobat 8, the latest edition of the PDF document creator, allows users to combine, share, and control media-rich PDF documents for easy collaboration and electronic workflow. Faculty and administrators can host real-time meetings or classes and enhance professional development seminars with Adobe's web-conferencing and collaboration software. Acrobat Connect Professional (formerly Macromedia Breeze) is a web conferencing system with collaboration tools such as chat and document sharing. Adobe Captivate 2 enables creation of simulations, software demonstrations, and scenario-based learning in Flash format-without the need for programming knowledge or multimedia skills. Adobe Presenter 6 adds rich-media functions to Microsoft PowerPoint presentations for creating narrated e-learning courses and on-demand presentations. Presenter converts PowerPoints into Adobe Flash format and publishes them to the web for viewers to access at their convenience.
Cascade Server Version 4.6 from Hannon Hill Corporation (www.hannonhill.com) is a powerful web content management solution that gives users the freedom to easily manage internet, intranet, extranet, and portal content. Version 4.6 adds new features and functions, including faster publishing speeds and better reporting, additional enhancements to the web services API for audit trails and workflow interaction, and an improved configuration interface.
The SMART Board 600i (www.smarttech.com) interactive whiteboard system combines a SMART Board interactive whiteboard and a Unifi projector with an integrated audio system. The projector mounts directly above the interactive whiteboard rather than from the ceiling, giving new flexibility to learning space design. Projector and audio controls are accessed from a single location, and users can write over video without a connected computer.
CRM 7.1 is the latest version of Talisma's (www.talisma.com) multi-channel Constituent Relationship Management solution for higher ed, with 40-plus new features and enhancements for increased functionality. Features include: the Event Management Module for automated workflow processes in creating, managing, tracking, and reporting events; a Web Form Generator to produce and manage web forms; and Web Services Integration to integrate with third-party and legacy applications. Talisma CRM 7.1 includes the ability to add standalone portal components to a website, single sign-on for support, and prepackaged, yet customizable, student portal.
Apreso's (www.apreso.com) Coursecaster is a lecture capture appliance designed to eliminate support, IT, and AV barriers to adoption. It can be mounted on a podium or an equipment rack. Built on an embedded Linux operating system, Coursecaster is leading the push toward standards-based solutions for enterprise lecture capture. Leveraging QuickTime, H.264, and AAC for media capture, and Linux, XML, and Web Services for management and administration, Apreso Coursecaster is built to future-proof interoperability with key university systems.
Hitachi Software (www.hitachi-soft.com) unveiled a number of new interactive StarBoard software, tablet, and whiteboard products. In addition to new multiplatform support, the company introduced a new Bluetooth tablet, BT-2G. The StarBoard BT-2G Bluetooth Wireless System Tablet is a lightweight, handheld, pen-operated Bluetooth tablet accessory that enables wireless remote operation from a range of 65 feet. StarBoard Software Version 7.1 allows a wireless two-button pen device to function as a mouse to operate the PC or as a pen to annotate and edit documents, which can be saved as screen shots in StarBoard Software or as Windows software applications. The company also launched the new StarBoard Software LE Version 2.0 for Mac users, expanding StarBoard technology applications to a previously untapped user base.
Centra Live for Virtual Classes (www.saba.com/centra-saba) claims to replicate typical classroom interaction with a complete set of features for highly interactive, effective group learning-bringing together voice, video, data and graphics in a structured online learning environment for up to 500 simultaneous users. Reach users anywhere; only a web browser is required to attend. The Centra Live for Virtual Classes interface has a complete feature set for highly interactive, effective group learning.