Notes From the Leading Edge

Notes From the Leading Edge

WHEN WE PLAN OUR EDITORIAL COVERAGE in University Business each year, we do our best to stay ahead of technology trends so you'll read about the very latest advances that can help you lead your institution to success. But technology changes at such a rapid pace that it isn't always easy to stay ahead of the curve. We could turn to psychics-after all, the tabloids in the supermarket checkout aisle are full of psychic predictions for the coming year. But, as a reliable predictor of future events... Well, let's just say the Philadelphia Phillies have a better record. For example, "Nikki," a self-proclaimed "Psychic to the Stars," predicted the passing of Vice President Cheney in 2007. Unfortunately, she made the same prediction in 2006...and in 2005, 2004, and 2003. Sure, the law of averages says she'll be right at some point-which she'll no doubt claim as proof of her abilities-but when we want a real peak into the future, we turn to people who actually have that insight-without the crystal ball.

John Bielec, vice president for Information Resources and Technology and CIO at Drexel University (Pa.), is one such person. He tells us:

"Each New Year's Day, I look forward to reading predictions in my local newspaper of 'What's Out' and What's In' for the next twelve months. Drexel has always pushed the technology 'In' envelope with a number of firsts, going back to 1983 when it was the first university in the world to require entering freshmen to purchase a computer. A lot of 'firsts' have happened since then, and what was the new 'In' thing one year quickly becomes 'Out' in another.

"Today, while many colleges and universities are still pursuing labor and capital intensive laptop computer distribution models, beginning wireless network initiatives, and building larger general-purpose computing labs, Drexel students purchase their required computers from a web store front; register online for wireless use anywhere, anytime (over 35,000 registered wireless devices on campus), and bring their lab with them wherever they go-we call it Bring Your Own (BYO) Laptop.

"How will the college and universities technology landscape change over the next few years? Here's my list of some initiatives already completed or under way:

"When new technology is on the horizon, Drexel clearly is an early adopter. Technology, however, quickly moves from the institution to the individual. Once commercialized, competition and individual choice rule-one size doesn't fit all. As technology is commoditized, colleges and universities must be quick to change from being 'prescriptive' to being 'adaptive.'

"As we enter the New Year, 'What's In' is student mobile device selection and funding, ubiquitous access to Drexel, and other web services for learning and personal use, as well as processing transactions anytime, anywhere. Choice, choice, choice! 'What's Out' is business as usual."

Happy New Year!


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