Articles: Teaching & Learning

The internet and e-mail are a blessing and curse. Both improve communication and access to information; they are the de facto communication and entertainment tools of modern life.

But when personal communication and entertainment cross into professional hours, the employer can suffer. Online shopping, gaming, and chatting are fairly innocuous ways to waste time.

Other network-based activities can be more problematic for colleges and universities. For example, if faculty or staff use the university network to gamble, download music, or view child pornography, it can harm the university's reputation or possibly result in a lawsuit. Any of the scenarios cost time and money. At the same time, higher ed operates with a sense of freedom unmatched in the corporate and K-12 arenas.


Objectionable content to the corporate or K-12 world can be considered academic research.

The business world has tapped into software solutions to help curb online behavior and catch those who fail to abide by policy. The Center for Business Ethics at Bentley College (Mass.) says 90 percent of employers observe electronic behavior. Virtual oversight can go several steps further. More than three-quarters of employers watch web surfing. "About one-third of large commercial enterprises monitor [or sift through] staff e-mail," says Craig Carpenter, senior director of corporate marketing with Mirapoint, an IT security company.

Higher ed has been slow to embrace high-tech surveillance tools. Monte Robertson, president and CEO of Software Security Solutions, surveyed the company's higher education customers and found that none scanned e-mail for content. Carpenter hypothesizes that higher ed is reluctant to deploy surveillance software because it smacks of censorship. Academic freedom is a right in the university environment, explains James Hammond, vice president of Information Technology at Winthrop University (S.C.).

Content that is objectionable in the corporate or K-12 environment can be considered academic research. For example, a faculty member may view child pornography websites to conduct research for a psychology or sociology course.

"Higher ed cannot draw too many lines in the sand because it encroaches on academic freedom," continues Hammond. Academic freedom can become a rallying cry for monitoring foes. The University of Southern Mississippi endured a firestorm when its president directed a lawyer to monitor some faculty e-mails during an internal investigation.

The ideal solution balances academic freedom and protection. Most colleges and universities do require faculty and staff to agree to policies about e-mail use. The typical policy specifies that the employee does not own e-mails and permits the employer to read e-mails.

At this point, however, few universities enforce these policies with monitoring software, says Carpenter. Is higher ed flirting with danger by not using surveillance solutions? "Absolutely," opines Carpenter. But the tide could turn as universities wrangle with compliance issues.

One reason behind the near-universal business use of surveillance technology is the need for regulatory compliance. Similarly, universities could begin to adopt technology to boost compliance. FERPA (Family Education Rights Protection Act) will influence universities, predicts Carpenter. "Universities have not gotten their arms around FERPA and need to develop an understanding of its requirements," he says.

Initially passed in 1974, FERPA protects the privacy of student information such as health records and grades. Surveillance technology could be used to identify FERPA breaches. Winthrop currently complies with FERPA through policies that describe how to handle and release sensitive information. In addition, software "flags" alert users to sensitive information and tell any employee how to view the information.

Similarly, the post-9/11 SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) requires all colleges and universities receiving government funding to monitor foreign students' e-mail communications and transmit student information to the Department of Homeland Security. Surveillance programs could help colleges comply with SEVIS by tracking and organizing online communication and activities, says Chronicle Solutions Chief Operating Officer Sophie Pibouin.

But sweeping changes and a draconian monitoring system may not fly at most colleges and universities. Instead, higher ed may be best served by adapting surveillance solutions and developing policies to meet their unique needs rather than simply mirroring corporate practices.

Colleges and universities do have a number of options for monitoring e-mail and internet use. In fact, some may already own options. A number of higher ed customers, for example, rely on Mirapoint's Email Server and Edge Security Appliance for protection against spam, viruses, worms, and hacker attacks. Those features comprise 95 percent of the product's functionality. The other 5 percent? E-mail surveillance. But few higher ed users opt to turn on the surveillance functionality.

One plus of the surveillance system is that it can be used on an as-needed basis. Winthrop University relies on Mirapoint's Email Server and Email Security Gateway for multiple purposes, including monitoring ingoing and outgoing mail for spam and viruses. University policy defines e-mail as private except in the case of an ongoing legal or internal policy investigation.

At Winthrop, if campus police present a valid request or an employee is suspected of violating policy, the university maintains the right to wiretap a mailbox. For example, if a full-time faculty member begins teaching at another university without securing appropriate approval, the university could launch an investigation and tap the employee's inbox. The university might turn on surveillance functionality if a faculty or staff member is engaged in activities that conflict with the university's mission.


"We monitor for investigative purposes only."

- James Hammond, Winthrop University

In addition to e-mail monitoring, the system can create rules to scan for specific objectionable words or block attachments or certain addresses. "We don't monitor e-mail as a preventative measure, nor do we regulate objectionable words or contents. We monitor for investigative purposes only," says Hammond. The combination of policy and technology is a good fit for the university's needs.

Another software option is Chronicle Solutions' netReplay system. The company recently launched the network content recorder. The system plugs onto the network behind the firewall and can record all user digital communication, including e-mail, web pages, and chat messages. The netReplay system can also categorize communication to streamline network monitoring. For example, the system administrator can define policies and set the device to send an alert if a user accesses a child pornography site.

Some systems, such as Mirapoint's Email Server and Edge Security Appliance, wrap monitoring functionality into a larger package. Security, mail hardware, software, and support cost approximately $1.25 monthly for each user at a site with 10,000 users. Others, like netReplay, represent a new system. Its costs include the price of the appliance, a fee per user monitored, and an annual maintenance fee. Chronicle Solutions, a provider of network monitoring solutions, says it extends a significant higher education discount.

Employee surveillance can be a touchy subject. Poorly defined and communicated policies could have a negative impact on employee relations or lead a to a media fiasco. One need only recall the recent Hewlett-Packard corporate scandal to imagine the media and public relations nightmare that can occur in the wake of a poorly conceived surveillance program.

And like any technology, surveillance systems are not perfect. It is possible to increase the odds of a successful deployment. Insiders offer the following advice about optimizing a monitoring system:

Make sure surveillance tools are available. "Understand the local monitoring policy, or in the absence of a policy, make one," says Hammond.

Don't take faculty and staff by surprise, says Pibouin. The university needs to clearly define and communicate monitoring policies. It helps to market the system as a means of protecting employees and the university's reputation.

Be sure to research the system's accuracy and reliability, says Robertson. Calculate all costs, and investigate legal ramifications and requirements.

An online monitoring or surveillance policy that outlines the rights of the university is a 21st-century essential. Colleges and universities can tap into fairly new software solutions to support the policy and simplify the process of sifting through online communication if a need arises. The combination of a well-articulated policy and carefully deployed software need not impinge on academic freedom and can protect the university, staff, and students-without breaking the bank.

At Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas, the importance of enhancing e-learning services was heightened after the devastating effects of Hurricane Rita, which hit the Houston and Beaumont areas in September 2005. To date, the university has spent more than $30 million in recovery efforts.

If we build it, will they come? That was the $16 million question Temple University (Pa.) executives, administrators, and trustees pondered before they gave the go-ahead to construct the largest student computer center in the country.

"It wasn't a slam dunk," recalls Timothy O'Rourke, vice president of Computer and Information Services at Temple, a public research university. "Nobody was going in this direction. The trend has been to equip students with laptops and wireless connections. I would get questions from faculty and the trustees on the order of 'Why would you do this?'"

However, after rounds of discussions and presentations to the Board of Trustees, the consensus moved to, "Why not do it?"

Construction started in March 2005. "We didn't go into this blind," O'Rourke says. "We did student surveys and found that only about 5 percent of students carried laptops to school, so we did believe there was a need for such a facility."


Students-both campus residents and commuters-did not want to bring their laptops to class.

Still, O'Rourke remembers his angst up until the day the TECH (Teaching, Education, Collaboration, Help) Center opened its doors on January 6. "I feared no one would come," he recalls.

But they did come-in droves. During the 2006 spring semester, the center recorded more than 432,000 visits from 20,000 individuals. The busiest day occurred on April 26 when 8,000 people entered the center. This fall semester, the daily attendance is expected to average 6,000 visits per day.

"The numbers have blown us away," O'Rourke remarks. "The traffic has far exceeded anything we could have imagined. It has been a tremendous success."

The 75,000-square-foot TECH Center sits in the heart of Temple's main campus in North Philadelphia, which serves 25,000 students. The building, which once served as a mainframe center for Bell Atlantic, met the needs for conversion because of its footprint and location.

The two-story facility also houses Temple's new 4,200-square-foot Welcome Center on the first floor, which tacked on another $1 million to the project (see "The Wow Factor," p. 46). The first floor also consists of various breakout rooms where students can collaborate on projects. Equipment includes flat-panel wall displays and desks with computers set up for group interaction. In addition, the campus Help Desk is located here, offering 24-hour support for the entire campus community. A Teaching and Learning Center offers training and technology support for faculty and teaching assistants, coupled with a faculty breakout room and lounge. Finally, the first floor houses the WHIP internet radio station (staffed by students) and, of course, a Starbucks cafe that's open 24 hours a day Monday through Thursday, with limited hours on weekends.

The second floor consists of an information desk staffed by a librarian to assist students, an internet lounge, and a service desk where students can go for support, reserve breakout rooms, and rent loaner laptops. There is a section solely for print operations consisting of high-speed laser printers, color printers, and plotters.

General computer areas are subdivided by different color schemes, each housing PCs and Macs, print stations, and popular software programs. In addition, the center offers free music and cable TV feeds. Various specialty labs house computers, special applications, and ancillary equipment. A video editing lab, a music lab with keyboards, a graphics/CAD lab, and a language lab round out the second floor's technology offerings. Moreover, there are two quiet rooms, as well as various breakout rooms reserved for collaborative work. Each room contains a flat-panel wall display and desks set up for group/computer interaction. Some labs are equipped for multimedia presentations, with surround sound and large screens.

Finally, various couches, coffee tables, and cozy chairs are scattered throughout the floor, so students can read, use a laptop (the building is wireless), or even nap between classes.

Even the sole vending machine is unique. Rather than containing the basic student food staples-snacks, candy, and gum-this machine dispenses memory sticks, ear buds, pens, paper clips, batteries, and, of course, Excedrin and NoDoz for those late-night term paper deadlines.

A side note: Food and beverages are allowed in the Internet Zone area, and beverages (with lids) are allowed in the computer areas. "We haven't had any problems with spillage on keyboards, and no stains on the carpet," says David Matthews, a lab manager. He attributes the success of the beverage policy to the large work stations and adequate spacing between stations that give students more room for the business at hand and less opportunity to knock over drinks.

According to Clarence Armbrister, senior vice president of the university, the idea of a large computer facility was born from various discussions throughout the university examining what the university needed to do to equip students for the 21st century.

"The TECH Center is the outgrowth of forward thinking from Tim O'Rourke,"Armbrister says. "When we initially went to the trustees with the idea, we were questioned if the university really needed the facility-considering the investment and the changing pace of technology. We went back and I got together with the academic side of the house and Tim examined the technology side, and we finally came back with a plan that encompassed what we thought would be a facility for 21st-century teaching, collaboration, and technology. And that's how the TECH-Teaching, Education, Collaboration, and Help-acronym came about."

Armbrister notes that other factors contributed to the idea of the center, including the knowledge that students-both campus residents and commuters-did not want to bring their laptops to class. Also, because students can't afford specialty software, the university wanted to give them access to high-end applications. And since previous computer labs were dispersed throughout the campus, consolidating the labs into one facility opened up those labs for additional classroom space.

Armbrister adds, "We also realized that students change majors all the time, and technology and applications cross over various disciplines, so now all students have access to all applications."

Tom Halligan is the former editor in chief of University Business and an alumnus of Temple University.

Need to direct new students to unfamiliar buildings on campus? Nothing does the trick like a map. Now imagine that map presented in color and blown up to fit on a 42-inch screen. Add to this image descriptive headlines and text and changing inset graphics that can provide close ups of the section of campus where the building is located, along with pictures of the destination, and it's clear just how effective digital signage can be.

Digital signs started appearing on campuses a few years ago, with some promoting sales in bookstores and other retail outlets and others providing information for those passing through the student union or dining hall. In this fashion, higher ed was catching up to hotels, financial institutions, big box retailers, and other sectors that provide information to the public. Once these industries began showing how convenient it is to digitally change information and create a multimedia presentation that can grab attention much easier than paper posters and bulletin boards crammed with out-dated paper flyers, higher education administrators saw the logic in using this new technology.

It has helped that plasma and LCD flat panel screens are now more common and have come down in price. Spurring the trend, too, are new services that ease the headache of content management and planning for overworked higher ed public affairs and promotion departments.

"Our students are into gizmos and high tech, Digital signage gives you a connection to students that you can't get with other advertising." -Charlie Salas, Texas State University

Basically, digital signage enhances any area on campus where large groups of people pass by or congregate, says Rosemary Abowd, an analyst with Pacific Media Associates, a company that provides research on multimedia and large screen displays. (See sidebar on technology trends and pricing.)

Few people know about the technology's benefits better than Charlie Salas, associate director of the LBJ Student Union at Texas State University. He's a client of The University Network, or TUN (pronounced t-u-n), a digital signage service for colleges and universities. At TSU, 42-inch, flat panel digital signs that hang in the LBJ Student Center and the campus recreation center help promote campus activities and vendors. TUN, as well, provides national advertising aimed at students, and allows TSU to share in 20 percent of the national advertising revenue. "We receive a check for about $200 every quarter," says Salas, who adds that the impetus for installing TUN's digital signage system in 2004 was not really to make money. The real goal was to be able to more easily inform students about services and activities. Certainly, though, the revenue checks are a nice by-product of the digital signage installation.

Salas wanted to cut through the media clutter on campus and get students' attention. "Our students are into gizmos and high tech," he says. "Digital signage gives you a connection to students that you can't get with other advertising."

Texas State participates in one of two types of programs that TUN offers. While TSU takes advantage of the revenue-sharing model, the company also provides a separate service that does not share revenue, but instead, installs more digital signs on campus. The difference is one screen versus up to three per department, says Denise Stephenson, senior vice president of University Services for TUN.

In addition, TUN, which is a division of InFocus, provides creative and production services for its more than 160 higher education clients. Those who receive a portion of the national advertising revenue are guaranteed three new, 20-second spots per week, while those who have installed more screens can run up to five spots. These promotions are campus-specific.

Each week Salas and TSU staffers send TUN basic text, logos, and images related to the news and events they want to promote, and the TUN creative team does the rest. Of course, TUN can change information quickly if there is an emergency on campus.

"We can run public service announcements," explains Stephenson. Last year, the company created informational spots for campus customers affected by Hurricane Katrina. It also has created missing persons announcements.

The benefits for TUN are obvious-by signing on college and university clients they can deliver the college audience to national advertisers, such as 1-800-Flowers, The Gillette Company, Paramount Pictures, and Columbia Sportswear. But the program also helps colleges and universities that might not be able to pay the estimated $25,000 to purchase and install several flat-panel displays, nor be able to pay the additional cost to install the creative and content management software.

While Salas doesn't offer any bottom-line ROI metrics on the digital signage's effectiveness, he does have a telling anecdote. A national ad for cellphone ringtones featured a hard-to-forget-one might say obnoxious-jingle, he recalls. "People were humming that stupid song throughout the building," he says. That day he made a mental note that digital signage is definitely reaching the TSU audience.

St. John's University (N.Y.) took a different approach one year ago, when staff there decided to install digital signage. Instead of having an outside service handle the content, the team there brought it in house. St. John's signed with NEC to purchase five, 46-inch LCD digital signs, which were up and running in January, along with the creative and management software that drives the digital signage system.

To date, St. John's has spent $82,885 on its digital signage program, which its technical staff views as a larger investment in technological innovation.

"We put these in high traffic areas where students pass through the lobbies," explains Joseph J. Tufano, CIO for Information Technology at the university. Those specific areas include the University Center, the dining hall, and the library. A team of people, led largely by Joanne Novarro, director of internal and external communications, changes the creative everyday.

"This is really a challenge," Novarro admits. But an ever-flowing mix of digital media is a necessity on campus. "Students today are really savvy and we have to constantly change the content, or we will lose them."

Since installing digital signage, the team at St. John's has produced some ambitious segments. Coverage of a campus Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 25 included live broadcasts that featured survivors and their families.

The team has also altered digital signage to speak to varied audiences. For example, welcoming signage for an accepted students day-where those contemplating enrolling at St. John's were on campus-was edited to list the differing undergraduate majors offered on the Queens and Long Island campuses. Other notices and campus maps also were broadcast to help make the day easier on the newbies.

Digital signage also is used to notify students of emergencies or schedule changes, such as campus closings because of bad weather, notes Tufano. This is a strong point of the NEC system. The company recently announced a partnership with XTEND Communications Corp. to be able to push digital signage content such as emergency text messages to cellphones, e-mail clients, even PDAs. NEC is calling the service its Emergency Campus Notification Solution.

The new technology allows users to reach students and staff who might not be near a digital signage screen, or even on campus.

The University of Connecticut has set its three new 42-inch Sony LCD digital signage screens in the Neag School of Education to receive cable TV feeds, says Gary Hendrickson, the school's director of technology. "There is a network on campus that carries 82 cable channels," he explains. The connection allowed students and staff to watch live coverage of the recent terrorist plot involving commercial airlines that was uncovered in London.

Of course, most coverage is not so urgent, yet important to running a smooth campus operation. Notices that welcome new education students, instructors, and visiting department lecturers are interspersed with announcements about student activities.

The web production team has the "right eyes" for creating
digital signage spots.

Sports news is also a popular feed, especially with many Red Sox fans on staff.

The creative is managed by a browser-based software that allows for content editing and broadcast scheduling. Janis Palmer, the school's communications director, either directly creates the material that is eventually broadcast, or reviews everything and gives a final OK.

The digital signage was added when the Neag School of Education underwent a $350,000 renovation two-and-a-half years ago, explains Hendrickson.

"This was part of the planning from the beginning," he says. "We spent a lot of time looking into the future and asking: 'Where is technology going to be?'"

Like St. John's, UConn is also looking to take the logical next step, which will be to push the digital signage information to iPods, cellphones, and other individual devices. A scan of campus will show that at any given moment most students are using cellphones, PDAs, or MP3 players.

"We are looking to keep up with students; they are innovators," Hendrickson says.

A rise in identity theft is presenting employers with a major headache. They are being held liable for identity theft that occurs in the workplace.

University Business surveyed 160 chief information officers and IT directors from colleges and universities nationwide to find out how and where their IT dollars were being spent. (For UB's companion feature story see "Smart IT Spending Strategies," December 2005.)

Oxford, Yale and Stanford closed their joint not-for-profit online venture, AllLearn, Alliance for Lifelong Learning, citing insufficient enrolments and funding as the primary reasons.

Viruses and worms have attacked every college and university network. Predictably, almost all colleges and universities use some virus protection software, spam filtering and or firewalls to try to protect IT networks. Still, the attacks keep coming, as do the security breaches.

The familiar rhythms of academia lend a comforting presence on college campuses. Each autumn as summer temperatures begin to fall, days shorten, and leaves flutter down, fresh-faced students arrive en masse, their futures pregnant with possibility.

Last year, however, as students and educators in the Gulf Coast region prepared for the onset of fall classes, an unexpected visitor interrupted the traditional proceedings: Hurricane Katrina.

In the storm's wake, nearly 1,600 lives were lost, property damage numbered in the tens of billions of dollars, and educational institutions found themselves in disarray.

Elizabeth Moore Rhodes, the director of distance learning and the educational technology support specialist for Xavier University of Louisiana, vividly remembers the destruction that the hurricane left behind. "Practically every building on campus had water in it," she says. "My office is in the library, and the library had 4 to 5 feet of water on the first floor."

The office spaces and holdings in the library were completely destroyed. A large computer lab on the library's ground floor was also ruined. Teachers and students alike sought safety and classes were canceled. "All of our academic programs were interrupted, even the distance courses. Everything was down until January 2006," says Rhodes.

Once faculty and staff members finally reconvened, it was clear that a new disaster plan had to be formulated-a plan with which, even if the campus' brick and mortar facilities were again damaged, distance learning could continue with the support of a reliable and flexible network infrastructure.

"We've developed short-term plans as well as long-term plans on how we can get communication back initially and then get our course management system software running again with the expectation that students could continue with their distance learning programs," says Rhodes.

The university is putting arrangements in place to provide faculty members with internet access at predetermined evacuation sites. Faculty members are also being trained extensively in the Blackboard course management system so they will be able to deliver content and administer tests in the event of another disaster. As for more long-term plans, the preparation is focusing on data transfer and the coordination of remote locations where-if the campus must be closed-all data cartridges and systems will be taken and where host servers will have already been lined up.

Katrina changed the scope of Xavier's distance education program, which first launched in 2003. Prior to the hurricane, education courses were not offered online at the graduate course level. But when New Orleans was evacuated, its school system collapsed and a large number of schoolteachers were out of jobs and displaced around the country. To help them, Xavier added online education courses to its roster.

Rhodes believes that if online courses were not added at Xavier following the storm, then teachers from the New Orleans area would have pursued their graduate studies elsewhere. "We met the needs of our audience," she says. "The students needed online courses; they couldn't come back to campus and they didn't have jobs here anymore."

At Loyola University New Orleans, students were moving into residence halls as Katrina approached. Forced to evacuate, they ended up dispersing to nearly 400 different institutions. The majority of Loyola's classes were canceled, although after a short shutdown of nine days, distance education programs in areas such as ministry, nursing, and health-care management carried on.

Bret Jacobs, executive director of Information Technology, attributes this continuity to having an actionable disaster recovery plan that had been rehearsed annually. "We were a little ahead of the curve because we had exercised our plan on a few occasions and had just completed our test for 2005 in March," he explains.

Still, says Jacobs, there were a number of challenges to combat. For a few days administrators were unable to act because of a complete failure in land- and cell-based telecommunications. The campus didn't have power for nearly a month. The Blackboard system wasn't operating for more than a week after the storm.

With such events in hindsight and to prepare for future disasters, the university has taken steps to apply lessons learned. Administrators have opted to move course management to a hosted site, so that they can shrink the nine days that Blackboard was down last time to, hopefully, zero days next time around.

Jacobs has also developed a "technology triage" that outlines what technologies would be restored in an interim time frame and what will not. As a member of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, the university is also exploring how it can work with sister institutions in the event of another shutdown.

Jacobs believes that hybrid courses, in which traditional classroom sessions are supplemented with online components, might ease idleness in the case of a future shutdown. "Our students are already in the habit of checking their assignments online and getting course materials, so the bridge is already there," he says.

While hybrid courses wouldn't continue without interruption in the event of a major disaster (since facilities would likely be damaged), they would provide a way for students to continue accessing coursework. Once any damaged facilities reopened, face-to-face instruction would then continue and be tailored to the distance learning that took place in the interim.

Unlike institutions in New Orleans, the University of Houston was not directly affected by Katrina. However, it experienced a storm impact all its own.

Around 1,000 displaced students from New Orleans enrolled at the university, with approximately 700 of those electing to take online courses that were added as part of a special "second start" semester that kicked off on September 20, 2005.

Marshall Schott, executive director for educational technology and university outreach, says that the distance learning programs provided a flexible and accessible means of accommodating the displaced students. Fortunately for all parties involved, the institution's administrators and faculty were already well versed in the intricacies of distance education.

The university's first distance learning program launched in the early 1980s, when courses were delivered to off-campus sites via traditional and videoconferencing instruction. Over the past two decades, the program has evolved significantly: Now courses are available by broadcast television, DVD, and online. Currently, University of Houston Distance Education enrolls nearly 20,000 individuals annually.

On the heels of last year's hurricanes, Schott and his team are developing contingency plans for environmental disasters that could occur in the Houston metropolitan area. In phase one, they are developing listservs for all courses so that faculty can maintain e-mail contact with their students in the event of an emergency. In phase two, which will take place in 2007, they are moving toward an environment in which faculty can activate a course shell, or template, to post syllabi, course materials, announcements, and other information through Blackboard Learning System-Vista Enterprise License. In addition, administrators are exploring remote-site hosting for the school's Vista servers, and faculty will be trained in effectively using the enterprise system.

Disaster or no disaster, the goal is to utilize distance education to improve learning outcomes. Like his counterpart at Loyola, Schott sees hybrid courses as a near-term growth segment. "Hybrid courses give faculty the opportunity to deliver material to students so they can come to class more prepared to engage in higher-level discussions and activities. Students like the convenience of one-day-per-week class meetings in a reduced seat-time format," he observes.

Most students taking online courses expect flexible and accessible support. They also often expect an immediate response. To this end, a university's support staff is critical to the effectiveness of a distance education program in the event of a disaster.

Support staff duties include, among other things, student registration, scheduling, and working on IT issues. Schott advises that procedures and staff members be evaluated regularly.

Comprehensive evaluations to ensure the quality and consistency of a distance learning program are also important, he says. "Learning outcomes and student satisfaction need to be benchmarked against standards for traditional classroom delivery. In order to ensure that you are measuring the right things, survey instruments unique to distance learning environments usually need to be created," advises Schott.

For the University of Houston, such surveying involves a two-pronged approach. The first element focuses on institutional effectiveness and assesses the extent to which faculty create an effective teaching and learning environment. The second element assesses infrastructure and learning support.Shifting Priorities

While University of Houston online educators welcomed an influx of new distance learning students to the Lone Star State (virtually, at least), Mark Hendricks viewed firsthand the devastating impact that Katrina left behind. Just 10 days after the hurricane blew through, Hendricks, a system administrator for communications and information technology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was in Gulfport, Miss., installing portable networks.

His mission? To rebuild internet service for a group of Virginia Tech medical students who were providing health-care services in the region. Once this task was completed, Hendricks and his team, armed with a satellite dish and radio, journeyed to Alcorn State University (Miss.) to help resuscitate the institution's online infrastructure.

Reflecting on his Katrina experience, Hendricks sees a glaring need for educational institutions to have recovery plans in place. "Universities need to make business continuity a priority," he says.

Indeed, administrators are coming to grips with the myriad complexities that accompany re-establishing distance education and related information and communications services following a disaster. Network infrastructures must be rapidly rebuilt. Information must be culled from off-site data storage sites. An operational hot site needs to be set up that will handle the needs of students, faculty, and staff.

Jacobs of Loyola attributes his institution's relatively quick recovery time to the fact that a hot site was actionable and exercised. Otherwise, he says, "We would have had almost insurmountable challenges." Schott notes that there are a number of challenges to keep in mind when putting contingency plans in place. In addition to exploring remote hosting, Schott and his team are also looking to build hot sites at the University of Houston's regional campuses that could provide backup support if the main campus were to be impacted.

Of course, it's not just hurricanes that are capable of disrupting educational pursuits. Colleges and universities can be hobbled by earthquakes, tornadoes, or even tsunamis. No region is insulated from potential terrorist attacks or the possibility of an influenza epidemic.

As the last handful of years have taught us, disasters can strike at any place, at any time. In an effort to ensure educational continuity, many universities have opted to collaborate with other schools.

Partnering with colleagues offers several benefits. "All institutions have strengths and weaknesses and can learn something from others facing the same issues," explains Hendricks. "Also, collaboration is probably the most economical way to ensure educational continuity."

Joining forces from a technological standpoint makes sense as well. There are a number of possible solutions to the impediments thrust upon distance education, but not all institutions are privy to the most recent advances. Strength in numbers makes the possibility less likely that a single catastrophic event can wipe out all remedies.

Hendricks provides an example using his employer. "If UNL buys heavily into satellite technology, and a solar flare takes out communications satellites for a period, it would be nice to have a partner like Texas A&M who is working with microwave networks to help us with our situation."

Joining an established consortium can also be beneficial. Organizations like the Sloan Consortium and American Distance Education Consortium can help administrators correspond with counterparts at other institutions. Such communication enables members to build a network while keeping abreast of possible resources that could help keep programs running, points out Hendricks.

Consortia also provide invaluable support in times of need. After Katrina struck, more than 150 colleges and universities joined efforts with the Sloan Consortium and the Southern Regional Education Board to offer an online institution. Dubbed "Sloan Semester," the initiative provided tuition-free online courses to students affected by the storm. The online catalog listed more than 1,300 courses, and, in all, more than 8,000 enrollments were processed.

"We went to the aid of people who needed it by contacting a number of institutions that could provide help," says Burks Oakley II, co-chair of the Sloan Semester Steering Committee.

If there was a silver lining to the impact that Katrina had on higher education institutions, it was the fierce support that the affected universities received from their brethren in a time of crisis. The hurricane also, no doubt, provided a resounding wake-up call in terms of disaster planning.

According to the 2006 Current IT Issues Survey conducted by EDUCAUSE, disaster recovery/business continuity was the fourth most common challenge in terms of strategic importance to chief information officers and others surveyed-up from number 10 the previous year.

Reflects Hendricks: "Katrina proved that institutions can move swiftly to find solutions. It would just be a lot smoother if there were already plans in place to recover from a disaster."

Chelan David is a freelance writer based in Seattle, Wash. He has recently written articles for EContent Magazine and Smart Business Los Angeles.

Wake Forest University students have a firm grip on the future of technology. Indeed, up to 500 students at the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based institution are expected to use dual-mode phones that support cellular calls and IP communications this fall.

"You can surf the web and view video over WiFi or make a cell call from a single device," explains Jay Dominick, chief information officer and assistant VP of information systems, adding that, in previous years, the school has done personal digital assistant projects. "PDAs were useful, but if students were going to carry one thing we knew it would be a cell phone. That's what students ultimately want: one device for all their mobile needs."

That's for sure. As students moved from e-mail to instant messaging (IM) to short message service (SMS, a.k.a. text messaging) on digital phones, Wake Forest quickly realized that mobile phones would need to tie into the university's broader IT strategy, says Dominick.

"Students with dual-mode phones will be able to talk to each other a lot more over WiFi networks without using up their
cellular minutes."
-Chellappa Kumar, New York College of Osteopathic Medicine

That set the stage for dual-mode phones. Though still in their infancy, the devices may reshape cellular, WiFi, and mobile applications across university campuses. As dual-mode phones mature, they will be able to seamlessly connect to WiFi or cellular networks, based on the user's location and the relative signal strength of each network.

University CIOs from across the country have high hopes for dual-mode phones. "They'll be key devices for community building and collaborative learning," says Chellappa Kumar, CIO of the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine. "And they'll deliver financial savings. Students with dual-mode phones will be able to talk to each other a lot more over WiFi networks without using up their cellular minutes."

Just ask David Hattey, president and CEO of FirstHand Technologies, about the monetary benefits of these devices. Hattey estimates that he saved his company $1,500 in cellular roaming charges during a recent business trip in Europe. His dual-mode phone, which has cellular and WiFi capabilities, logged more than 17 hours connected to WiFi hot spots across Europe.

Admittedly, Hattey has a vested interest in dual-mode's success. The Ontario-based company develops multimedia client software for smart phones, WiFi handsets, and emerging dual-mode devices.

Despite their promise, dual-mode phones also come with cost, network, application, and device challenges. For starters, many dual-mode phones cost $500 or more. The average price, though, could drop to $400 each by 2008, according to the research firm Access Intelligence.

Most dual-mode phones are untested in college and university environments, and dozens of devices have yet to emerge from Silicon Valley development labs. In some cases, interoperability issues have slowed or halted device development.

For instance, Cisco Systems and Motorola last year partnered to design a dual-mode phone that connects to cellular services as well as Cisco's enterprise IP phone switches. But based on publicly announced design plans, prospective customers complained that the devices likely wouldn't interoperate with other vendors' networks. Cisco and Motorola ultimately scrapped their joint development work in April 2006. Cisco is now working with Nokia on standardized dual-mode phones that will likely ship before year's end.

Other challenges loom. Institutions of higher ed will need to ensure that dual-mode systems provide ample bandwidth, security, coverage, and seamless handoffs between cellular and WiFi networks, notes Peter Brockman, senior VP of business development at FirstHand.

Wake Forest has already witnessed these challenges. The university has tested Cingular's 8125 smart phone, which allows students to make cell phone calls or, when in a WiFi hot zone, surf the web and view streaming video. Overall, Wake Forest officials are very pleased with the devices and upbeat about dual-mode's promise.

However, Dominick concedes that additional device and campus network enhancements are required to unlock the full power of dual-mode phones.

For instance, students who use the devices to place calls over the school's WiFi network will notice inconsistent or subpar service. "It's not fully baked yet," says Dominick. "Students can get Skype client [software] for the smart phones. This will let them place calls on the WiFi network but the quality isn't there yet. The service doesn't roam real well as you move between [WiFi] access points."

Brockman has observed similar challenges with dual-mode phones. "On the application front, you'll need to ensure seamless links between call servers, mobile devices, cellular services, and the public telephone infrastructure," he says. "Dual-mode phones also come with device-specific challenges related to battery life, radio performance, screen size, storage, processor performance, and memory."

In other words, dual-mode phones will require extensive testing-much in the way that WiFi networks and laptops required careful consideration back when wireless networks first came onto the scene.

Still, proponents insist that WiFi's popularity and students' growing interest in all-in-one mobile devices will drive dual-mode phones to mass popularity within two years.

"I don't know if it's 12 or 18 months until the devices [offer seamless roaming for WiFi and cell networks]," says Dominick. "But it's certainly not far beyond that."

Other college leaders agree. Kumar at NYCOM, for one, has high hopes for leveraging the institution's WiFi infrastructure, which currently delivers streaming video and other academic content to student laptops. As students begin to embrace dual-mode phones over the next year or two, the devices will "immediately leverage our WiFi infrastructure to receive academic content and university announcements," predicts Kumar.

The dual-mode phone revolution is already underway in Asia. Consider the situation in Taipei City, Taiwan. Under the city's "Taipei Easy Call" initiative, more than 200,000 people are expected to use wireless internet phones and Skype by the end of this year, according to a statement issued by the Taipei Computer Association. In Europe, BT Group (formerly British Telecom) and Orange-a major WiFi service provider-expect to release dual-mode phones later this year.

"I don't expect us to buy dual-mode phones for our students. I think students will already have them when they enroll."
-Jill Cherveny-Keough, New York Institute of Technology

And in the United States, 76 percent of large companies expect at least some of their mobile workers to use dual-mode phones within the next three years, according to Access Intelligence.

Companies such as Rave Wireless are introducing next-generation mobile phone services for institutions of higher ed and their students. At Montclair State University (N.J.) for instance, students and officials can use Rave's wireless service to track the exact location of campus transportation vehicles. The university also conducts in-class and remote interactive polling over the service. And students can use their mobile phones to gather localized information, such as nearby restaurant specials or real-time updates from the campus library.

Instead of deploying dual-mode phones on their own, many IHEs instead plan to support devices that students purchase on their own. "The consumer market moves really rapidly," notes Jill Cherveny-Keough, director of academic computing at New York Institute of Technology, which has three campuses, one in Manhattan and two on Long Island. "I don't expect us to buy dual-mode phones for our students. I think students will already have them when they enroll."

NYIT students with dual-mode phones and the appropriate network security clearance can instantly utilize the college's WiFi network. "It's more than a device for chatting," says Cherveny-Keough. "Students can check in on their online courses, view e-mail-and even make free phone calls home to mom and dad. You can expect students would gain more efficient use of their cellular plan. Dual-mode phones will cut [calling] costs for sure."

Even at institutions that aren't quite ready for dual-mode phones, IT administrators can take gradual steps today to ensure that their network infrastructure supports future dual-mode rollouts.

Wake Forest, for instance, last year became the nation's first test ground for combination PocketPC phone devices on a college campus. The project-known as Mobile University, Mobile You-is now open to all students, faculty, and staff of the Reynolda campus for the fall of 2006.

Program members receive discounts on voice and data plans; discounted purchase price for the Cingular 8125; and access to custom software developed for members of the pilot program. A voice-enabled laundry service, for instance, tells students when their laundry is complete. Based on that test bed, Wake Forest this fall is rolling out up to 500 of these devices to students.

Wireless and mobile device experts praise the mobile computing program for its vision. "Wake Forest has deployed one of the most progressive, forward-thinking [wireless device] implementations," says Robert Liu, executive editor of TMCnet, a portal that tracks mobile and wireless trends. "That is a solid foundation to build upon."

Naturally, university IT managers will need to master multiple technologies in order to optimize applications for dual-mode devices. Experts recommend learning about Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), which is rapidly emerging as a standard for rich IP communications. SIP can be used for all real-time services such as instant messaging and web-based conferencing. If legacy applications such as voice services don't currently support SIP, university officials should contact their application vendors to see if they plan future support for SIP.

Higher ed officials can see dual-mode phones in action at Voice over IP and cellular conferences-or reach out to networking partners such as Cisco and offer to beta test their dual-mode devices while they're still under development. This will offer a feel for a device's strengths, weaknesses, and potential applications.

Concludes Cherveny-Keough: "Dual-mode phones are inevitable. Why carry your PDA, laptop, and cell phone, when all you would need is one device?"

Joseph C. Panettieri is VP of editorial content at Microcast Communications (www.microcast.biz). He has covered Silicon Valley and vertical markets since 1992.

Laptops are a modern marvel. They are portable, able to process amazing amounts of data, but, oh, so easy to steal. At least 600,000 laptops are stolen every year, according to a technology firm that helps protect data and locate missing machines. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, 97 percent of those stolen laptops are never recovered.

That means a lot of data ends up in the wrong hands.

Several software companies specialize in recovery and security, making products that either lock thieves out of certain files or destroy stolen data. Some recovery services even trace stolen laptops and help recover them.

The stolen laptop will call back to an office every 15 minutes to reveal its location.

Given the proliferation of laptop programs in higher education, it makes sense that IT managers are looking to these services to protect assets.

The recent headline-grabbing case of the laptop flinched from the Department of Veterans Affairs was notable, in part, because the machine contained 26.5 million personnel records. In a rare turn of events, the laptop was recovered.

In the world of higher education, there have been dozens of IT security incidents, including one at California Polytechnic State University, located in the town of San Luis Obispo. A laptop, stolen in July from a physics professor's home, contained the names and Social Security numbers of 3,020 students. University officials had to send out warning letters to all students who had been enrolled in particular physics and astronomy lectures between 1994 and 2004.

While all such breaches are serious, it is especially problematic when Social Security numbers are involved because thieves can use them to obtain credit cards and make unauthorized purchases.

Last year, University of California, Berkeley, issued a notification about the theft of a laptop that contained data on 98,000 graduate students and applicants. The laptop, which had been left alone for only a few minutes, was taken from a restricted area, according to reports. The university paid a reported $2.4 million in notification costs to those whose data may have been exposed.

The topic of data theft was "interesting, but not really compelling, until privacy rules from California required disclosure," notes International Data Corp. analyst Chris Christianson.

In 2003, the state of California adopted legislation that requires all companies and organization doing business there to protect data and to notify those whose information has been compromised by a security breach. Since 2003, 32 states have adopted similar legislation, and U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) continues to work on passing a federal law.

One campus of William Penn University (Iowa) began using LoJack for Laptops last year. The program is one of several IT security products produced by Absolute Software. The company also offers Computrace, which helps secure data and track lost or stolen portable machines. This particular WPU campus, located in West Des Moines, is geared to non-traditional students, such as adults coming back to school and working executives. Laptops are an integral part of every academic program, notes Curt Gomes, IT supervisor.

To date, this campus has outfitted 500 laptops with IT security programs. "We figure we will take any steps to help prevent a theft," Gomes says. The policy is key, considering that students are financially responsible for the laptops issued to them. Gomes estimates that the cost to replace a university laptop and related software is $2,000.

No sooner did WPU become an Absolute customer in October 2005 than the software was put to the test. A woman had her laptop stolen midmonth. Through the company's installed tracking protocol, the police were able to locate the laptop and return it within a week.

The Computrace program works as a "digital security cable," explains John Livingston, Absolute's CEO. If the stolen laptop is connected to the internet, it will call back an Absolute office every 15 minutes to reveal its location. The internet communication-undetected by the thief-also allows Absolute to send back commands that can erase files, if instructed by the laptop's owner.

This particular software, and similar programs, depends on password protection. Any user has to be correctly identified through a multiple series of passwords and other identification codes in order to enter any protected files. It is the combination of fumbled passwords and the report that a machine is stolen that sets the tracing software into action.

The software also prevents thieves from doing more mischief, like erasing the hard drive and all the software on it. Basically, Absolute's LoJack program works with computers at the BIOS stage (the basic input/output system), which kicks in before the OS, or operating system, goes to work. This means the OS is protected at all times.

"We don't disable the computer,
because we don't
want to notify the thief."
-Bradley Lide, CyberAngel Security Software

"Someone may think they are deleting everything on the hard drive or all the software, but they can't," says Gomes. Absolute's security goes as far has helping to issue search warrants or subpoenas for stolen machines.

Another company, CyberAngel Security Software, offers data protection to the University of Toledo (Ohio) and Brown University. Toledo became a client after two laptops were lost last year, compromising thousands of faculty and alumni files.

The company offers five software programs, including the CyberAngel Security program and Laptop Locks.

"Our main focus is data protection," explains Bradley Lide, president and CEO. Laptop users have to not only enter a password to gain access, but must also correctly fill in the codes for secondary and even tertiary prompts. Those who fail to log in correctly at all the various stages are denied access to files that have been pre-designated by the users as to be off limits.

"We don't disable the computer, because we don't want to notify the thief," explains Lide.

The IT team at the University of Miami (Fla.) is taking a different approach by creating a homegrown proprietary encryption system that will seal sensitive data on employees' laptops and PDAs.

The university is rolling out the program later this year to protect the information stored on the laptops of admissions counselors, attorneys, and other administrators, says Tim Ramsay, associate vice president of computer operations and telecommunications. Users will have to fill out several "scripts" of passwords and site key information to gain access to information about applicants, their SAT scores, and other data.

Two UM engineers have worked throughout the year developing the tools, which will also be used to protect the data used by the personnel at the university's medical school. Ramsay estimates that 1,000 employees carry sensitive data on laptops and portable devices.

Absolute's pricing is based on a subscription model. William Penn pays $55 annually per laptop for the recovery services, says Gomes. Education pricing is $125 for three years of coverage.

CyberAngel charges education customers $47.95 annually to protect a single laptop and $95.90 for a three-year contract. This represents a 20 percent discount off regular pricing, says Lide.

Gomes notes another benefit of the security program: Students are far less likely to "forget" to return their laptops when they graduate or leave the school, given that they will be reported as missing almost immediately.

Orlando, Florida, may be best known for its Magic Kingdom and Island of Adventure, but for three days in June it played host to another "theme park" in the form of the 2006 EduComm conference. The theme, of course, was connecting education with audiovisual and information technology.

As colleges and universities have put into placE large-scale content management systems (CMS) in recent years to take care of indexing and serving up their vast amounts of files, they have been making use of commercial products new and old to create these systems. Many of them have gone that route despite the availability of open-source alternatives, opting for safety over open-source promises of freedom.

But wasn't open-source technology supposed to be the savior of software budgets and vendor-stressed information technology (IT) departments? Its promise has been to give users the ability to get into the source code and make changes as they see necessary, without having to rely on a large, impersonal software company (or a small software company that may not be in business tomorrow) to make timely updates to the software.

True, open-source technology has been much talked about in recent years, but its uptake has still been slow.

In "The State of Open Source Software," a March 2006 report from the Alliance for Higher Education Competitiveness (A-HEC, a technology research organization serving the university and college market), A-HEC founder Rob Abel wrote that two-thirds of chief information officers at institutions of higher education have considered or are actively considering using open-source technology. Furthermore, about 25 percent of all institutions are engaged in implementing higher ed-specific open-source applications.

But that doesn't mean open source is a tidal wave. In fact, its popularity may be broad, but it's not deep. A significant switchover to open source from commercial software would have to take place for its "also-ran" status to change. "Despite much enthusiasm for open source, there are no signs that a large shift is occurring at this time," Abel writes.

Open source has been widely popular in Europe for years, with Spanish schools, French government agencies, and German municipalities adopting it enthusiastically. Governments there have pushed open source both out of national pride (choosing it over U.S.-based commercial software vendors) and as a way to keep costs down.

I would be
delighted to use open-source technologies anywhere we can. But when you get to
a high-level
application such as content
management,
I haven't yet
seen open source that
fits the criteria we have."-Larry Bouthillier, Harvard Business School

In many cases, they adopted e-government initiatives far earlier than U.S. agencies and municipalities, and they have kept up the momentum. A 2005 survey by the Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology about open-source use in Europe found, for example, that 98 percent of local Spanish authorities used open-source applications.

Open source is also widely popular in U.S. higher education, but IHE technology professionals are choosy about where they use it. They tend to employ it in smaller bits of programming (or in the tools programmers use to create and modify their programs) rather than in large, complex, mission-critical programs, say tech leaders.

Whatever the current status of open source's adoption, it's unlikely to disappear from the modern campus. "In the university environment, you're never going to outlaw open source," says Jeff Ernst, vice president of marketing at FatWire Software, a maker of a commercial CMS product. "You're always going to have the kids who are going to be enamored with getting into the source and doing whatever they want." Ernst says his customers tell him they have open-source elements throughout their systems, especially on "renegade" sites run by students or small departments, but not on mission-critical websites such as those used for recruitment.

Open-source CMS products do exist, such as PostNuke and Mambo Server, as do communities of users who are supporters of open-source CMS, such as the aptly named OpenSourceCMS website. But users are not necessarily convinced the products can do the job.

"I would be delighted to use open-source technologies anywhere we can," says Larry Bouthillier, director of educational technologies and multimedia development at Harvard Business School. "When you go up to a high[-level], total application such as content management, the thing I haven't yet seen is open source that fits the criteria we have."

When HBS staff needed to catalog their rapidly expanding library of video content, which had outgrown the abilities of earlier solutions, they used ClearStory Active Media, a commercial product. The application indexes the videos and supporting files (such as Microsoft Word documents or PDF files) so they can be served up easily to faculty and students searching for the right files.

HBS's case is a good example of a CMS that has evolved over the years. In late 1995, the institution started streaming video on campus. "We've always had lots of video in the curriculum-interviews with protagonists, documentaries, etc.," says Bouthillier. "But it required scheduled viewing, and students and faculty would all have to go someplace to view it." Over the years, IT staff wrote common gateway interface scripts to help users find videos on the system. They also added capabilities to:

Scan the videos and provide snippets of text and snapshots of video scenes to prospective viewers;

"Support can be a challenge if you run into software problems, depending on who developed the code.
If you purchase a particular software package from a vendor, you get support." -Deb Wells, Bowling Green State University (Ohio)

Automatically detect the bandwidth capacity of viewers to deliver to them the video at the top quality their system is able to handle; and

Include podcasting and RSS feeds for users with the ability to access them.

The system is now about 50 percent commercial product, and 50 percent home-grown, according to Bouthillier. HBS also recently implemented a Wiki solution, to which users across campus can add information.

Open-source options that used the script language PHP (see glossary, p. 66) simply didn't work well with the rest of the business school's system. So officials chose Confluence Wiki software from Atlassian Software Systems. "We looked at all the open-source stuff and at the commercial stuff, and we ended up going with the commercial product because it was the one that would allow us to integrate into the rest of our system," says Bouthillier.

Even open-source advocates such as Virgil Wong, head of web services for Weill Medical College at Cornell University, have shied away from using it on content management systems.

When the college was looking for a CMS solution in 2005, administrators considered both open-source and commercial products before choosing Element115 running on the FatWire Content Server. "As an academic institution, we see open-source technologies as much more of an academic challenge," says Wong. "Our sense was that with open-source technologies, building project plans is extremely difficult, predominantly because of the uncertainty of open-source products. The tools we looked at had very little support. Ultimately, no one is accountable for maintaining the security of your content management system. You're at the mercy of any rescuers who might arrive."

That's not a risk he wanted to run with his system, which has about 184,000 unique visitors each month. In the year-long process of internal meetings and consultations to refine the requirements of the system and evaluate the possible solutions, Wong also wasn't able to find open-source help that would let him assemble a project plan.

Support "can be a challenge if you run into software problems, depending on who developed the code," says Deb Wells, manager of web development at Bowling Green State University (Ohio). "If you purchase a particular software package from a vendor, you get support."

BGSU leaders began looking at CMS in 2002, when the systems were starting to become affordable enough for universities to consider, notes Wells. The goal was to move from having every website looking different and following different style rules to a more unified look and feel that would also simplify content creation by non-technical users.

They selected Rhythmyx content management solution from Percussion Software. Rhythmyx not only provides a way for non-technical users to create web content without having to learn HTML or Adobe's DreamWeaver web-creation software, but it also provides support.

"We don't have enough staff to support [all of the departments], so this product is great," says Toby Singer, executive director of IT at BGSU. Bouthillier is contrarian on open source and support. "For the most part, buying a commercial product because you want support is often disappointing," he says, adding that there are exceptions among the vendors.

The far-reaching nature of CMS is a big part of the reason for caution among campus tech leaders about adopting open source. If an isolated component of a department's website goes bad, or if the student newspaper posts the wrong editorial cartoon one day, the damage or embarrassment isn't too great. But modern CMS setups are typically campuswide, aggregating content from every department and serving it up to faculty, students, administrators, alumni, prospective students, and others.

Venkatesh Korla, former director of software engineering at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, had to address two seemingly contradictory needs a couple years ago when looking for a CMS solution for that institution. He was looking for something that was broad like any enterprise-level CMS solution to aggregate information from disparate content creators and provide it to disparate users inside and outside of the hospital; he also needed a solution that was specific to health care organizations, however.

Those requirements led to his team creating the foundation for Element115, a spinoff of RUMC for which Korla now serves as president. Element115, the technology used by Wong at Cornell, incorporated typical requirements of health care organizations that make up, by his estimate, 80 percent of the CMS solution, which is then customized as needed for the remaining 20 percent. Health care institutions have their own taxonomy and semantics that need to be considered when serving up information in different ways, depending on whether the user accessing the information is a doctor at the hospital or a prospective patient researching his or her illness.

"The biggest challenge they have in an academic institution is to come to an agreement of what content they want and how they want it to work together," says Korla. "It is surprising that these academic institutions, which have so much content like a publishing house, don't have the [content management technology] like a publishing house."

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