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Articles: Software

If you haven’t made your plans yet for EduComm 2011, let me take this opportunity to tell you about the variety of fast-paced, information-packed breakout sessions scheduled for attendees. Covering a range of topics from learning technology and social media to enrollment strategies and leadership issues, the sessions are designed to inform and enlighten all decision makers at colleges and universities about the changes, challenges and solutions, that higher education must confront today and in the coming years.

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Professionals who have helped create inviting places for groups to study on campus have vivid memories of the uninviting study spaces of yesterday. “When we studied as a group, if we studied as a group, it was typically in the dining hall,” recalls Jeff Vredevoogd, director of Herman Miller Education.

Call it the marathon without a finish line: As new network demands such as mobile computing and rich media increase, campus IT strategists are trying to keep running ahead, to ensure that their networks can meet the need.

When most people think of video surveillance, they think of a Big Brother scenario, where their every move is being monitored. And after a campus tragedy, such as the Virginia Tech shootings of 2007, pundits debate whether video surveillance might have prevented the tragedy. But at colleges and universities, these electronic eyes do much more.

We spoke to three security experts to discuss how video surveillance technology has changed to make surveillance far more intelligent and effective. Our panelists are:

The campus network is home to thousands of student residents while at the same time hosting key administrative servers containing private personal information. Yet in most universities the network administrators are expected to maintain an "open network environment" that allows free access in and out of the campus.

A picture is worth a thousand words, especially when trying to convey complex ideas. At Purdue University (Ind.), a home-grown smartphone app lets students easily incorporate mobile video components into class assignments and share them with teachers and other students.

Called DoubleTake, the app was developed by the university's information technology staff and is available through the iTunes App store. An Android-based version is in the works as well.

Digital signage has existed on campuses in some form for decades. Originally, it was standard television sets embedded in the wall with a slow crawl of text showing campus news. Now, high-quality flatscreens display live TV, text, and information tickers all at the same time.

The judging has begun on the next round of Models of Efficiency entries, the first of three installments for 2011. We continue to be encouraged by the number of entries that are coming in for each round, a sign that colleges and universities are eager to share their stories about how they saved time or money with technology enhancements or business process improvements.

But not everyone can be named a Models of Efficiency honoree, so I'd like to take a minute to talk about why some entries fall short of the mark.

Based on Twitter, blogs, and web conferences, it looks like everybody in higher education is talking about check-ins, Facebook Places, Foursquare, Gowalla, and SCVNGR. No matter where they work, from liberal arts colleges to big state universities, many web communication and online marketing professionals have already adopted location-based services (LBS). More and more have been busy claiming the Facebook Place for their institution, creating a Gowalla tour, applying for the Foursquare University Program, or setting up their first SCVNGR trek.

There are 18 million college students, 40 percent of whom receive federal financial aid every spring and every fall. The average student, after class drops and other adjustments, gets 2.5 refunds totaling $1,300. That's a lot of money and a lot of transactions that have to be made according to a stringent set of regulations.

Hot button issues facing colleges and universities at times seem endless: recruitment, student retention, and shrinking budgets, to name just a few. In contrast, identity management is an often overlooked and under appreciated business process among senior leadership in the higher education field. Yet with the increase of online courses; rising popularity of distance learning; and the challenge of protecting student, faculty and organizational data, identity management is fast becoming a top concern among university professionals.

There was a time, not terribly long ago, when the telecommunications industry spoke of "convergence." Voice and data would soon be one and the complexity that goes with building and maintaining separate systems would evaporate. That time is upon us, and actually, it has been for years. Why, then, is building the corporate information technology infrastructure still so complicated?