Feature

Lighting The Way

New services are bringing new vistas to campus.

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.

Wiring the Dining Experience

IHEs fuse food and technology to keep students happy and entice new ones through their doors.

These days, young adults are instant messaging their friends as fast as they're calling each other on cellphones about something someone just downloaded to a video iPod-all while eating takeout food that was ordered online.

They elevate the walking-and-chewing-gum thing to a whole new stratosphere.

As Millennials go through college, their techie ways are changing how institutions of higher education interact with them-and feed them. Dining services departments across the country are putting the internet and related technologies to use in ways that would've made Buck Rogers proud, and full.

Today's web kiosks, podcasts, websites, and digital signs aren't themes for some sci-fi television show-they're reality.

To see where food services is going, take a quick glance back in time to when things were simple: when operating hours were posted on a cafeteria's exterior doors, when a deep inhale revealed what food was being served, and when, if a class ended after the kitchen shut down, students were basically out of luck.

Were students simpler in those days? Probably. Satisfying Millennials means giving them what they want, when they want it. And technology can play a crucial role in making that happen. "My generation goes online; our students live online," says Charles Maimone, associate vice president for Administration at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

Today's students have a greater need for constant information and access. Their desire to know not only what's in their food but also from where it comes rules many of their daily dining decisions. "In my opinion, students are much more astute regarding food and food options these days," says Dean Lowden, vice president of support services for Chartwells Higher Education Division, a food services provider to some 235 campuses across the country. "They're very familiar with brands, and quality," says Lowden.

Colleges and universities are turning to technology to make students' dining experiences as streamlined and fulfilling as possible. Bolstered by start-to-finish programs from companies such as Aramark, Sodexho, and Chartwells, as well as software tools developed by colleges themselves, IHEs have many options for coupling tasty treats with useful technologies.

Of course, higher education is not the only realm ripe for pairing food services and technology. Many private-sector restaurants are employing high-tech tools to improve their customer experience.

Look no further than Legal Sea Food's newest baby, LTK Bar and Kitchen in Boston, for proof. "LTK" stands for "Legal Test Kitchen," and in this case the kitchen's not testing food but innovative technologies.

"Video menuing" screens provide
a refreshing change from the
paper-clad bulletin boards of old.

A glance around LTK's swank dining room shows several faces alit with the glow of Sony LCD touch screens no bigger than sheets of paper. Folks watch baseball and surf the internet. A server gives a tech tutorial to a diner, and soon she's fiddling with the kids' website "Club Penguin" while someone else logs into a Netflix account.

The restaurant's servers scuttle around with personal devices that they use to transmit orders to the kitchen. Some diners hook up their own iPods to docking stations provided by LTK.

It's all very technical, yet completely comfortable and-at 10:30 p.m.-completely full.

With such private-sector efforts aiming to entice students, "universities have to be competitive and utilize dining halls to [do] that," says Michael Paulus, a resident district manager for Chartwells. Dining services, says Paulus, "is the biggest bang-for-buck, reaching every student."

Forcing healthy eating onto an 18-year-old is like whipping a chronic procrastinator into shape by handing him a planner and an organizing system, right? Not always.

Chartwells has actually had the opposite issue on its hands: Students today demand tons of nutritional knowledge. The company and its client schools have faced "a constant request for nutritional information," says Lowden.

That's why providing nutritional information has been a driving motivator behind Chartwells' Pulse On Dining platform, designed by the company through a partnership with LifeCourse Associates, the consulting company of authors Neil Howe and William Strauss. The platform incorporates technology through a system of web-based kiosks that display menu options, dining hall hours, and nutritional information, typically at points of entry to an institution's dining facilities. Marywood University (Pa.) was Chartwells' first school to implement Pulse On Dining in September 2005; today the platform can be found at 60 IHEs, from Purdue University (Ind.) to Berkeley College (N.Y. and N.J.) and Canisius College (N.Y.), with some 170 more planned for the next few years.

Here's how it all works: At the kiosks, students can use a touch screen and check their meal plan balances, see the day's menus, or even send a special dietary request or feedback to the dining director. A password and log-in system lets them create nutritional charts for themselves and track nutritional intake throughout the day, including calories, fat, and protein.

As part of the Pulse On Dining platform, Chartwells' DineOnCampus.com website mirrors what students see at the kiosks. By visiting the dining link on their school's site or by going to DineOnCampus.com and choosing their school from a pull-down menu, students can access information from the privacy of their dorm rooms at any hour of the day.

Chartwells' technological tools provide an opportunity for point-of-sale purchases, too: The company partnered with Dancing Deer Baking Company (founded by Wheaton College, Mass., graduate Trish Karter), to develop SendMunchies.com, a website that lets students buy gift items such as all-natural, handmade brownies, cookies, and cakes. The items are promoted as gift possibilities that could be sent to loved ones, friends, or colleagues.

Of course, tech tools can be put to different uses, depending on the needs of a campus and its students. At the University of Utah, one of Chartwells' first client schools to go online with DineOnCampus.com about a year and a half ago, kiosk and website use are king-but so are visual graphics and individual iPod docking stations that promote campus-specific podcasts announcing daily menus and campus activities.

"With this demographic, we really have no choice," says Paulus, who works with colleges and universities in Utah and Colorado. He has implemented LCD "video menuing" screens and video welcome boards that greet students at points of entry to dining halls, displaying real-time menu options, similar to the information boards found in airports.

With such techie tools in play, the University of Utah has been able to cut its printing costs by about $4,500 (those printed materials also inundated students with so much information that they would just ignore it, Paulus says).

Now, Paulus gives an image file to the Utah marketing department. Soon after, the image goes up on screens. That's a refreshing change from the paper-clad bulletin boards of yore. "We're just bringing about the tools and technology our students are using every day," Paulus says.

Eighty-five percent of the College of William & Mary's 5,000 undergrads live on campus. As a result, says Maimone, the school's associate VP for Administration, dining services have to keep up with what is an increasingly sophisticated clientele, a group that responds best to having lots of healthful, ethnic food choices that are prepared at open cooking stations (rather than carted out in aluminum warming trays from some secret room out back).

With sophisticated palates comes a need for sophisticated ways to satisfy them. Enter CampusDish, a program launched by Aramark Higher Education in 2006. CampusDish includes an internet portal that offers nutrition and dining information; the program can be accessed from students' personal computers or through well-placed web kiosks in dining facilities.

"We're particularly proud of William & Mary because the idea of CampusDish came out of a graduate student project two years ago," says Dominic L. Boffa, CIO of Aramark. "They actually gave us the suggestion, and how it should be used."

At William & Mary, wireless dining halls give students access to the CampusDish website from their personal computers; at dining sites, students can respond to surveys (created by the school) about dining services, and add money to or change their meal plan accounts.

By using a student ID card online and at the school's first kiosk, which in August was placed in front of the University Center Court (one of two dining facilities), a student can also purchase food items-even order a Domino's pizza-with the cost being automatically deducted from a meal plan account.

CampusDish is now operating at more than 140 IHEs across the country, and more than 80 web kiosks will debut at Aramark schools this fall. One growth area for many of these schools: food-related podcasting. At the close of the academic year this past May, there were some 53 podcasts about menu options, dining services hours, and everything in between being broadcast at Aramark client schools.

The University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Furman University (S.C.), and East Carolina University have all launched podcasts filled with dining information. At East Carolina, a range of 34-second to two-and-a-half-minute podcasts have covered topics such as "Transfat 101" and "Commuter Meal Plan at East Carolina." Each podcast has been accessible via Apple's iTunes.

At a brainstorming session of a student board of directors for the food and facility management company Sodexho USA, students admitted that after waking each day, they often have about 20 minutes to get to class. That means choosing between showering and eating.

Their ideal? An LCD touch screen in the bathroom that would let them order their breakfast, which would then be delivered to the seat of their first class. "But it would have to be something with a not-too-strong aroma as not to intrude on their classmates," says Jeff Pente, senior director of culinary development and systems for Sodexho.

Daffy desire? Maybe. But Pente says anything is possible with the right imagination and technology.

Click on the home page of Sodexho's Balance Mind, Body, and Soul program and you'll find a laundry list of health-related links that today's mindful student wants, from food facts, recipes, and a nutrition calendar to a Body Mass Index calculator, information about special diets, and an opportunity to talk online with a dietician.

Food-related podcasting is one growth area for many schools. Topics range from meal plan overviews to lessons on transfats.

Created to provide information promoting balance through healthy living, Balance Mind, Body, and Soul can be accessed online from any computer or at a web kiosk in a dining hall.

The program is in 800 of Sodexho's schools and has been at Lehigh University (Pa.) for two years. There, the mind and soul parts of the program force a strong push toward organic foods: Student surveys helped Lehigh include on its site and at kiosks information on sustainable farming and other details about the process of growing and making healthy foods. "Balance Mind, Body, and Soul, is more of a way of life and living, and helps us all with busy day-to-day conflicts," says Bruce Christine, general manager of Dining Services at Lehigh.

Students can walk up to a flat LCD screen and be tempted by beautiful graphics of food. The graphics entice students to click on links and learn more information about things like dark chocolate, stone fruits, and pomegranates-tasty things that make them feel great.

But the program also allows students to access information on staying fit, both mentally and physically. Reading about the benefits of pickup basketball or relaxation exercises to calm the mind are just a couple of possibilities. Students need to de-stress, and that "can be as simple as a 15-minute [break] at the end of the day," says Jodie Stancato, unit marketing specialist for Dining Services at Lehigh.

Students at Ouachita Baptist University (Ark.) can also tap into Balance Mind, Body, and Soul information through a new web kiosk on campus. Some students have seemed a little wary of using the tool in high-traffic areas, notes Ron Cooksey, general manager of Dining Services.

As a result, the kiosk is located in a cozy spot. "We made it into a den area, near the kiosk, with chairs that made it more comfortable," Cooksey says. Students are able to access sensitive information about caloric intake and other topics with a sense of privacy and comfort.

At Cornell University, a homegrown program called Webfood, developed by Cornell alum Peter Krebs and four business partners in 2002, encourages students to order food ahead of time from their computers. Webfood allows Cornell Dining to control the number of online orders it accepts at any given time, so that excellent service to students in dining lines is not jeopardized by long waits-which back in Kreb's day could be up to an hour long.

According to Colleen Wright-Riva, director of Dining and Retail Services, Cornell launched Webfood at Bear Necessities & Caf? on the first floor of the Robert Purcell Community Center. Student response was so strong that in 2003, Webfood was bought by Ithaca-based CBORD Group, a company that provides food service software, nutrition service software, campuswide ID card programs, cashless dining, and housing management systems. Nine other IHEs purchased the Webfood program this past summer alone.

Also at Cornell is the six-year-old in-house web-based program called E-Dining. Geared toward staff and faculty but available to all, the program allows users to place orders, schedule food pickups or deliveries, and pay for food on the internet from Ciabatta's or Martha's Caf?, two campus eateries.

The goal of Cornell's programs is to streamline life on campus. "Our intent with both Webfood and E-Dining is to provide ease of ordering and convenience to our customers," says Wright-Riva.

So, technology is here to stay in the food services realm. Dining directors and staff should still keep up face-to-face contact with students to balance out tech tools (and make sure students don't become obsessed with eating or nutritional information, which could be a sign of possible eating disorders).

Cooksey at Ouachita Baptist says keeping a watchful eye on students is something he and his chef do daily, largely by engaging in conversations in the dining facilities. "We know who's eating, and not," he says.

Paulus of Chartwells notes that dining builds community and invites students to come together. Lowden agrees. "There's a place for technology, but it's certainly not going to take the place of socializing."

Technology implemented in the dining realm is like that used in any other area of campus life-it can give students a sense of knowledge, empowerment, and efficiency, but it also requires a human touch. That, and some delicious food to back it up.

Jennifer Chase Esposito is a Boston-based freelance writer who frequently covers food-related topics.

Beyond Baldrige

What the first institution of higher education to receive the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award has learned in the five years since.

It was a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award first: an institution of higher education receiving the honor. In the third year that institutions in both K-12 and higher ed became eligible to apply for the award, the University of Wisconsin-Stout was named a recipient. And in the five years since, the institution has continued to grow.

Lessons in Landlording

Managing an institution's real estate assets requires careful planning and thoughtful problem solving-all while keeping the school's mission in mind.

Mobile Technology: One For All

Emerging dual-mode phones give students a single device to manage all their voice and data needs.

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.

A Greener Attitude

Our new survey results show environmental awareness is driving purchase decisions for facilities construction and products and services

Not Your Typical Textbook Advice

Campus bookstore directors and administrators offer 20 strategies for keeping up with online textbook competition.

Rich Hershman found himself in the usually welcoming Commonwealth of Virginia when he experienced the conversation that many bookstore managers and administrators dread.

Hershman, director of government relations for the National Association of College Stores, had set up a meeting with a legislator to talk textbook pricing. The legislator told Hershman that his daughter, a college student, was buying all of her textbooks from her school's campus store, then finding and purchasing as many of the same books as possible online-before returning the doubles back to the campus store.

"That's got to be killing you guys," the legislator said. Hershman stopped himself from launching into a lecture. "I wanted to say that it's also contributing to higher costs in higher education," Hershman recalls. "You are going to find the most liberal return policies around at college stores."

Faced with continually growing online competition, college store directors should by no means overhaul their business models. Nor should administrators expect to reap great profits from their campus stores; the average margin on course books for college stores is about 26 percent, according to NACS.

Yet the continuing emergence of websites that provide cheap access to textbooks, as well as other shifts in the market, mean that it's time for college stores to get serious about batting back the competition.

According to a recent survey conducted by Follett Higher Education Group, which runs more than 750 college stores and sells used books and other services to independents, about 19 percent of students surveyed opted to buy at least one book online. According to the same survey, about 11 percent of all textbooks are purchased online (including from a college store's site).

"We still think there's room for it to grow," says Gary Shapiro, senior vice president of intellectual property for Follett, referring to the percentage of books purchased online. "We're saying somewhere between 15 and 20 percent is where it's going to start to level out." Online competitors won't likely overtake campus stores, but they can take a sizable bite out of business. "The 11 percent is roughly $700 million," says Shapiro. "A small percentage of a large number is still a large number."

Over the last year, national media attention and public statements from legislators and policymakers haven't exactly helped the situation for campus bookstores. A July 13 article in The Washington Post mentioned six websites at which students could try to find discounted books (www.campusbookswap.com, www.textbookx.com, www.half.com, www.bigwords.com, www.bestbookbuys.com, and www.amazon.co.uk).

Add in last year's Government Accountability Office report, which found that textbook prices have increased at twice the rate of inflation, and college stores have had some public relations trials on their hands.

Ready to move forward, college stores face new opportunities to keep students coming through their doors. Here are 20 strategies being put to use by bookstore directors and administrators around the country. Consider how each could help keep your textbook business turning.

Pamela Mills has seen the online enemy firsthand and has found ways to combat it. "There is an increase in folks who want the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) and we know why they're doing that," says Mills, director of the CU Book Store at the University of Colorado. "They want to go look online."

While it's not the bookstore's job to police whether faculty point students toward online sources, the CU Book Store has a policy that faculty members must give their textbook adoption information to the store, says Mills. For most faculty that is a given, she says-but having the policy in place re-emphasizes current practice and lets people know the importance of turning in their lists.

Reaching out to faculty members represents a priority for many store directors. The University of Colorado's bookstore staff produces an annual fair for new faculty. "It's a one-stop shop," says Mills. "They get information that they might not have otherwise picked up, and they get it all in one place. It also gives us a chance to see who they are, talk to them, and hand them information from the bookstore specifically that talks about adoption and why we need to do what we do."

While CU hasn't tracked data on the success of the faculty fair sponsorship, Mills believes that new faculty members who have attended the fair are more receptive to the bookstore's adoption deadlines in subsequent years.

Peg Godwin, manager of the University of Idaho Bookstore and a member of the Board of Trustees for NACS, works upward with administrators as well as outward with faculty members. "We contribute in the range of $600,000 a year to the institution, and we are an $8 million store," she says. "So it's important for us to talk with the administration about how to position the bookstore so the faculty is engaged with us and is doing business with us, as opposed to doing side deals here and there."

Godwin and bookstore staffers also like to identify professors who are utilizing interesting course materials and models, such as e-books. The bookstore team then tries to support those models and connect with faculty on the content they're looking for, says Godwin. That helps keep the bookstore relevant.

For the University of Delaware Bookstore, part of a proactive approach has been getting student government involved in communicating with faculty.

"Students have become involved in getting orders for us," says Bookstore Manager Jennifer Galt. Members of the Delaware Undergraduate Student Congress have sent letters to faculty members explaining to them that getting adoption orders in (and in on time) would help all students get more money for their books during buyback.

Textbook adoption timelines play critical roles for stores and students alike. When faculty members get their book orders in late, bookstore managers and directors have their hands tied in terms of how many used books they can buy back from students. "Getting adoption out of the faculty members' minds and into our hands is one of our greatest challenges timing-wise," says Mike Tolly, director of course materials for Follett Higher Education Group. Follett encourages staff at its campus stores to gain faculty support, whether by sponsoring guest speakers in classes or offering scholarships.

Follett also teaches staff at its stores to run a program called "One-A-Day," based on the multivitamin concept. The goal: for bookstore managers and staff members to have at least one conversation with a faculty member each day. "It builds bonds and influences how they are talking to students," says Gary Shapiro, senior vice president of intellectual properties.

Behind the drive to compete lies the need to provide stellar service to customers. Textbook reservation programs, in which students go on the bookstore's website in advance of the semester and reserve course materials to be packaged either for pickup on campus or delivery to dorms or apartments, go a long way in creating that satisfaction.

Based on the multivitamin concept, the
"One-A-Day" program at Follett's campus stores encourages bookstore managers and
staff members to talk with at least one
faculty member each day.

Many bookstore directors are working on developing programs like the one at Gettysburg College (Pa.), which makes the textbook purchase process neat and easy by delivering textbooks right to students' rooms or apartments. Director Kimberly Wolf attributes the quality of her store's program in part to the college's size (about 2,500 students). Stores on larger campuses might not have the ability to deliver, but they can still create impressive programs that have books bundled and ready in store when students arrive.

Prospective students and incoming freshmen can be perfect targets for bookstore promotional campaigns. Michelle Froese, public relations manager for Student and Auxiliary Services at the University of Missouri-Columbia, says bookstores should be stops on campus tours. She also notes that during orientation at Mizzou, the bookstore provides canvas bags for incoming students. "It's free advertising," says Froese. "I love to see 5,000 students going through summer welcome walking around with their bookstore bags."

When students prepare for a new semester they also do some online research. With that in mind, Nebraska Book Company, which operates about 140 campus stores and sells books to 2,500 college bookstores nationwide, recently launched a partnership with Pick-a-Prof, a website that collects student reviews of faculty members.

Through the partnership, students can order textbooks from the campus bookstore right when they choose their courses. If the bookstore uses NBC's CampusHub system, students have the ability to click through to the school's online store, where the correct textbooks are automatically populated into a shopping cart.

Other marketing opportunities have arisen from the partnership. When Pick-a-Prof e-mails students to remind them to provide feedback on professors, the note includes a message urging them to participate in buyback and to buy next semester's books.

Aggressive on the internet front, Nebraska Book Company is also looking into the existing campus blogging community as a realm for promoting campus stores, according to Kevin Gish, vice president of campus relations for NBC. "It's yet another internet tool to drive traffic toward the store," he notes.

"We are encouraging sellers to have a very effective website," says Sue Reidman, NBC vice president of corporate communications. "You want to make sure that you have a site that is driving [students] to purchase there, as opposed to going to Amazon or Half.com."

Beyond blogs, a store's website must have other ways to pull customers in. The University of Idaho Bookstore maintains a robust website that offers a deep level of service. The site's "textbook express" function allows students to type in their course registration information so that a list of the books they need will pop up on screen.

Once students see their lists, they encounter several options in terms of what type of texts to buy. "We are adding a digital component, working with Nebraska Book," notes Godwin, the bookstore's manager. "It's essential that the student has a choice to buy a digital version of the book, that's generally priced around the price of a used book. It is an option that's out there and we need to test that market."

Speaking of digital books, DeVry University, one of Follett Higher Education Group's biggest customers, has already moved all of its online students to digital versions of textbooks, or e-books. Follett's online arm, eFollett, has handled more than two million chapter downloads over the last 18 months-the equivalent of 100,000 units sold, according to Shapiro.

Campus stores might want to get ready for growth in the e-book sector. "We've done a lot of research with students on their desire for e-information," says Shapiro. "In a nutshell, we think that between 10 and 15 percent prefer a digital product over a print product. But we think that upwards of 40 percent might be interested in it."

"Right now the critical thing to do is to offer students an option," he adds. "Do they want it new, used, digital, digital by chapter? Offering more choices to the students will keep a lot of business in the store."

At the University of Delaware, old-school customer service strategies have been expanded in recent years. Here's a simple but valuable one: Be where the customer is.

During buyback, bookstore staffers set up remote buyback locations in key spots on campus. A mobile buyback van then travels around to make the process of selling back even more convenient. "It gives us some flexibility to get to where the students are on a particular day and time," says Galt, the bookstore manager.

Price undoubtedly motivates many students more than anything. Last year, with support from top administration, Galt helped institute a lowest-price guarantee for all textbooks sold by the University of Delaware Bookstore. Now, if a student finds a book at a lower price at a brick-and-mortar competitor (but not online), the bookstore will match that lower price-and then reduce the tickets on any remaining copies in the store.

Clearly the folks running the University of Delaware Bookstore know that money talks: They recently opted to double the money they offer students for used books during buyback. "In the past year, primarily because of lowest-price guarantee and the doubled price for buyback, we've seen our sales improve significantly," says Barbara L. Kreppel, the university's associate vice president for Administrative Services. "Much of this is thinking in the same way as any kind of retail. You have to know what your customer wants, be where they are. It would be easy for us to be the only game in town, but we're not."

"We thought it seemed like a lot of these students who would buy online were the ones who would try to be the first ones to sell back," says Doug Mason, manager of the Brigham Young University-Idaho University Bookstore. In 2005, the university launched a Textbook Loyalty Program that tracks student buying. Bookstore staffers swipe students' I-cards when books are purchased, and again during buyback. Students who purchased from the store are given the opportunity to sell their books back sooner, and for more money.

According to Mason, the program has improved customer attitudes and had a positive impact on market share. In a survey, 75 percent of students said they liked the idea.

As more people go online to buy and sell books, campus store directors are concerned about a diminishing supply of used books. Wolf of Gettysburg College browses online competitors to ramp up her own inventory of used books. Since classes at Gettysburg tend to be small, Wolf has been able to locate books to fill many faculty requests.

Some folks take Wolf's strategy further: At a recent conference, Wolf heard one bookstore director talk about how he peruses websites to find cheap books, even if a faculty member has not yet put in an adoption request for the title. "He will buy books to get them off the market," shares Wolf. "He said, 'Why do we want to make it easier for our students to say the bookstore's not the cheapest game in town?' "

Parents and students, fueled by reports in the mainstream media, generally believe textbooks are just too expensive. Lorry McMahon, bookstore manager for the Washington & Jefferson College (Pa.) Bookstore, works against that mindset by doling out brochures from NACS answering the question, "Why do my textbooks cost so much?" The pamphlet breaks down the textbook pricing process to give students and their families valuable knowledge," she explains. She also points out that money made at the bookstore goes back into the college-and therefore ultimately benefits students.

Pricing is just one challenging situation that bookstore managers and directors face. But with proactive mindsets and the right strategies in play, they can ease worries all around.

It's time to forget about competitors such as Amazon UK, and focus on the future.

Summer Conference Report

Three major higher ed organizations converged in Honolulu to discuss the 'Campus of the Future,' while financial aid officers took the pulse of the economy.

Summer is usually the time for vacations, but for those in higher education, it's a time to mix business with pleasure at annual conference sites around the country. July saw two major events: the annual NASFAA conference in Seattle, and the joint NACUBO, SCUP, APPA "Campus of the Future" conference in Honolulu.

Learning After Loss

Well-planned online and distance offerings can give institutions of higher education the ability to keep education going in the wake of disaster.

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.

Faculty Issues in Online Education

A new book examines best practices in managing an online learning program.

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