This month President Crow asked the members of WG1 to put together a list of accomplishments for their respective areas over the past 6 months. As I was getting the list together for UTO, I thought I'd take it as an opportunity to share some of the things that we've done at UTO since July and see what feedback there might be out there.
The list below is by no means exhaustive, but I'd like it to hit the highlights of UTO's contribution to the mission of the New American University. If you have suggestions, additions, corrections or omissions, please email me at (u t o @ a s u . e d u) or simply enter a comment to this post. Any constructive advice is appreciated.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
This month President Crow asked the members of WG1 to put together a list of accomplishments for their respective areas over the past 6 months. As I was getting the list together for UTO, I thought I'd take it as an opportunity to share some of the things that we've done at UTO since July and see what feedback there might be out there.
Monday, October 16, 2006
The past week was an exciting one for the UTO, as ASU and Google announced at EDUCAUSE the first large scale deployment of Google Apps for Education to the ASU student community. As the chronicle of higher ed put it:
Arizona State University is the first to try Google Apps for Education, and it joined up in a dramatic fashion...
The announcement was the culmination of amazing work by a Kari Barlow led team that included James Palazzolo, Ron Page, Nate Wilken, Jason Pratt, Noel Lindner, Jeff Nickoloff, Anish Adalja, Xavier Valencia, and Joe McDonald. In just under two weeks, ASU and Google managed to:
- Integrate ASU’s single sign-on, allowing students to use their existing ASURite UserID to login to Gmail for ASU
- Modify the EMMA client to allow student users to convert to Gmail for ASU with a single click.
- Create a staggering 65,000 new Gmail for ASU accounts
- Create clear messaging to communicate the news to the ASU community and to the world
On the day of the announcement, students were converting to Gmail for ASU at the rate of 300 an hour.
At the announcement at EDUCAUSE, I told the group that this was a story of speed. In addition to providing an exciting new service for students, ASU’s UTO was using the Google alliance as a way to demonstrate the agility of the New American University. The feat that Google and ASU achieved in the past fortnight displayed a nimbleness that rivals the best of what Silicon Valley can do. Building a reputation for agility is critical to the success of our technology alliance strategy, and we made a big stride this week.
But perhaps more importantly, by partnering with Google, ASU was able to dramatically accelerate its technology development curve, an acceleration that will be core to achieving the New American University Vision.
Monday, October 09, 2006
I had a crazy idea the other day about how a new approach to drug development for the third world might help accelerate the contribution of technology to education. But it needs a little setup first...
In the mid-nineties, the company I worked for, EAI Interactive, created a series of interactive CD-ROMs for McGraw-Hill called "The Dynamic Human". As McGraw-Hill Higher Ed describes it, Dynamic Human was an interactive tool to help:
"students visualize relationships between human structure and function. The Dynamic Human includes 3D rotatable models, histology review, animations and quizzes to help reinforce anatomical concepts that are often difficult to understand."
It was a nice enough series for its day, though two things held it back from being all that it might have been. First, the technology limitations in the 90's were pretty severe. Video content and 3D visualization was still pretty exotic, and the technology of the day put severe restrictions on resolutions, sizes, speeds, and complexity of models.
These limitations have been mostly overcome in the ensuing decade. By the end of the next decade, they will be all but forgotten, a curiousity of an emerging technology, like the grainy, jerky, silent films that marked the early days of the movies.
But the second thing that hampered Dynamic Human's development remains with us, and shows no signs of disappearing. DH was by far and away the most expensive CD-ROM that EAI made for McGraw, but for all that its budget was about $150,000. Mike Sellberg, who helped oversee the development of DH, tells me he thinks EAI actually spent closer to $500,000 on development. As Mike, now executive vice president and chief technology officer at iMed Studios put it, "Oh yeah, we took a bath on that one."
At the same time, EAI could easily get more than a million dollars to make games like Barbie Magic Hairstyler or A Bug's Life. And those budgets are child's play compared to the $10-$30 million dollar development budgets for major hits like Grand Theft Auto and World of Warcraft.
The market rewards for entertainment content are simply much greater than for educational content, and the result is that there is a lot more enganging content being created for the purposes of entertainment than is being made for education.
Which is fine if you're a game junkie or a stockholder in Electronic Arts, but it's more than a little disturbing if you're a parent or teacher trying to encourage kids to spend more time doing their history homework and less time learning how to be a video assassin.
Content creation for this emerging media is an expensive, time-intensive process, and it is likely to remain so even as the delivery technology exponentially increases in capability and decreases in cost. While the market can help companies raise the tens of millions needed to fund the creation of rich, deeply immersive environments to teach kids how to be theives and pimps, there's just no way for a for-profit company to raise a similar budget to help create content of a similarly immersive quality to teach World History, Biology or Chemistry.
Which is where drugs come in...
Monday, September 04, 2006
I worked with this great salesguy once, a guy named Jeanne (je-nay). Think Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, but with a wicked sense for product marketing thrown into the bargain. The engineers in the company grew to have a grudging respect for this flawlessly tailored sales dude with the slicked back hair, because listening to him helped them move beyond cool technology to create products people would actually buy.
Among his many principles was one we called Jeanne's Law. According to the law, if you want to make a product that will sell, then you have to make sure that it's:
- Easy to buy
- Easy to install
- Easy to maintain
Not many products of any kind satisfy the Law completely. Cars are hard to buy. Ceiling fans are hard to install. Pools are impossible to maintain. Making a run away product is no mean feat.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
I was in Prescott last weekend at the Arizona Shakespeare Festival's Saturday matinee performance of Julius Caesar. At first, I have to admit, I was a little dismayed at the venue and the turnout. From the name, I was sort of expecting something like the Stratford Festival in Ontario, so when we joined 30 other fans in the Prescott High School auditorium, I was a little uneasy.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
I'm happy to report the successful launch of the Downtown Phoenix Campus 1:1 Student Computing Initiative. Last week letters outlining the program went out to the Downtown Phoenix Campus students, faculty and staff. A website providing details of the program, and links to ASU specific websites sponsored by our partners Apple and Dell was also launched. These sites describe special laptop offers from our partners -- including on-campus support -- that are now available to members of the ASU community.
In addition to the hardware and support offered by our partners, the Downtown 1:1 program includes the Downtown Phoenix Campus Citrix Environment, designed to make software traditionally deployed in labs and on common computers more accessible to students using personal devices. The folks at alt^i have also been working with faculty from the Downtown programs to learn how to make personal devices a more integral part of the higher ed experience.
There's a pretty extensive FAQ on the site that will get a start on answering any questions you might have. If you want more information, or want to make a comment or provide input on the program, we'd love to hear from you.
While this pilot program was developed specifically with the Downtown Campus community in mind, the partner offers are open to all members of the ASU community, so feel free to check them out whether your a Downtowner or not.
There's no rest for the wicked of course. Now that the pilot program has been launched, UTO will be looking to widen the program to the whole university next year, working with departments and colleges to define the components of next year's platform -- specifying the hardware, software and support packages needed to help ASU keep pace with the increasing tide of technology that each new wave of students is bringing to campus with the expectation that it will aid them in their educational journey.
Thanks go out to our partners Apple and Dell for working with us to get this pilot launch ready under such a tight timeline. Thanks also to Sarah Hughes and Dr. Sam Digangi for their efforts in bringing the DPC pilot program together so quickly.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
A reader writes:
I read your 6/5 blog posting, "Prune Concentrate," with great interest.
Here at xxx University, my group is charged with redeveloping our website to better align content with the needs of the audience.
Anyway, what you're alluding cuts right into the most difficult part of the web development process at any large .edu institution ... the politics of the web.
Here, as I suppose there, sites aren't generally built around anticipating the needs of the user. Most sites are built around the premise that this or that unit offers this package of services and resources, and the units want credit for doing that. That's where we end up with sites built around the organization chart of the institution, rather than the needs of the site user.
You're challenging that orthodoxy, it seems to me. How are you navigating the politics of it?
So its not just us. And I have to agree with him that the major challenge in moving from a traditional University site to a more user centric one is politics, not technology.
The good news is that resource constraints may be the key to a solution. Around the university, nearly everyone realizes how important the web has become, but individual units and departments are finding themselves increasinglt less able to keep up with the demands being placed on their respective sites by our faculty, staff, and students -- and, of course, by our president, who is oh so interested in the web.
My hope is that by focusing on the heart of asu.edu first -- the part of asu.edu that receives significant traffic -- and building a user-centric approach there -- we can demonstrate and alternative that will encourage individual units to want to make their content part of that new way. In the bargain, we should be able to make it more cost effective for the units to maintain their presence on the web.
As we pick up speed -- showing the success of the new way in terms of visitors, return traffic and the like -- we can contrast that with the stats on the older parts of the site and draw more content in.
We're underway with the administrative content now, working with BTS, USI, and others to remake the face of the eServices page. Proving out this model for web services will give us credibility for the bigger challenge of developing a user-centric model for presenting the academic content provided by departments and schools.
Again, resource incentives will help I think. If we can deploy a more comprehensive directory function, providing deeper access to students and faculty, then the need for individual academic departments to build and maintain their own may decrease. A university wide citation index, selectable by department, school, individual or research interest would relieve some of the pressure on individual academic units to try and keep their individual sites current.
The reader closed his comments by saying:
Attempting any kind of comprehensive web development at a university is
kind of like having an abscess and going in for the root canal. You scheduled the appointment because of pain, and the appointment causes even more pain as the drill gets going, but dealing with it is inevitable and there's an expectation that life will be quite a bit more pleasant on the other side. At least that's my hope...we'll see if my head doesn't end up on a pike.
Rooting for you dude...keep your head clear of pointy objects...
Monday, June 05, 2006
After a long absence, I am back at the blogging post, with a new look and a new mission. The new look is courtesy of ASU's University Technology office. The new mission is to discuss the tactical and operational issues related to the implementation of ASU's emerging technology strategy.
Before I dive into the virtues of today's topic -- Prune Concentrate -- l want to extend my appreciation and apologies to the "standing room only" group that attended the "State of IT" presentation over in Life Sciences E Wing on May 25th. Next year I promise a larger room. If you missed the meeting -- or just want to relive the magic :) -- you can download a podcast of the event here (or the video here).
Now on to Prune Concentrate...
Monday, March 27, 2006
Tomorrow I'm discussing ASU's technology strategy at a meeting of the University Council. With luck, I'll be in a position to podcast it.
In the meantime, here's a link to a draft of the presentation. Real homespun graphics. Note the two small arrows at the upper left and upper right to move forward and backward. There are also some short presentation notes beneath each slide.
Readers of my blog and the TechPlan wiki won't find any surprises here I don't think, but this is the 20 minute version of where I think we're headed.
As interesting to some is what I won't be covering in tomorrow's meeting, namely a new organization diagram for central IT. I'm planning on discussing the details of that reorganization at an All-IT meeting on the 12th of April. Details to follow.
Monday, March 20, 2006
I've done a fair amount of tech support in my day. As a grad student at MSU, I worked with a team of grads and undergrads, providing tech support to researchers at the Case Center for CAD/CAM. I've done my time on a software help line too.
But most of my tech support has been more local and seasonal. I specialize in Christmas tech support, for members of my family. Christmas at my house consists of my boys, my wife and I all unwrapping a bunch of new tech gizmos and then rushing off to the four corners to "install" them. Things are better now, as my kids have grown old enough to do most of their own support. But I have spent untold hours of Christmas vacation searching the net for drivers and patches, installing, booting, rebooting, watching progress guages count in irregular intervals to 100 in order to get some new toy to do its thing.
This was all brought home to me a couple Fridays ago on a visit to the Polytechnic campus. I was working in the Computing Commons at about 6:00pm, waiting for traffic to thin out. Just me and the lab monitor. Nice. A professor walked in, with a digital camera that ASU had loaned to him an hour or so before. Said he was having trouble getting his laptop to recognize it.
Now this is just the thing that Christmas tech support is all about, so I figured here was my chance to do a good deed for the day. So after the lab monitor had tried what he could think of, I invited the good doctor over to my laptop to give it a go.
Of course, as it turns out, the camera was pretty old. No simple drivers, no installation disk. After a half hour or so of goofing around with drivers, patches, downloads, web searches and the like, we found one of those desperate solutions you find when you're looking hard...A Finnish web site with a goofy workaround...you know edit some .inf file by removing three strategically placed semi-colons, uninstall the camera, then reinstall it and ignore all warnings...the kind of thing that never works...but at 6:45 on a Friday night, you'll try anything . . .
And lo and behold, it did work. On my computer. And half an hour later, after a lot more back and forth, it worked on the professor's computer too. Crisis averted. Good deed done.
But it really made me wonder. How can we hope to provide that level of support to every member of the community? The level of "work at it till we solve it, no matter what". But if its your problem, that's the only kind of support that is worth anything to you.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Marvin Gaye . . . Man, they don't make 'em like that anymore. Heard it Through the Grapevine . . . How Sweet It Is . . . or my favorite, The Ecology -- better known as Mercy, Mercy, Me . . .
Oh, mercy mercy me
Oh, things ain't what they used to be
No, no Where did all the blue sky go?
Poison is the wind that blows
From the north, east, south, and sea
At one level, Marvin's song is about his feelings of powerlessness in the face of ecological destruction. But as with most great songs, it can operate at more than one level.
For me, it also speaks to how uncomfortable change can be. Change can be very exciting, but the uncertainty of it can sometimes knock you off your stride. For some of the folks in IT here at ASU, particularly here in the Computing Commons, the idea of restructuring is proving both exciting and intimidating. Despite assurances that the world isn't going to be turned completely upside down, it's weird when you're not sure what's going to happen next.
So, to borrow from another Marvin Gaye classic, I'll try my best to tell you what's going on...
Friday, March 10, 2006
The day after Valentine's Day I had the opportunity to talk with a folks from the University Library system. The library put together a three-part podcast of the session -- in three parts because, if you can imagine it, we spent more than an hour and a half discussing the University's technology strategy and the future of the digital library.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
If you haven't already done so, check out the early returns from the 1:1 Technology Survey. The target population of the first phase of the survey is students who will take classes on the ASU downtown campus this coming Fall.
The results so far confirm that personal technology is the norm among students. Survey results confirm that an overwhelming majority of students report owning a computer (97%). Sixty percent say they own a laptop and thirty-one percent report owning both a laptop and a desktop.
The full 138 page report shows the detailed results for each question. For me its confirms that, at least for the survey respondents, technology is a surprisingly important part of students' lives.
The survey continues and we are hoping it will give a better picture of technology use here at ASU on a program by program basis.Â More here as the results come in.
Saturday, February 18, 2006
The podcast of this week's all company meeting is up on the DMIT channel as of Friday. You can reach it from either of these links: Web Link or Podcast Link.
More and more of what we all say in public is going into the record, which is good and bad. On the good side, it should make it easier to communicate. For example, if you didn't make Thursday's meeting, you can still find out what was said. And if you didn't quite catch something, you can replay it to try and make sense out of it. If you want to discuss what was said with a friend, a podcast gives everyone eidectic memories, reducing the potential for confusion.
One of the downsides though, from my point of view, is that whatever you say can come back to haunt you. And for someone who speaks from the hip most of the time, that's a chilling thing. Because from listening to some of these podcasts myself, I've noticed that I don't always strike the tone I'm aiming for, don't always say the words I mean to say. Combine that with the fact that everything you say means something different to every hearer, and its a wonder we can communicate at all.
I do better when I write I think, because at least then I get the opportunity to review what I'm saying. So if there are reactions, negative or positive, to what you heard in the meeting/podcast, please let me know, either here as a comment, or in an email, attributed or anonymous. I'm trying to help here, so if you heard something you agree with, feel free to let me know. Likewise, if something disturbed you, let me know that too. It will give me a chance to correct my opinion, or explain myself better.
I appreciate your help, and I'm looking forward to working with everyone in the ASU community.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Chapter 8 - The Cost of Higher Education p. 142-43
CHAPTER 1 - Higher Education Faces a Brave New World
A UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT'S NIGHTMARE
A Particularly Open Letter to the Faculty from the President on the Occasion of the Closing of a University's Doors Forever
You are all aware of my deep regret, my personal sense of loss on this occasion. I've been with this institution for 22 years, and it's a small enough place that I know all of you personally. So enough of the official talk of declining enrollments and bad investments and infrastructure debt overload. I owe it to all of you to explain more particularly why we are closing our doors after a century and a half, and why this demise is taking place on my watch.
Friends, we have failed. We have been followers in a world that demands we be first. With hindsight our missteps seem clearer and the signposts to the road to success are better illuminated. But only with hindsight. So with these remarkable optics of hindsight, I give you a litany of what we should have done.
When Newt Gingrich was elected president a decade ago we should finally have seen the permanence of the stand Congress had taken several years earlier: that the new concept of public support for higher education had less to do with funding for student loans or universities than with opening up the "learning market" to new, leaner competitors who could deliver the specialized training programs corporations were looking for. And that Gingrich's tongue-in-cheek promise of "a laptop in every lap," coupled with his appointment of Al Gore as Digital Information Czar, meant that the government itself was ready to do business with the CD-ROM makers and the edutainers because they could deliver skills training at low-cost and high- glitz. We should have recognized that the digital age was overtaking us.
When this university gave Bill Gates-a dropout-his eighth honorary doctorate,’ we should have recognized who in this digital age was overtaking us, and we should have listened to what he told our graduates: "Insist with both fists that your education puts you at the gate to your career." We should have remembered that in our age the prey always invites the predator to come to give a talk.
Gates's focus on being career-ready should have been our focus a decade ago when the University of Minnesota offered the first "guaranteed for life" degrees-lifelong learning contracts that warranted students would be kept current in their field. Instead we looked skeptically and decided this was something only professional schools could sell. But we underestimated both the drop in the life span of a college degree and the price students would pay to have that degree renewed again and again. Now Princeton, of all places, has had great success providing this "maintenance ed" to its graduates through its for-profit Princeton Professional Institute. We should have had a more accurate appraisal of the value of the degree we offer, for we have discovered too late in what low esteem it is held.
When the Gingrich administration pushed through Congress its voucher system for K-12 education in this country, we should have realized that economism was so rampant there was no reason to expect higher education to withstand the buffeting intact. Competition and choice became the buzz words in education-from Idaho's tax credits for home-schooling to the Nation of Islam's dominance of urban education. We couldn't have predicted that Tennessee would close its state universities and buy its higher education from the University of Phoenix, but we should have foreseen that such closings and failures lurked in the dark just ahead. We should have understood that the stakes were that high.
When ETS and Stanley Kaplan won in court the right to offer competency-based certification in medicine, we saw yet another sacred function of the university fall to the barbarians. What we should have foreseen was what a damn good job the barbarians were to make of it. Their online exams can be taken anywhere in the world by anyone who wishes, and they've teamed up with suppliers of various online and CD medical-education programs to guarantee student success. No longer do you have to go to medical school; instead, you have to diagnose pixilated patients and dissect digital cadavers. We should have better appraised the quality of our competition and met them head-on.
When those pixilated patients first became available in the'90s-and I remember my 12-year-old daughter conducting simulated surgery, mask and all, on those ADAM and EVE anatomy programs-we should have simply sat down and spent some time with them ourselves. We would have seen how completely engrossing they were and that they actually did teach, a mixture we as professors struggle mightily to achieve in the classroom. We would have also noticed that their interactive, hyperlinked, and multimedia nature allowed the student to learn at her own pace and in her preferred style-visual, textual, aural, whatever. Had we taken a closer look, we might have foreseen that most calculus classes in this country would today be taught in one semester instead of two-that the Newton's Whimsy program would let students approach the subject in the manner they found most efficient. We might have anticipated the interdisciplinary multimedia chairs that are now being endowed at so many universities. We might even have dreamed up Microsoft's announcement last year that it was endowing a Nobel Prize in multimedia education. Our greatest failure on this front was our failure to realize that freedom of choice was something the American collegiate population desperately desired. So now Motorola-Apple University-a university run out of an old warehouse in Hoboken-dominates multimedia education, and our beloved ivied walls are about to become barracks for our state's pettiest criminals.
Finally, when I compared the recent college experience of my son Aaron on this campus to the college experience of his girlfriend, Julianna, it was already too late. Aaron's experience was much like my experience 30 years earlier. But Julianna's. . . . She decided to live at home because the thousands of dollars she saved on room and board allowed her to accept admission to a more prestigious university. She took most of her courses in her family's den: broadcast courses, net-based courses, and interactive multimedia CD-ROM courses-what we once disparagingly called "edutainment." She passed exams given online by a company that used to be involved exclusively with SATs. Her Big Ten university, three-fourths of whose student body of 100,000 were distance-learners like her, gave her degree credit for this work. When she signed up for physics she was of course hooked into Rensselaer's gold mine-Physics 110 Online, now the introductory physics course for the majority of our nation's undergrads. (I suppose the fact that ours is one of the few universities in the country that hasn't lost half of its physics faculty to Rensselaer's course is now a moot point.) She majored in chemistry, spending eighteen months as an apprentice to a government researcher who worked halfway across the country and who freelanced as a student mentor. Aaron also majored in chemistry. He attended lectures, took notes, performed experiments in antiquated labs under the tutelage of TAs [teaching assistants]. Julianna had unlimited access to the Big Ten Digital Library. No doubt you're aware that my son's university paid millions of dollars to the Big Ten consortium to give him access to the world's largest virtual library.
When Julianna graduated in 3 years-now the national average for undergrads-she turned down three job offers so she could continue her research as a graduate student. Aaron had spent too much time in classrooms and was eager to do "real" work, as he called it: He had a hell of a well-rounded education behind him, but the only work he could find was a job as a lab assistant. I realized then that we had failed him and his fellow students, for all of the above, reasons but also because we had failed to notice that a new form of literacy had arisen, a form in which text was only one in an array of media to be mastered by the educated person. I realized that we were no longer graduating literate students, and that realization has brought me to the greatest sorrow of my life: the realization that perhaps it is best we close our doors. To finish off the tale and make it mean more than it should, I'll add that Julianna is now a post-doc working with DuPont and the University of Maryland on photoactive molecules. Aaron has returned to school. He is working toward an MS/MFA in scientific visualization at Wisconsin. I may follow him.
This scenario, developed by writer Frank De Santo several years ago as part of a strategic planning project sponsored by Carnegie Foundation, is perhaps the ultimate nightmare for higher education leaders. Of course, some skeptics note that it took several decades for the overhead transparency projector to make it from the bowling alley into the classroom.
Computers may also bounce off the classroom just like technology-based media such as television. Yet today we have entered an era in which the new engine of economic prosperity is digital communication, enabled by the profound advances that we are now seeing in computers, networks, satellites, fiber optics, and related technologies. We now face a world in which billions of computers easily can plug into a global information infrastructure. These rapidly evolving technologies are dramatically changing the way that we collect, manipulate, and transmit information. They change the relationship between people and knowledge.
From a broader perspective, today we find a convergence of several themes: the importance of the university in an age in which knowledge itself has become a key factor in determining security; prosperity, and quality of life; the global nature of our society; the ease with which information technology--computers, telecommunications, and multimedia-enables the rapid exchange of information; and networking-the degree to which informal cooperation and collaboration among individuals and institutions are growing more rapidly than formal social structures, such as ; governments and states. We are, also seeing a convergence of technology as first the telephone and then the television become computer appliances and hence windows into the Net. As a result, there is also a convergence in which computer, telecommunications, entertainment, and commerce merging into a gigantic, $1 trillion infotainment marketplace.
The Form, Function, and Financing of the University
It has become increasingly important that university planning and decision making not only tale account of technological developments and expertise. Yet all too often, university leaders, governing boards, and even faculties ignore the rapid evolution of this technology, treating it more as science fiction than as representing serious institutional challenges and opportunities. To a degree this is not surprising, since in the early stages, new technologies sometimes look decidedly inferior to long-standing practices. For example, few would regard the current generation of computer-mediated distance learning programs as providing the socialization function associated with undergraduate education in a residential campus environment. Yet there have been countless instances of technologies, from personal computers to the Internet, that were characterized by technology learning curves far steeper than conventional practices. Such “disruptive technologies” have demonstrated the capacity to destroy entire industries, as the rapid growth e-commerce makes all too apparent.
Beyond this, we will face an ever-mounting challenge in helping our students and faculties keep abreast of the extraordinary pace of technology evolution. Many universities are simply unprepared for the new plug-and-play generation, already experienced in using computers and Net-savvy, who will expect– indeed, demand—sophisticated computing environments at college. In the old days we would wait for a generation of professors to pass on before an academic unit could evolve. In today’s high-paced world, when the doubling time for technology evolution has collapsed to a year or less, we simply must look for effective ways to reskill our faculties or risk rapid obsolescence.All universities face major challenges in keeping pace with the profound evolution of information and its implications for their activities. Not the least of these challenges is financial. It is of particular note that 40 percent of all new investment in capitol facilities in our society today goes to acquire and support such technology. This need for investment in information technology applies to universities just as much as it does to the commercial or government sector, and it poses just as much of a challenge. As a rule of thumb, many organizations have found that staying abreast of this technology requires an annual investment of 10 percent or greater of their operating budget. For a very large campus, this can amount to hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
Colleges and universities could learn an important lesson from the business community: investment in robust information technology represents the table stakes for survival in the age of knowledge. If an organization is not willing to invest in this technology, then it may as well accept being confined to a backwater in the knowledge economy, if it survives at all.Few universities have a sustainable financial model for investing in information technology. Accustomed to a budgeting culture driven by faculty appointments and physical facilities, they are unable to cope with investments that become obsolete on timescales of years rather than decades. Rather, they tend to lurch from one crisis to the next in their attempts to provide the IT infrastructure demanded by students and faculty, without strategic sense of direction as they face the choice between “bricks” and “clicks.”
The Challenge of University Leadership in the Digital Age
As the pace of technology change continues to accelerate, indecision and inaction can be the most dangerous course of all.To date, the university stands apart, almost unique in its determination to moor itself to past traditions and practices, to insist on performing arts core teaching activities much as it had done in the past. Our limited use of technology thus far has been as the margins, to provide modest additional resources to classroom pedagogy or to attempt to extend the physical reach of our current classroom-centered, seat time-based teaching paradigm. It is ironic indeed that the very institutions that have played such a profound role in developing the digital technology now reshaping our world are the most resistant to reshaping their activities to enable its effective use.
The Darwinian World of Digital Technology
As William Mitchell, dean of architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), stresses, “the information ecosystem is a ferociously Darwinian place that produces endless mutations and quickly weeds out those no longer able to adapt and compete. The real challenge is not the technology, but rather imagining and creating digitally mediated environments for the kinds of lives that we will want to lead and the sorts of communities that we will want to have.”
Chapter Three: The Impact of Information Technology on the Activities of the University
The teaching function occurs primarily through a professor’s lecturing to a class of students, who in turn respond by reading assigned texts, writing papers, solving problems or performing experiments, and taking examinations. A few students might also take advantage of faculty office hours for a more intimate relationship, but this is rather rare for most students. The technology used is primitive, for the most part, consisting primarily of books, chalk boards, oral lectures, and static images, occasionally assisted by audiovisual equipment and limited electronic communication.
Furthermore, beyond a very limited use of technology, few faculty members utilize or are even aware of the rapidly expanding scientific basis for learning from neuroscience and cognitive psychology. One of our colleagues observed that if doctors used science the way that college teachers do, they would still be trying to treat disease with leeches. Imagine the reactions of a nineteenth-century physician, suddenly transported forward in time to a modern surgery suite, complete with all of the technological advances of modern medicine. Yesteryear’s physician would recognize very little –perhaps not even the patient –and certainly would not be able to function in any meaningful way. Contrast this with a nineteenth-century college professor transported into a contemporary university classroom. Here everything would be familiar –the same lecture podium, blackboards, and students ready to take notes. Even the subjects –literature, history, languages –would be familiar and taught in essentially the same way.
The Digital Generation
John Seely Brown and his colleagues at Xerox PARC have studied the learning habits of the plug-and-play generation and identified several interesting characteristics of their learning process. First, today’s students like to do several things at once –they “multitask,” performing several tasks simultaneously at a computer such as Web site browsing and E-mail while listening to music or talking on a cellular phone. Although their attention span appears short, as they jump from one activity to another, they appear to learn just as effectively as earlier generations. Furthermore, it is clear that they have mastered a broader range of literacy skills, augmenting traditional verbal communication skills with visual images and hypertext links. They are particularly adept at navigating complex arrays of information, acquiring the knowledge resources that they seek and building sophisticated networks of learning resources. Some observers suggest that this may lead to problems later in life as the digital generation sacrifices qualities such as patience and tranquility, but, of course, patience and tranquility have never been characteristics of the young. Asked about their elders’ concerns, the typical response of the digital generation is “Get over it!”
To be sure, for a time, such students may tolerate the linear, sequential lecture paradigm of the traditional college curriculum. They still read what faculty assign, write the required term papers, and pass our exams, but this is decidedly not the way that they would choose to learn. They prefer to learn in a highly nonlinear fashion, by skipping from beginning to end and then back again, and by building peer groups of learners, by developing sophisticated learning networks in cyberspace. In a very real sense, they build their own learning environments that enable interactive, collaborative learning, whether we recognize and accommodate this or not.What will happen the first time a student walks into the dean’s office and states: “I have just passed all of your exams after taking the Microsoft Virtual Physics course, developed by three Nobel laureates, rather than suffering through your dismal classes taught by foreign graduate teaching assistants. I now want you to give me academic credits toward my degree”?
Chapter Four: The Impact of Information Technology on the Form, Function, and Financing of the University
Unbundling and Disaggregation of Functions
Capitalizing on one’s strengths and outsourcing the rest are commonplace in many industries. Consider, for example, the computer industry, in which webs of alliances exist among hardware developers, manufacturers, software developers, and marketers of hardware and software. These are constantly being created and modified in response to competitive dynamics.
This idea can be applied to academe. While we are very good at producing intellectual content for education, there may be others who are far better at packaging and delivering that content. While in the past universities have had a monopoly on certifying learning, there may be others, whether they are accreditation agencies or other kinds of providers, more capable of assessing and certifying that learning has occurred. Many of our other activities, for example, financial management and facilities management, are activities that might be outsourced and better handled by specialists.
Elements of the Necessary Infrastructure
As digital technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous, universities will have to make intelligent decisions as to just what components they will provide and which should be the personal responsibility of members of the community. While networks and specialized computing resources will continue to be the responsibility of the university, the purchase of personal computers, personal digital appliance (PDAs), and other digital devices such as personal communicators will almost certainly be left to the student, faculty, or staff member. In many cases these individual decisions will be mad in an environment of financial subsidy from the institution.Universities will need to strive for synergies in the integration of various technologies. Beyond the merging of voice, data, and video networks, there will be possibilities as well to merge applications across areas such as instruction, administration, and research. The issue of financing will become significant as institutions seek a balance between institution-supported central services and point-of-access payments through technologies such as smart cards.
We don’t generally think of the university in business terms, for example, students as customers and faculty recruiting as marketing. Reporting lines, budgets, and cost accountability are all too frequently foreign concepts, yet in terms of operations, the university is very much a business, with financial and public accountability comparable to that of other public corporations. Furthermore, we find it necessary to function in an increasingly e-business world both with other organizations (universities or businesses or government agencies) and with clients (students, faculty, alumni).High on the lists of concerns of most colleges and universities these days is the development and/or reengineering of enterprise administrative systems, those massive software applications that link together management and business operations such as enrollment data, revenues, purchasing, accounts payable, and so on. During the past few years, the looming threat of the Y2K bug stimulated many institutions to spend millions of dollars reengineering enterprise systems into more sophisticated enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Here the intent was in part to recognize that a broader context was needed to describe the contemporary university, capable of capturing new organizational configurations, more complex student participation patterns, changing faculty roles, and new revenue and expenditure flows. The goal was to integrate student, financial, and human resources systems, in preparation for yet a further transition to network-based e-business applications.
Although there has been a history of “homegrown” software development in higher education, most institutions have sought the assistance of established software vendors such as PeopleSoft and Accenture for such mission-critical applications as ERP, yet even “off-the-shelf” software applications required very substantial modification to meet the complex needs of universities, as both vendors and academic institutions have learned through sometimes bitter experience, All too frequently, vendors underestimated the complexity of these tasks, just as universities underestimated the true costs of building workable ERP systems. The promises of reengineering remain largely unrealized for many institutions. In may instances, large, expensive applications programs designed to institute change have been only partially implemented (or even abandoned), often with less than anticipated results. The IT professional landscape is currently littered with the bodies of many a chief information officer (CIO) who was blown up stepping on an ERP land mine.There are two other areas where we come up short compared to the commercial sector. One, ironically, is human resource development. Although as educational institutions, universities should be leaders in the development of human potential, in reality our education activities tend to focus more on selecting –or filtering –out talent than developing it, either among our students or faculty. Unfortunately, we usually tend to ignore this important function with staff altogether. This is particularly critical when new technologies require that we continually invest in the education and training of our people, reskilling them for new roles in an ever-changing environment.
The second shortcoming of universities is again ironic: we seriously underinvest in “corporate research and development” compared to most other organizations. For example, most corporations invest from 3 percent to as much as 10 percent of their gross revenues in research aimed at improving their products and services, yet universities invest almost nothing in improving pedagogy and scholarship. To be sure, research universities spend hundreds of millions of dollars on research performed for others, but they spent almost nothing to improve the quality of their own activities.
Financing IT Systems and Software
Although the college campus may look much the same in the decade ahead as it does today, it is clear that it will be managed and financed in much different ways. For example, because IT equipment, infrastructure, outsourced course materials, and support staff are likely to constitute more of the expenditure budget, faculty compensation (hence, faculty numbers” will probably decline. While the conventional wisdom of today suggests that universities will use IT investment to improve quality (and perhaps competitiveness), the shift in expenditure mix from faculty human resources to technology will eventually demand productivity increases. Of course, the lesson learned time and time again from industry is that IT improves technology only if the work process is reengineered, that is, if IT productivity goes hand in hand with process transformation. Fortunately, there is ample evidence from distance learning (e.g., the Open University) that technology coupled with process reengineering con break the widely perceived linkage between expenditure per student (or student-to-faculty ratios) and educational quality.
The “P Word”: Productivity
What about productivity? Information technology can certainly enhance the quality of academic programs, but extensive experience in the private sector has suggested that this technology is able to improve productivity and lower costs only if the fundamental process of work itself is reengineered. Before we can achieve an economic benefit from this technology, we much first reexamine our current paradigms for teaching and learning, as we discussed in the previous chapter.
To date, most transformation efforts in higher education have focused upon administrative processes, for example, rebuilding administrative systems for enterprise resource planning or preparing for e-business. The more important transformations necessary to unleash the power of information technology will involve the core activities of the university, teaching and scholarship. They will shift the institutional culture from being provider-driven (i.e., faculty-centered) to learner-centered. They will cut across disciplinary or administrative boundaries to better link together people and their activities. Neither the deification of the disciplines nor the command-control-communication hierarchy of the administration will likely survive the crosscutting character of digital technology. Nor will the current glacial pace of decision making and change long survive a world in which the technological event horizon has become a few years.
Finally, experience in other sectors has shown the critical importance of leadership. Major institutional transformation does not occur by sitting far from the front lines and issuing orders. Rather, leaders-in our case, university presidents-must pick up the flag and lead the transformation effort.
The University as a Place
The relative importance of the campus to the university will change, but the campus will not disappear. Rather, it will be transformed. The traditional cycles of academic life will continue for many learners, but time, place, and content boundaries will all become negotiable. Higher education will provide a variety of choices.
University Planning and Decision Making
The glacial pace of university decision making and academic change simply may not be sufficiently responsive to allow the university to control its own destiny. There is a risk that the tidal wave of societal forces could sweep over the academy, both transforming higher education in unforeseen and unacceptable ways and creating new institutional forms to challenge both our experience and our concept of the university.
Traditional planning processes are frequently found to be inadequate during times of rapid or even discontinuous change. Tactical efforts such as total quality management, process reengineering, and planning techniques such as preparing mission and vision statements, while important for refining status quo operations, may actually distract an institution from more substantive issues during more volatile periods. Furthermore, incremental change based on traditional, well-understood paradigms may be the most dangerous course of all, because those paradigms may simply not be adequate to adapt to a future of change. If the status quo is no longer an option, if the existing paradigms are no longer viable, then more radical transformation becomes the wisest course. Furthermore, during times of very rapid change and uncertainty, it is sometimes necessary to launch the actions associated with a preliminary strategy long before it is carefully thought through and completely developed.
A Diverse Future for Diverse Institutions
While it is certainly true that the university is different from a corporation or a branch of government, it is naïve to believe that information technology will not have an eventually even greater impact on both the quality and productivity of academic activities. If universities demand that the basic character of teaching and scholarship remain unchanged, then technology is likely to add costs, albeit with some increase in quality. Just as in industry or government, transforming the basic nature of “work,” in this case, learning and scholarship will likely enable dramatic increases in both quality and productivity. If universities are unwilling to consider these changes, they will rapidly fall behind other emerging institutions that adopt new learning paradigms more suited to the digital age. If the leadership in higher education does not chart a course for their institutions into the digital age, others such as government or the marketplace will attempt to chart that course for them, or they will navigate around those institutions that moor themselves to the past, finding other learning institutions capable of seizing the opportunities offered by information technology.
The Impact of Information Technology on the Higher Education EnterpriseFor-Profit Universities
In addition, Phoenix is moving aggressively into distance education, with numerous on-line offerings. In 2002, roughly 18 percent of Phoenix’s 100,000 students were enrolled in on-line courses. Student enrollments (and profits) at Phoenix are increasing at a rate of over 20 percent per year.
Some Future Possibilities
The joining of computers and communications has only begun, and it has already redefined the entire value chain in many industries. As it emerges, the megaindustry created by the union of computers, communications, entertainment, media, and publishing will likely challenge and in some instances even displace schools as the major deliverer of learning.
Although the early attention of the new competitors has been providing educational services to the corporate marketplace and adult learners, clearly, the 800-pound gorilla in the distributed learning marketplace will be providing learning opportunities directly to individuals, whether on the job, in their home, or even on the road. This would seriously challenge the traditional monopoly that colleges and universities have had in postsecondary education. It would also challenge the faculty control of the higher education curriculum.
Capitalizing on one’s strengths and outsourcing the rest are common-place in many industries. Consider, for example, the computer industry, in which webs of alliances exist among hardware developers, manufacturers, software developers, and marketers of hardware and software. These are constantly being created and modified in response to competitive dynamics.This idea can be applied to academe. While our faculties are very good at producing intellectual content for education, others may be far better at packaging and delivering that content. While in the past universities have had a monopoly on certifying learning, others, whether they are accreditation agencies or other kinds of providers, may be more capable of assessing and certifying that learning has occurred. Many of our other activities (e.g., financial management and facilities management) are activities that might be outsourced and better handled by specialists.
Information Technology as a “Disruptive Technology”
In many cases, disruptive technologies first appear rather innocuous and nonthreatening. Only later, after they have become established, does their disruptive impact on the status quo and competitive stance become apparent. An excellent example here is distributed learning. The early forms of distance learning curricula certainly do not appear to threaten the rich educational experience available to students at brand-name universities. However, several of the for-profit competitors are investing heavily in learning how to develop and conduct on-line education. Furthermore, the technology itself is evolving according to Moore’s law or faster, with the rapid increases in processing power, display technology, bandwidth, and connectivity likely to transform the on-line learning into a far richer, immersive experience. This will soon pose formidable competition to traditional, campus-based education and to those institutions that have failed to develop the capability to deliver technology-based instruction.
Chapter 6 : Visions for the Future of the UniversityTechnology Trends
Trend 1: The pace of evolution of information technology (e.g., Moore’s law) will continue to be characterized by rapid exponential growth.
First, we believe that the extraordinary evolutionary pace of information technology not only is likely to continue for the next several decades but could even accelerate on a superexponential slope. Photonic technology is evolving at twice the rate of silicon chip technology (e.g., Moore’s law), with miniaturization and wireless technology advancing even faster, implying that the rate of growth of network appliances will be incredible. For planning purposes, we can assume that within the decade we will have bandwidth and processing power a thousand times greater than current capabilities.
Trend 2: The net will be ubiquitous and pervasive.
During the next decade a combination of increasing bandwidth, robust and mobile connectivity, and miniaturization will lead to a pervasive, global network environment linking a substantial fraction of the world’s population as well as most of our economic, social, and cultural activities.
Trend 3: Information Technology will relax (or obliterate) conventional constraints such as space, time, and monopoly, thereby disrupting the status quo.
The rapid information-processing speeds of digital devices and the essentially instantaneous character of digital communications networks allow knowledge and knowledge services to be set free from the constraints of space and time. Information technology is a disruptive technology, operating outside the status quo and traditional market constraint. As such, it tends to drive rapid, profound, and discontinuous change. It brings event horizons for major change ever closer. The future is becoming less certain.
Trend 4: Information technology will equalize access to information, education, and research.
Information technology provides unusual access to knowledge and knowledge services (such as education) hitherto restricted to the privileged few. Like the printing press, this technology not only enhances and broadly distributes access to knowledge but in the process shifts power away from institutions to individuals who are educated and trained in the use of the new knowledge media.
Trend 5: Digital technology will change dramatically the ways we handle data, information, and knowledge.
Digital networks permit voice, image, and data to be made instantaneously available across the world to wide audiences at low costs. The creation of virtual environments where human senses are exposed to artificially created sights, sounds, and feelings liberates us from restrictions set by the physical forces of the world in which we live. Close, empathic, multiparty relationships mediated by visual and aural digital communications systems will become common. They lead to the formation of closely bonded, widely dispersed communities of people interested in sharing new experiences and intellectual pursuits created within the human mind via sensory stimuli.
Trend 6: Information technology will elevate the importance of intellectual capital relative to physical or financial capital.
Information technology is driving a social transformation into a new age in which the key resource necessary for prosperity, security, and social well-being has become knowledge itself. Intellectual capital (i.e., educated people and their ideas) has become more important than physical or financial capital to a knowledge-intensive society.
Scenarios for the Near Term
Let Them Eat Cake
Hiding our heads in the sand will not slow the pace of technological change. Nor should we feel comfortable if some elite colleges and universities long concerned with educating only the best and brightest decide to sit this one out, using their vast wealth to continue to sustain the status quo in teaching and scholarship while ignoring the needs of a nation (not to mention a world) for advanced education. Such is particularly the case for our nation’s research universities.
Chapter 7: Institutional Strategiesp. 174
Hence, we believe that while college and university leaders should recognize and understand the threats posed by rapidly evolving information technology to their institutions, they should seek to transform these threats into opportunities for leadership. Information technology should be viewed as a tool of immense power to use in enhancing the fundamental roles and missions of their institutions.
Preparing For Change
The Current Situation
As information technology continues to evolve at its relentless, ever-accelerating pace, affecting every aspect of our society and our social institutions, organizations in every sector are grappling with the need to transform their basic processes of how they collect, synthesize, manage, and control information. Corporations and governments are reorganizing in an effort to utilize technology to enhance productivity, improve quality, and control costs (so-called e-business transformation). Entire industries have been restructured to better align with the realities of the digital age.
Yet, from a structural perspective, the university stands apart, moored to its past traditions and practices, particularly in areas such as education. In spite of the information explosion and the profound impact of digital communications technology in areas such as scholarship, the nature of learning remains fundamentally unchanged in higher education. The traditional classroom remains the overwhelming focal point for learning, with the faculty still functioning largely as “talking heads” and students as passive learners.
Most colleges and universities, however, continue to ignore the technology cost learning curves so important in other sectors of society. Although both scholarship and administration have become heavily dependent on digital technology, many universities believe that it remains simply too costly to implement technology on a massive scale in instructional activities-which, of course, it certainly does as long as they insist on maintaining their traditional classroom-based character rather than reengineering educational activities to enhance productivity and quality. Their limited use of technology thus far has been at the margins, to provide modest additional resources to classroom pedagogy or to attempt to extend the physical reach of our current classroom-centered, seat time-based teaching paradigm. It is ironic that the very institutions that have played such a profound role in developing the digital technology now reshaping our world are among the most resistant to reshaping their activities to enable its effective use in their core activity, education.
Barriers to Change
What explains the reluctance of higher education to implement digital technology in the ways that other sectors such as business and government have adopted these tools? In part it has to do with leadership. Many university leaders appear to be either in a state of denial about the impact of information technology on their institutions or so confused by the complexity of IT issues that they simply hesitate making decisions or commitments. Surveys suggest that despite the profound nature of theses issues, information technology usually does not rank high among the list of priorities for university planning and decision making. Perhaps this is due to the limited experience that most college and university leaders have with this emerging technology. It could also be a sign of indecisiveness and procrastination. Yet, as the pace of technological change continues to accelerate, indecision and inaction can be the most dangerous course of all.In part, too, it has to do with the culture of the university, long committed to preserving values, traditions, and practices of the past as an important role. Tenured faculty members tend to cling to stability, even as the knowledge that they create through research and scholarship reshapes our world. Governing boards, particularly those of public institutions, tend to protect the status quo in an effort to avoid agitating important constituencies. Furthermore, universities are characterized by very large and slowly changing fixed costs such as those associated with tenured faculty, physical plant, and administrative staff. Although most revenue streams are far more variable and unpredictable, dependent upon market forces and economic conditions, academic institutions tend to react very slowly to revenue shifts, even if perceived to be long-term in nature.
Moreover, while corporations may view IT-based activities such as e-commerce and e-business as critical to operations and survival, many campus officials do not view either these or their academic counterparts such as e-learning as priorities for their institutions and thus may be unwilling to make the required investment of people, time, and moneyThe irony facing many college and university presidents is that despite the complexity of issues raised by digital technology, the need for making rapid decisions becomes ever more urgent. Digital technology offers numerous opportunities for both growth and decline. A temptation is to sit tight and hope that “it will go away.” After all, television was supposed to drastically change education. It did not Some suggest that the Internet, the computer, multimedia, digital appliance e-learning, and private sector competition are all passing fads, too. There is ample evidence from other sectors, however, that ignoring technological change can lead to disaster.
The Development of Institutional Strategies
The Strategic Context for Decisions
p. 179There are staggering increases in efficiency for an organization if one can reorganize its fundamental activities to take advantage of technology, but many colleges and universities continue to look at IT as a cost rather than seeking to understand its cost-benefit characteristics.
Time is of the essence. To capture the opportunities that will be available to universities in the knowledge-driven era--or for some, even to survive--profound and far-reaching commitments much be made quickly. These commitments much be made explicitly and publicly and much be accompanies by the investments of talent and funds that can make them real. This will be a challenge in environments long acculturated to deliberation and skepticism of fads and trends originating in industry.
Some Assumptions for the Near Term
- Information and communications technology will continue to evolve exponentially, following Moore’s law for at least the foreseeable future.
- Ubiquitous, high-speed, and economically accessible network capacity will exist nationally and to a great extend globally
- Affordable, multimedia-capable computers (including network appliances) will be commonplace, and most colleges and universities will expect student ownership of such devices.
- Most colleges will deliver some portion of their instructional missions both on campus and beyond via the Internet
- As the ability to use technology in the support of instruction improves, the differentiators of technology-enriched course offerings will continue to be price, quality, and access.
- Nontraditional sources of university-caliber instruction, such as software developers and publishers, are likely to become increasingly important suppliers of course content and materials.
- The employment relationships between academic institutions and their faculty will become even more complex.
- Within this time frame the laws that govern intellectual property will change significantly. In particular, the application of publisher-protections to the digital distribution of copyrighted materials is likely to have enormous revenue and expense implications for higher education in general and for technology-enriched instruction in particular. The legal and economic management of university intellectual property will become a complex area of activity.
Recommendation 1: University leaders should recognize that the rapid evolution of information and communications technologies will stimulate—indeed, demand—a process of strategic transformation in their institutions.Recommendation 2: It is our belief that universities should begin the development of their strategies for technology-driven change with a firm understanding of those key values, missions, and roles that should be protected and preserved during a time of transformation.
Recommendation 3: It is essential to develop an integrated, coordinated technology strategy for the institution in a systemic and ecological fashion.
A major challenge on many campuses is that there are too many people doing their own thing, independently of one another
Recommendation 4: Universities need to understand the unique features of digital technology and how these affect people and their activities.
The expectations of today’s students (not to mention faculty and staff) are rising rapidly. They are accustomed to the convenience of electronic banking, mobile communications, and Web-based retailing (à la Amazon.com or Travelocity.com) and don not tolerate well the archaic, paper-based, queue-dependent cultures of universities. They also are accustomed to independent choice, not simply in technology but in sources of information. Compounding this is the changing nature of the “e-economy” in which business processes become more dynamic and activities become more transparent. Product reviews and price comparisons are now easily accessible on the Web. Web-based auctions (e-Gay) and AI-based purchasing agents are revolutionizing the nature of commercial transactions. Barriers to the entry of new competitors are falling, leading to the vertical disintegration and restructuring of entire industries.
One can imagine a future in several majors at once, interacting with others, with knowledge resources and with instruments around the world in a seamless, time-and distant-independent way.
Public universities will face particularly serious challenges, since they are accountable to public authority and therefore averse to risk, and IT is an area where risk and success are closely linked.Recommendation 6: One should recognize that the investment in technology infrastructure necessary for higher education in the digital age not only will be comparable in expense to physical and human capital but will be pervasive and continually evolving throughout the institution.
Recommendation 7: Getting from here to there requires a well-defined set of operational strategies and tactics aimed at institutional transformation.p. 191
There is another important constituency capable of driving change in the university: students. This should not be surprising to those familiar with the history of higher education, since students have frequently driven change in the university, ranging from the stimulation of new academic programs to its responsiveness to rapid social change…. As we noted earlier, the plug-and-play generation is far more comfortable with digital technology than most of the current generation of university faculty and leaders. They not only are more adept in applying the technology to their own activities but frequently play key roles in its development (as the numerous IT start-ups led by undergraduate and graduate students make apparent). With technology, just as with other issues, students are likely to be a powerful force driving change in higher education.
Some Recommendations Concerning Tactics
There continues to be a debate about whether students should be required to purchase their own computers. Student experience with information technology is evolving rapidly. For example, in recent surveys the University of Michigan found that over 90 percent of its first-year students arrived on campus with at least three years of computer experience, and essentially all graduating seniors indicated that they made extensive use of computers during their education. Over 60 percent owned computers when they first arrived on campus, and a far higher percentage owned personal computers by the time of graduation. Our students currently spend about 12 to 14 hours a week on a computer, with roughly half of this on the Net. By way of comparison, faculty indicated that they spend about 20 hours a week working on computers; a significant fraction of this work was done at home. Over 90 percent of faculty own computers.
Universities will need to strive for synergies in the integration of various technologies. Beyond the merging of voice, data, and video networks, there will be possibilities as well to merge applications across areas such as instruction, administration, and research. The issue of financing will become significant as institutions seek a balance between institution-supported central services and point-of-access payments through technologies such as smart card.
Linking these complex, multivendor environments together will be a challenge, since they use different equipment for varying purposes and diverse software and operating systems. For this reason, it is important to insist on open-systems technology rather than relying on proprietary systems.
Software, Systems, Applications, and Solutions
There is still a significant amount of customization in the development of enterprise-level administrative systems, generally outsourced from information services companies such as PeopleSoft, SAP, or Oracle. Even here, however, there are signs of change as an increasing number of institutions are choosing to outsource entirely administrative functions to a growing array of application services providers (ASPs), who actually run the necessary applications on their hardware and software systems.
Queues on campus for course registration, feedback from advisors, financial aid decisions, degree audits, and other services will be met with disdain and vocal dissatisfaction. Similarly, just like the services that they are able to receive from other Web-based companies, students and faculty increasingly will expect services to be available on a 24/7 basis and to be personalized to their needs and interests. As in other industries, only the Web and associated e-business applications can provide this functionality for colleges.
A Word About Leadership
Why should a college or university want to be perceived as a leader in the exploitations of such an expensive and rapidly changing technology? After all, leadership does engender certain risks. However, leadership attracts outstanding students, faculty, and staff seeking technology-intensive environments for learning and research. Leadership can also attract significant resources from both public and private sources, necessary to sustain such environments.
Chapter 8: Responding to Market Forces
Alliances: One could also imagine forming alliances with organizations outside higher education, for example, information technology, telecommunications, or entertainment companies, information services providers, or even government agencies. We return later in this chapter to discuss alliance strategies.
Again, drawing on the experience of restructured industries in the private sector, technology-driven change provides strong incentives for colleges and universities to explore alliances, both within higher education and with other sectors.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
This week's Newsweek reports that desktop sales fell behind laptop sales for the first time. CNet reported a similar trend in June of last year. Ubiquity is on the march.
As part of my traveling around last week, I was cut off from the net for the several days. Not completely, of course. I mean I carry a laptop that can theoretically connect to open wireless hotspots -- but in practice that can take a while sometimes, and often there isn't a hotspot when you have downtime. That combined with the fact that stranger hotspots are sometimes hard to manage the first time, like the ones that want you to pay or give them a room number or whatever. I should probably just go EVDO and leave the 802.11.b issues behind . . .
Anyway, the end result of all this moving around was that everywhere I went there were people on the net, but for a host of reasons I was not among their number. I did have my blackberry of course, which gave me access to email, and a mini-browser. But the berry connection is kinda slow and you can only do so much with a 2 inch screen and two-thumb keyboard. I can consume a little content with my berry, and I can give short answers to simple questions, but the tiny screen and the mini-input device make me more passive than I like to be.
Once you're used to being wired, suddenly falling out of touch feels like losing a sense. Its incredibly frustrating to go from being completely connected to suddenly sipping through a straw. There's a document you want, a picture you need, an answer you can't recall. Under normal circumstances you're seconds away, but without your tools you're suddenly out of luck.
Every time I begin to doubt that ubiquitous technology is important, I have an experience like this that reinforces for me just how valuable packing major tech heat really is.
I met the good folks of Refresh Phoenix this past week at the Common Ground Coffee Shop. Refresh Phoenix is a really welcoming group that's interested in all things web and such. For example, one of the guys I met there does web work for lunarpages, the provider that hosts this blog. Really enjoyed the conversation with everyone. I was trying to get people fired up about the role technology can play in Arizona education. Lots of lively discussion. Very fun.
From there it was off to ISU to speak at my friend Jim Bernard's globalization course. The course is intended to get engineering students to think about the implications of globalization. No equations, so it’s quite popular. JB and his partner in crime Mark Rectanus started the course last year, and offer it to both on and off-campus/distance students.
This is the course's second year and it has grown quite a following. This year's guest lecturers are a who's who, including Robert Reich, Jim Duderstadt , and the great Ray Kurzweil.
But they can't get marquee names to speak every week, so the second team gets called in from time to time. My lecture was titled "It's the End of the World, How Do You Feel?", and it was a ramble through some of the threats that globalization poses and the role that I hope technology and technologists will play in meeting those threats. It was great to be among friends talking about the challenges we face and how university students are going to solve them. I got a chance to see some of my old pals and hang with people that know my name. It was a warm reception despite the chilly temperatures.
From Ames, it was off to Apple on the "0h-dark thirty" the next morning, to learn more about ITunes University and other elements of Apple's K-20 strategy. (K-20 was a new term for me...Its K-12 + 4 years of undergrad + 4 years of grad school I guess). Whatever else you may think about Apple, they are the coolest people on the planet. It was a meeting of Apple's University Executive Forum, and a chance for me to meet 20 of the lions of higher-ed IT. Bunch of really smart folks, who were also very friendly to the newbie. A great trip.
The tools that Apple has put into the new version of iLife are making it possible for ordinary humans to make first rate content. It’s clear that a big part of Apple's strategy is to be the machine of choice among people who want to create and share top-drawer web content, and to widen the number of people who can do that by making the tools so accessible.
Another part of Apple's strategy is to leverage in any possible way the extraordinary success of the iPod and its companion client/web service iTunes. For example, the new iTunes-U is full of possibility for distributing all these new forms of educational content in eminently accessible ways. Combine this distribution play with a scorekeeping system that lets you find out how students and faculty use the content and we may be looking at a real game changer. The air is alive with possibility.
Monday, February 06, 2006
Managing the Technology Context to Keep Pace While Promoting Focus
Technology and New American University Vision
Driven by the vision of its president, ASU is at the beginning of a 10-year plan to expand the size and scope of Arizona State University while simultaneously raising its academic quality. Costs must be contained while quality is increased, and all of this must be achieved in the face of mounting global and domestic competition, and a growing set of economic and technologic pressures. No other American university has ever become both bigger and better at this scale, at this pace. No other American university has even tried.
In his profile of Michael Crow in the November 18, 2005 edition of the Chroncile of Higher Ed, John Pulley quoted the president as saying he intended to blow up the status quo and reassemble the pieces into a model for 21st century higher education. ASU intends to break ranks with the higher education establishment, to define ourselves by who we include, not who we exclude. ASU will simultaneously raise its enrollments and its level of academic achievement; to proudly define ourselves not by the quality of our input but the extraordinary quality and diversity of our output.
President Crow’s is a bold agenda, and one that will require significant and ongoing improvement of the academic enterprise, and a concomitant growth in the research enterprise. Clearly the effective and ongoing use of technology will be indispensable in pursuing this agenda. Yet ASU, like most of the rest of the academic establishment in the United States, has yet to apply information technology to significant effect on its most fundamental activity, the teaching of undergraduate and graduate students.
According to Frank Rhodes, president emeritus of Cornell University,
[U]nlike other business, universities have not yet applied new technologies to reduce instructional costs. Major corporations routinely use worldwide electronic networks to improve efficiency in every aspect of their businesses. Universities also make brilliant use of computers to advance science, to manage their business affairs, and to provide access to data banks; but, in their basic business of teaching resident students, they have not diverged much from the methods of Socrates, except that most faculty members have now moved inside.
[P]aradoxically, the research universities, which created and developed much of the new communications technology, have – unlike business and industry – been slow to apply it to their main stream activities. Certainly, the use of computers has improved research and professional practice in every field, and has revolutionized information storage and access for faculty and students alike, while it has facilitated university business operations and management. The business of learning, however, remains largely untouched y this revolutionary technology. Most instruction is still a cottage industry, little influenced as yet by the benefits and support of modern technology. It is as though an industry had computerized its business and management activities, but left its manufacturing operations and sales distribution essentially unchanged and unimproved.
This general description of the state of US higher education in general describes ASU’s particular use of technology reasonably well. In the past decade ASU has intentionally pursued a Near Follower strategy, but the increasing pace of technological advancement, coupled with the New American University imperative, is forcing the need for a new strategy.
Leaving aside how hard it is to follow when technology is exploding so quickly, if no one is going where you are, it’s pretty hard to follow them there.
The Changing Curve…
ASU takes Near Follower seriously. Our university strives for excellence in implementation of technology programs and services, staying abreast of developments in higher education and technology generally, and adopting new capabilities once they have proven themselves elsewhere. Relying primarily on internal expertise, university owned infrastructure, and tactical procurement, ASU has built and maintained a technology system that supports the university’s operations efficiently and scalably. ASU’s IT organizations central focus is in ensuring that no data is lost, that no transaction fails, that every call goes through - and in that mission they have been eminently successful. Whatever else may be said, technology at ASU works.
However, the position of Near-Follower is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain in the face of exponentially expanding technological capability.
Like many universities, ASU pursues a vertically integrated strategy in providing the institution’s technology infrastructure. ASU owns and maintains its own telecommunications networks, its own email service, its own network storage, its own web services, its own administrative systems. Most universities pursue this internally managed strategy largely because of their early leadership positions. As the inventors — or at the very least the earliest of adopters — of most of these technologies, universities had little choice but to provide these services for themselves.
When universities first started issuing ‘.edu’ email accounts, there was certainly no private company to them from. A vertically integrated approach was the only alternative. In order to deploy a computer network in the 1970’s and 1980’s, universities had no choice but to develop internal expertise. There was no alternative to leadership.
And like many other universities in the country, ASU pursued that leadership. Information technology professionals built up a technology platform from the inside out, deploying and integrating a hardware infrastructure, then developing and maintaining a set of software applications to run on it. And even as technology gained ground in the private sector through the early 1990’s, universities remained mostly vertically integrated, though increasingly as followers rather than leaders.
But over the past decade, as maturing technology firms have begun to provide exponentially increasing capability at exponentially decreasing cost, that vertically integrated strategy has left the universities increasingly less agile than the world at large.
ASU is no exception. University technology investments – investments in software, equipment and expertise – can no longer be turned over fast enough to keep pace with the increasing rate of technological development. The rate of software innovation has outstripped an individual university development staff’s ability to keep up.
Near follower is not a viable approach when progress is exponential. Once the knee of the curve is reached, an enterprise is either tracking the curve, or watching it disappear from sight; and the innovations that come to be taken for granted move further and further beyond the enterprise’s reach.
Consider the web as an indicator. In 1995, ASU’s website was on a par with the best in the world. It used the same hardware technology, the same server software. It was written according to the same standards and provided roughly the same capabilities as the best of the best.
Over the ensuing decade, ASU has put serious energy, effort, and investment into its web strategy. Server hardware has been continually expanded and upgraded. Increasing amounts of bandwidth have been devoted to web traffic. More and more people have created more and more pages — hundreds of thousands more — while new services have been incorporated using database technology, java applets, and new forms of content like audio and video. All in an effort to be Near Followers.
In that same time span however, the commercial enterprises whose websites were ASU’s peers in 1995 have created a capability so far advanced as to be completely different. In place of an online brochure and a shopping cart, technology leaders like Google, Amazon, and eBay have transcended the hierarchical homepage paradigm, replacing it with a truly personal, highly interactive web destination backed by a vast and ever increasing data cube that contains valuable, minable information about the likes, dislikes and habits of their users.
Unlike ASU’s site, the world’s leading web destinations now provide unprecedented access to a wide array of digital knowledge resources. They foster new forms of collaboration and distributed content development. Extensive use of data mining and collaborative filtering now provide personalized guidance based on the collective wisdom of spontaneously organized communities.
The gap continues to widen, and the web is only one example. On every technology front, commercial capabilities are outstripping ASU’s ability to follow, nearly or otherwise. A new strategy, one to replace Near Follower, will be required for ASU to take full advantage of the engine of technological progress in pursuit of the New American University imperative; a strategy that allows ASU to maintain its tradition of reliability and security, while dramatically increasing its technical agility.
Core vs. Context
The response of vertically integrated industries to similar technological pressures is instructive. Geoffrey Moore, technology strategist and business re-engineering consultant, has helped many of today’s leading technology companies make the transition from vertical integration using a method he calls a Core vs. Context analysis . Vertically integrated enterprises use this approach to decide how best to focus resources to achieve leadership in the most essential parts of their business.
Moore’s method is to separate an enterprise’s essential activities into two categories: Core and Context. Core activities are those which a firm must concentrate their own talent, management, and internal resources on, because they are central to the enterprise strategy. Context activities, by contrast, are those that might be reasonably provided to the firm in partnership with other firms for whom those same activities are Core.
Core are those activities that can set an enterprise apart from its competition. Leadership in Core activities directly advances the enterprise mission. For a business, we say that Core activities are the ones the market rewards directly. Core activities attract or hold customers, increase or hold prices or marketshare. Core is what an institution must continually innovate in to achieve and maintain leadership.
Context activities, on the other hand, are those that, while critical, do not directly distinguish the institution from the others in its market segment. It is not an issue of importance. Like Core, Context is also important to success. But unlike Core, the marketplace does not directly reward Context activities. They are necessary, but not sufficient.
What does that mean for ASU? Improve the Core and more students come to ASU, and do better in the bargain.
Improve the Core and more research wherewithal comes to ASU, with better output as the result.
For ASU, in the technology arena, the Core activities are:
- the ongoing application of technology to the Instructional and Research missions,
- the ongoing development of an interactive online environment that embodies the vision of “One University in Many Places” and
- the ongoing development of a system to amass and disseminate digital knowledge assets.
Every other technology activity is Context.
ASU must focus in order to effectively apply technology to advance the New American University agenda. Each of the Core activities will require a targeted strategy for achieving and maintaining leadership:
- a strategy for using technology to more effectively scale the higher education enterprise to accomodate growth, and to continuously improve the academic achievement of our students;
- a strategy to develop sustainable support systems and services for researchers throughout the ASU community;
- a strategy for continuously enhancing ASU’s online experience – to help ASU connect with its stakeholders – prospects, students, alumni, sponsors, faculty and staff.
Each of the Core activities will require its own specific strategy, but for all of the Context activities, we advance a single strategy, Strategic Technology Alliance. The heart of the alliance strategy is to gracefully transition ASU from internal to external fulfillment of Context activities.
This is not outsourcing in the traditional sense. We are looking for exponential, not incremental advantage.
For example, if a company were to offer to house ASU owned hardware and an ASU developed software stack in their data center, managed by their employees instead of ASU’s, the best ASU could hope for would be an incremental improvement in cost or capability, and would run the risk of achieving neither. Either way, the incremental difference isn’t worth the risk. Traditional outsourcing is irrelevant to strategic alliance.
Strategic technology alliance is about replacing an internally managed service that is part of ASU’s Context with a service managed by one or more private technology companies for whom the activity in question is Core. In order for a private company to compete in one of these arenas, it must demonstrate its ability to match the twin exponentials: an exponential increase in capability and a simultaneous exponential decrease in the cost over time.
Strategic technology alliance provides advantage to ASU whenever we can enlist a private enterprise as an ally, an enterprise that can assume responsibility for a major part of a piece of ASU’s Context. An ideal strategic ally is a firm that:
- can provide a needed service at a scale orders of magnitude beyond ASU’s size;
- is subject to competitive pressures that force it to adapt more quickly than ASU is capable of adapting;
In order to accelerate ASU’s overall technology adoption, while simultaneously allowing it to focus on achieving maximum advantage from the application of tech to its core instructional and research mission, ASU will seek to establish a coordinated set of strategic technology alliances and work with those allies to supply the Context services as an integrated platform.
Basis of Strategic Technology Alliance
Ally is not just another word for vendor. Strategic alliance must define a new relationship between ASU and its most important technology suppliers, one that recognizes the needs and objectives of both parties.
ASU needs a working relationship with a private provider whose core business is to deliver a reliable, high-quality, cost effective technology service that tracks the state of the art. In order for this relationship to be attractive to the strategic ally, the business opportunity must be part of the private concern’s core business strategy, and be of sufficient magnitude to be strategically important, and of sufficient duration to warrant the capital investments needed to convert, initiate and upgrade the core technologies necessary to continue to deliver and improve the service.
If the strategic alliance strategy is like a pie, then each slice must be as wide as possible, as distinct as practical, and as deep as necessary:
- wide in the sense that the opportunity offered represents a significant piece of business that is directly within the ally’s business space;
- distinct in the sense that the opportunities offered to each ally have very little overlap to promote the possibility for cooperation among ASU’s various allies; and
- deep in the sense that the arrangement have a long enough duration to allow the enterprise to recoup needed investments.
The benefit of strategic alliance to ASU is threefold. First, ASU gains the ability to focus. Strategic alliance will allow ASU to manage its technology context at a higher level, requiring less direct involvement by ASU personnel. Second, the longer term nature of the alliance relationship will allow ASU to benefit from technology investments made by private enterprise. Longer term deals allow private firms to take greater risk on behalf of ASU, because the relationship recognizes the need for a longer time horizon to allow firm’s to recoup value, thus allowing ASU to more effectively monetize its future. Finally, by working closely with a set of trusted ally’s, ASU will be able to benefit from the competitive position of their allies, allowing ASU’s technology platform to progress at the rate of technical evolution.
In return for a long term share of significant and valuable core business, ASU can reasonably expect that their ally will be willing to enter into reciprocal agreements that allow ASU to provide educational and research services to the ally as part of the overall alliance. These offset agreements allow the ally to direct some of the benefits of the alliance back to the purchaser as an intrinsic part of the overall relationship.
Examples of offset arrangements might include:
- a share in the revenue derived from hardware and services offered to the ASU community as a cooperative effort between the ally and the provider;
- sponsored research
- sponsorship of scholarly activities
- joint promotional opportunities
- collocation of ally business activity at ASU facilities such as the Scottsdale Innovation Center or the ASU Research Park
In addition to the core business opportunity and its offsets, there are also synergies that will exist between ASU and its strategic technology allies. These synergies arise at the intersection of ASU’s mission and the allies’ business activity, particularly as those activities are directed at the higher education space.
Co-operative research represents one such synergy. One of the design imperatives of the New American University is that ASU should seek out research opportunities that meet community needs and enhance the quality of life. ASU is actively oriented toward use-inspired research, research with both purpose and application. The strategic alliance relationship would allow ASU and its allies to engage in long term research programs directed questions of mutual interest. ASU’s Flexible Display Program, developed in conjunction with the U.S. Army and a variety of private enterprises is an example of one such research program, focusing on developing solutions to the set of problems related to the development and commercialization of an emerging technology.
ASU’s Strategic Technology Alliance program also opens the possibility for using the University as a living laboratory in the utility of technology within an enterprise and as a social mechanism. By developing a flexible, adaptable technology delivery platform that operates in perpetual beta, and then instrumenting the online behavior of the ASU community to create an Amazon-like database of user preferences and patterns, ASU and its allies will be in an excellent position to understand how the wants and needs of the ASU community. Mining that database, in the aggregate, will provide ASU and its allies with information on how an extensive and highly influential demographic group are using new technologies and services, helping ASU direct the development of its online campus to maximize student/faculty satisfaction, while simultaneously allowing ASU’s allies to refine their product offerings in a low-risk, data driven way.
The development of the ASU Perpetual Beta Technology platform will be a major source of synergy for the alliance members.
Strategic Technology Sectors
At the moment, ASU has identified 8 distinct alliance sectors. Again, for each of the sectors outlined above, ASU desires a relationship with a prominent, long term ally who can identify a broad swath of activities within the sector that are Core to that ally’s business model.
To drive these relationships forward ASU anticipates identifying a timeline for transitioning this activity — over a period of months, or years if need be — from direct ASU management and ownership to management by the technology ally.
The eight sectors outlined above could provide ASU’s technology platform as a managed service:
- LAN and data services
- VoiP and other phone services
- Backhaul and intercampus connectivity
- Video on Demand
- Preferred Cell Provider
- Wireless data connectivity through EVDO and its follow-ons
- Wi-Max as it emerges
- 1:1 Student Computing
- Specification and co-operative online sales of devices on a program by program basis
- Hardware and software support
- Data Mining
- Collaborative Filtering
- Management of the ‘rivers of content’
- Application Hosting
- Server management business
- Web Services
- Web hosting
ASU is currently developing a framework for pursing Strategic Technology Alliance with private enterprises. This will require a clear definition of the selection process and selection criteria, as well as a definition of the protocol for ensuring that selection is made in the public interest, and that, once established, such alliances continue to operate in the public interest.