Monday, June 18, 2007

ASU and ItunesU

My name is Adrian and I am the University Technology Officer at Arizona State University, one of Americas largest and fastest growing universities serving metropolitan phoenix and the citizens of Arizona. Under the leadership of President Michael Crow, we are developing a new vision for American higher education, something we call the New American University. A new gold standard for access excellence and impact that judges a university by the quality of its output, not just the quality of its input; a university as proud of who it includes as who it excludes.

I’m here today to briefly describe for you how Apple is helping Arizona State University use technology to improve its academic excellence, increase educational access, and accelerate ASU’S impact on its community and the world.

There was a time when Universities were leaders in technology innovation. Certainly there are people in this room old enough to remember when people got their first email address in a .edu domain; when the largest networks were among the buildings on campuswides, the bits travelling over cables lovingly twisted and pulled by university it staff. Some of the first online applications were self service were college registration system and online card catalogs in university libraries.

But in the last decade, with the accelerating consumerization of high technology, universities have long since lost the lead. Consumer technologies are no longer watered down versions of industrial grade capabilities. Consumer technologies are now setting the pace, and along with it they are setting the expectations of our user communities. In the case of universities, the digital natives that are our incoming students expect us to provide a technology experience at least as good as the leading consumer edge. And educational institutions around the country are struggling to meet those ever-escalating expectations.

Over the past decade, Universities have moved from the technology drivers seat, to the back seat. As the innovation curve that leaders like Apple are on continues to accelerate, without serious help we may soon find ourselves on the side of the road watching consumer technology’s leading edge disappearing in the distance.
At ASU, we believe the answer to regaining the technology initiative lies in changing our focus from Context to Core.
As Geoffrey Moore, of Crossing the Chasm fame, defines it, Core activities are the ones that distinguish your enterprise, the ones that set it apart. In the case of a university then, a core activity is one that brings us new students, or attracts world class faculty, or helps students to succeed.
Core activities you must do for yourself. No one else can distinguish your institution for you. And everything else is context for that core.
One of the reasons IT shops today find it increasingly hard to compete with the consumer experience is that what was once core has rapidly become context. We still spend 80% of our time on infrastructure, storage, networking and content distribution. None of which will distinguish our university. There's almost no time left over to apply the leading edge to our Core activities of teaching, learning and research.
If technology is to matter ASU, our shop has to climb the value chain, leave the enabling infrastructure to others, and focus 80% of our energies on the core. The value added application of emerging consumer technologies to the central academic and research missions of the university.
And as we shift our focus to Core, we believe our context must come from strategic technology allies like Apple -- consumer technology powerhouses who are setting the pace of innovation and who operate at scales far beyond our own.

ASU's new technology strategy was featured in the 2006 Holiday Edition of The Economist. In that article I said that using leading edge consumer technologies is like getting technology from an advanced alien culture. Nowhere is that more true than in the case of ASU's partnership with Apple around Itunes U.

The democratization and explosion of rich media authoring promises to revolutionize education. But as new capabilities for creating, sharing and displaying content roll out in an endless stream, institutions struggle to put the supporting infrastructure needed to store and distribute this new content.

With iTunes U, it’s as if ASU got to skip a few grades. Itunes U lets us jump right over the part where we design and build a university owned and managed delivery system that would be a poor cousin to iTunes and go right to the head of the class -- to use all the power of Itunes itself, to showcase and distribute ASU's rich media content not as a shadow of the leading edge, but with the very same rapidly evolving tools and services that Apple is using to help redefine the whole world's media experience.

Because of iTunes U, ASU can forget about the how and focus on the why; focus on the myriad ways that these new kinds of content can advance the mission of the University, enrich the learning experience, and reach out to the community in powerful new ways.
iTunes U has provided President Crow and the rest of our University with a new platform for communicating the New American University's message of excellence, access and impact to our community and the world. The New American University channel allows us to reach out to  communicate a message of change throughout our community and around the world, and keep everyone interested in this new vision for American Higher Education abreast with its progress in the Valley of the Sun
iTunes U has also provided ASU with a new and powerful vehicle to communicate the excitement of higher education to K-12 students around Arizona and around the world. In the same store where aspiring students find the latest from their music idols, podcasts like ASU's innovative "Ask A Biologist", put middle school students from around the country in touch with what skilled science educators can teach them about their world and their own place in it.
Finally, ASU has been able to use the iTunes U infrastructure to create a highly integrated rich media experience for its faculty and students. Professors can easily create course specific podcasts to provide access to lecture materials, or supplement the class experience with timely discussions that all feed to student ipods and powerbooks seamlessly thorough the iTunes client.
All of this adds up to acceleration for ASU. Apple's Itunes U has made it possible for ASU to distribute its content on a state of the art system that defines the leading edge, but without losing control of our brand, our content or our domain.
It's allowed us to focus on how this technology can attract new students and help our current ones to succeed. We're doing our part by instrumenting our campus for capture and ensuring our network can deliver this new content where and when its needed. And helping our students and faculty find new and productive uses for what this technology revolution enables.
iTunes U.... technology from the advanced alien culture that is Apple, ....helping ASU meet the higher education challenges of the 21st century


University Technology Officer » Blog Archive » WWDC … and an Apple for me… June 18, 2007 at 3:07 PM  

[...] A Steve Jobs performance is never to be missed and last week’s Keynote at the Apple WorldWide Developers Conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco was no exception. It started with a nice bit from John Hodgman, starring as PC, pretending to be Steve Jobs…PC tries to convince the crowd that Apple is closing due to the incredible success of Vista. The partisan crowd ate it up…But I have to admit that after Steve was finished, I had to consider the possibility that Apple is out innovating everyone else in the desktop/personal computing space. I enjoyed my 8 minutes of fame later in the day as part of the State of IT presentation on Monday. I focused on the amazing difference that Apple’s Itunes U made in getting ASU’s podcasting capability to market. (While the State of IT presentation is covered by Apple confidentiality restrictions, I made remarks similar to my State of IT thoughts in a recent podcast (transcript). [...]