Change, opportunities and other percievable threats to the status quo.

I don't know who said it, but the following pretty much sums up how I feel: "just when I started to know the answers, they changed the questions." My institution has theSunGardHE portal, Luminis. We have WebCT CE, now Blackboard CE. We're in the process of implemeting Hannon Hill's Content Management System. We are exploring Identity Management directions. We have a fairly well integrated environment.

Now for the latest opportunity.

My colleague, Zach Tirrell, shared this link to Google's latest effort with me today. I have waxed on the impact of web based services before, but it's definitely a direction that is now plainly obvious. While the current state of web-applicatons such as Writely and Google Spreadsheets offers a compromise in functionality that is largely offset by collaborative opportunites and ease of access, there should be little doubt in anyone's mind that these services will only improve over time in both functionality and collaborative capabilities.

The question is, how will this affect the current slate of 3-5 year plans and iniatives at higher education institutions? Here's what the NY Times is saying the impact will have on businesses. This is clearly disruptive technology. Just see where Google's chief rival, now being lead by Ray Ozzie, is taking Microsoft:

Microsoft is taking a very pragmatic approach; a seamless, blended, client-server-service approach. We want to make sure that you can easily transition client and server-based applications to services, or vice-versa. Our services won't be disconnected from existing applications, but instead are going to be designed to complement and extend our Windows and Office platforms to the Internet.

Under the name Live, we'll provide a blend of desktop software, server-based software, and our own enterprise service offering, and our partners' offerings, enabling you to make the right tradeoffs that make the most sense for your business. One notable example of this client-server-service synergy can be found in our approach to information management and search. Our goal is to provide the people within your organization a simplified, unified way of getting at the information that they need, no matter where it resides.

So if Google and Microsoft are busy charting a course to web-based services world, what should we be doing in Higher Education to leveage and prepare our institutions for this environement? Clearly, one area that will heat up is Identity Mangement. We can't even begin to think of integration with web-based applications or social networking environments unless the IdM house is in order. Secondly, we need to excerise pressure on all our vendors to start to think along these lines if we are truely going to work together to create a seamless experience from a prospective student making general inquries about an institution, to providing life-long services to alumns via integrated environments.

How many of those life-long services remain exclusively the domain of Higher Education institutions and how much of it will be hosted at vendor sites remains to be seen. In the future, will Higher Ed need to provide their users with email? How can social networking environments, such as FaceBook, be integrated with the efforts of Alumni and Advancement offices or perhaps be extended in online e-portfolios. Speaking of electronic portfolios, while they are a current hot topic in Higher Education, they have not yet gained as much widespread adoption in the corporate sector as anticipated, but apparently there is enough belief in the concept by Microsoft that they have made an investment in Onfolio.

Increasingly, online education will include a mash up of web-based services that augment learning management systems will be significant. Well, as long as innovation is not inhibited by the legal efforts of such companies as Blackboard to protect their alledged intellectual property.

The bottom line is that students will live in an increasingly integrated world. That world is increasingly going to become user centric. Higher Education institutions who fail to integrate, adopt and adapt, risk becoming marginalized.

Higher Education, Web2.0, integration, portal, identity management

Higher Education Blogs and Liability

Higher Education and Blog Liability. Blogs are somewhat of a topic at my institution. Specifically, the liability issue. So I thought it might be a good idea to just start a post that points to relevant blog/liability issues for reference. Someone has probably already done this, but I haven't found it with a quick search. If you know of any, please comment or if you find interesting sites that fall into the following categories, let me know and I'll update this post. I'm also looking for University and Colleges that embraced blogs as part of the culture and strategic effort to facilitate their online sense of community. Thanks.

Education and Blogs

7 Things you should know about Blogs

Blog Policy and Liabilty Articles:

University of Minnesota Blog Policies - Good policies.
OSUWrite: A University Blog Solution Proof of Concept
Chronicle of Higher Education Article
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Burleson Consulting
Warwick University Terms and Conditions
Editor and Publishing (Good article)
Electronic Frontier Foundation Site
EFF Student Blogs
Unversity Business Article
Harvard Law school Terms of Use

Institutional Blogs, i.e. IHE that are making hey with blogs:
University of Minnesota - Here's a good example.
Harvard Law - Here's a marquee school's effort.
Seton Hall - Another good example
Penn State - Solutions Institute
Warwick University - UK
U. of Chicago - Faculty Blog
Standford Law
Dickinson College Blog
Regent College (Alumni Blog list)
Seton HillPrinceton University
Belmont University ( Seems to be an administrative blog)
Rider University ( Admissions Blog)
Georgia State University Library

Not really an IHE blog, but an interesting perspective nonetheless from Sam Jackson College Experience

Corporate Blogs: (Whose using blogs in the corporate world and why?)

CNN Article
Business 2.0

blogs, liability, university, colleges

Are We Spamming Our Users?

My position as the Director of Management Information Systems places me in a somewhat unique position to make some observations regarding the use of email at my institution. It affords me an opportunity to understand the impact that mass emails have on our email servers and the potential email from our site has on us becoming listed as a spam site. It also gives me the opportunity to understand and appreciate the business drivers from across the organization to communicate and how challenging that can be on many different levels.

The increase in email traffic over the past several years has been significant. Most email users can relate to the feeling of being inundated with email. Most are particularly annoyed with unsolicited junk mail commonly referred to as “spam.” Of course, with a twist on an old adage, one can appreciate that one man’s spam, is another’s gold-communication-tool-of-choice. This is the dilemma with email as a communications tool.

Getting an organization’s message out in a consistent manner is also being made more challenging with the expanding mix of traditional mass media, print media, and a host of relatively new tools such as blogs, wikis, IM, and podcasting. But email still presents the challenge for organizations as it is the preeminent personalized communication tool. In addition, as more organizations adopt Constituency Relation Management technologies (CRM), email predominance is increasing as it is a key component in many automated business processes. Between email automation and the increasing ability by sub-organizations and even individual staff to communicate internally and externally through various listservs, third party email managements systems, or email clients such as Outlook, a strategic communication question for any organization must be “Are we effectively using email to support the strategic communication goals of the organization.”

For higher education institutions, this is a particularly difficult question to answer. Most academic institutions have a culture that adopts new technologies quickly. Additionally, most Higher Ed. institutions have a loosely coupled and autonomous organizational structure. The combination of non-centralized structure with numerous and rapidly changing modes of communication does not lend itself to highly coordinated efforts. It makes the identification of the appropriate medium a challenge. The question of “how” a message should be communicated is occupying more of the time and resources traditionally dedicated to the “what” and “when.”

Before questions of message content and coordination can occur, the organization must come to terms with the position of email within the overall communication strategy. This can range from the non-centralized, hands-off approach, where any employee with a list determines message content and timing, to organizations with sophisticated communication plans and strict control. Some institutions recognize that the academic culture does not lend itself to the more controlled approach. Therefore they make strategic communication content available internally in order to facilitate the inclusion of strategic content by individuals or individual departments in their communications. In fact some, such as Mississippi State, recognize in there official communications plan that “constituents suggest that "word of mouth" communications from faculty and staff, students and alumni constitute a major source of information about the University, rivaling more "official" University communications and the mass media.” This strategy basically recognizes that it is much easier to pull as string than it is to push it.

Given the challenges of branding and marketing, the rapidly changing communication technologies, and the demographics of a changing student pool, institutions should be taking an in dept look at how best to leverage email strategically. Key stakeholders, at the very least, should meet on a fairly regular basis and review the organization’s overall communication strategy and alignment with institutional goals.

The questions surrounding strategic use of email can be categorized into two areas, quality and quantity.

For quantity: How much email is too much? Is it known how much is even sent to any one particular type of constituency? How frequent is too frequent? What processes are in place for determining when and where community members are placed within a list? What degree of coordination is occurring among shared stakeholders in the communication? How good are the opt-out options? Are efforts made to determine recipient satisfaction with email services?

For quality: Is “official” email reviewed for quality. Are mailings coordinated for content as well as timing? What new tools are available? Are we on message? Is the message shared effectively internally?

There are more questions, but, again, the key one to ask is “are we using email effectively?”

email spam communication plan

iPods more popular than Beer - so?

I was thumbing through my August copy of eSchool News (yes, I still do hard copy) and I came across their article on "Survey:iPods more popular than beer." Most of the articles I have read, and there were several, about this survey by the marketing firm Student Monitor have as the main point that iPods are more popular than beer. While that's certainly significant in and of itself, what impressed me more was looking at the total list of "What's in" on campus. Out the top 13 in things, 7 items were digital activities unique to Millennials and consequently are things I couldn't have done when I was an undergraduate. If nothing else, it dramatically underscores the difference between digital natives and immigrants. I'll ignore the age issue for now.

iPods, Digital, Native, Immigrants, University, Marketing, Beer

How is a Laptop like a Willy Wonka "Golden Ticket" for ID theft?

One would have to be spending a lot of time under a rock to not be aware of the loss and recovery one of the Veteran Administration's laptops. The now former employee was probably a dedicated staffer who took his job seriously and unfortunately, also literally took his work home with him. That got me to thinking about the risks at my institution and I suspect we will be making some changes over the next few months. Here's another recent theft that occurred at HEd. institution. Our future direction will no doubt include many of the suggestions found here.

security, higher education, university, college

Blogging for Gold or Blog Bog.

At my institution we have been grappling with the role of blogging. To date, most of the informal discussion has centered on the relationship between personal blog content and the institution's image branding. Administrators, are not inclined to support technologies that introduce risk to the institution and have a vague return on investment, i.e. what exactly is in it for the institution? Some faculty, the early adopters, have recognized the academic value and have, without any explicit endorsement from the organization, found ways to make it available and integrate it with some of their courses. Of course, a blog site does not increase institutional risk in-and-of-itself any more than web pages. And web pages have been available to all the members of this community since the mid-nineties.

So what's the issue? There is simply a broader understanding and awareness of the communicative power of the web then in the past. Administrators are more aware and fully appreciate that the web is the way future and current students, and alum's engage with the institution. Concurrent with that awareness, most administrators recognize that the institutional message and content need to be controled, i.e., that there needs to be accountability. Higher Education is a competitive environment, consequently institutions need to take a more corporate, i.e., controled approach to organizational branding and marketing. At the same time there is a begrudging understanding among those familiar with the realities of public higher education that control and accountability, within moral and ethical limits, are somewhat antithetical to the values of an academic institution community. The exchange of ideas or debate around issues are what makes a academic community vibrant and precisely why a blog is such an attractive tool for the academic environment.

It has been suggested that blogging would be more readily acceptable if it could be contained within the community. This is a variation on the "walled-gardened" thinking of Web 1.0 and a manifestation of the desire to exercise control. Valid arguments can be made for this model. It would limit institution exposure, but more importantly may help protect students, argueably still in their formative years, from themselves as evidenced by the lack of judgment by many who use Facebook or mySpace poorly. On the other hand, a valid argument can be made that it's appropriate for college ages students to leave the nest with guidance from their academic institution. It will be interesting to see where the walled vs. open debate leads.

Assuming that at some point there is resolution on whether or not to have an official institutional (this site, is still a pilot for my institution) blog site for the institution, a debate, one that will be even more difficulty to navigate than the above, may develop surrounding compensation as professional academic boundries are blurred with the adoption of more Web 2.0 opportunities. In other words, will a professor be denied promotion or tenure, because they spend too much time blogging at their personal blog which generates ad revenue? Or the converse, will a professor be denied P and T because they don't "publish" enough on the institutional blog with no ad revenue? In the end blogging, regardless of ad revenue, will come to be seen as an extension of the research and publish requirement of academic environments, but only after some vigorous debate.

blog, blogging, branding, marketing, university, college