An article in the Chronicle references a study that cites carelessness as the major factor in IT problems , not viruses. Virginia Rezmiersk, from the University of Michigan, found that 40 percent of computer incidents are caused by careless actions.

Primarily, she said, the problems resulted from inadequate training to help computer users avoid trouble and from insufficient policies to deal with problems that do arise. Rezmierski said the results support her contention that many colleges and universities moved too quickly to implement IT systems without necessary “rules and policies about how we want to operate in a shared-resource environment.”

This supports my personal experience that IT is cast so often in the role of a change agent that precious little resources are left for business process details or policies. Inevitably this comes around to haunt us. It is also a point of friction within various areas within projects as members of project teams have difficulty completing and implementing their communication plans or fail to fully anticipate the results of decisions on other team members or aspects of the project. Of course, who suffers the most are our end users who are left as after thoughts to figure it out. While systems are argueably getting better and users are becomming more sophisticated, we continue to experience gaps. It’s a challenge, but no one said it would be easy.

If you are old enough to remember higher educations attempt at synchronous teaching models via expensive teleconferencing systems, I am sure you are thinking the old adage, “What goes around comes around. ” That being said, the synchronous component of DE is going to experience a re-birth via new technologies and web business models that are evolving thanks to Web2.0. Applications like Google Talk, Gizmo, Skype, collaborative tools such as Writely, along with opensource initiaives such as the SAKAI Project . We are going to witness ever increasing ways in which to engage students and rethink instructional pedagogy. These tools are but the beginning of a new set of tools as we emerge from the nuclear winter of the dot com bust. The Law of Acceleration will not give us involved with technology and teaching much time to discover, understand, prototype, implement, scale and then support an every expanding portfolio of technological opportunites.

The key will be the need to focus and find the right change model that can be sustained by an evolving business model.


The podcasting bandwagon keeps on rolling. Princeton University recently announced that they would be vodcasting:

“Princeton University (NJ) has added “vodcasts” - shared videos that can be watched using Apple Inc.’s iTunes - to the podcasts, or downloadable sound files, it already offers on its Web-based University Channel. The service makes academic lectures and events available to the public via the Web. Apple recently introduced vodcasting technology in conjunction with the video- enabled iPod as a way of sharing video files over iTunes. “

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Just yesterday Standford University announced that it is putting up its podcasting content via Apple iTunes. Of course, this growing willingness of Higher Education institutions to provide and share their course content over the Internet began with MIT’s OpencourseWare initiative. Given these initiatives and the recent rise of blogging and VOIP products such as GIZMO and SKYP, one easily can see that we are at point where web-based instruction and course design are about to take another step forward. It almost feels like the mid-nineties when WebCT and Blackboard first made their appearance.

Another major announcement today was the Carnegie Mellon University’s speech translation program, that provides live translation of speech. Perhaps I’ll wait a little longer to learn that second language and save my money for a heads up display.

Blogs and Course Management Systems

The question recently came up on my campus as to how would blogs and course management systems co-exist? My initial reaction was, “not well.” Course Management Systems (CMS) programs like WebCT and BlackBoard (a.k.a., BlackWeb or BlackCT) are designed to create a safe environment secured from casual engagement by non-registered students of the course. In the best sense, this mirrors traditional classrooms that provide environments where faculty and students can freely exchange ideas and engage in the process of education as outlined by the terms of the course syllabus.

I now understand and believe that blogging enhances the CMS experience. A faculty blog would be the “published” content of a their research or academic interests. Faculty would post content to their blog and reap the benefits of the blogging community. The CMS could then be linked to their specific blog content and would be worked into the course using the traditional CMS tools. I think that’s the first time I’ve combined CMS and traditional - times have changed.

The Faculty would essential get a two ‘fer. Author/Publish once. Reference many.

What’s IT all about.

I read a very interesting article by William H. Graves in the latest edition of EDUCAUSE. “Improving Institutional Performance through IT-Enabled Innovation.” For those in Higher Education IT departments, it outlines an understanding of IT within Higher Education and a direction that I am sure many of my IT colleagues would agree has merit. We in IT have long appreciated that educational benefits and/or productivity gains comes from the empowerment of campus consitutencies to form partnerships to affect fundamental change. As Dr. Graves states, ” Well-managed and well-supported technology infrastructure has become a competitive necessity in the national economy, not as a competitive differentiator but as a tool to redesign service and production processes as the basis for competitive innovations that can improve quality, unit cost structures, market reach, and customer convenience and satisfaction….Competitive outcomes will depend on how well redesign efforts and resulting service innovations are executed to offer new services, improve service quality, retain customers, and reach new markets - all while reducing unit service costs.”

Of course, the challenge is how to make that happen. Cultivating an environment that embraces change as a strategic tool is what will enable universities and colleges to not only survive, but flourish.

iPods, Podcasts and Blogs

It’s taken me a little time, but I believe I am coming around to seeing the value of podcasting and blogs on both an individual and organizational level. For me, the podcasting the turning point was a podcast by Adrian Sannier, the Chief Technology Officer at Arizona State University. His podcast address to ASU’s webdevelopers

articulates concisely his plan for developing the IT Strategic plan at ASU and in doing so he concisely articulated many of the challenges higher education institutions are facing as they seek to adopt and integrate new technologies within their environments. I wish him well and thank him for an inside view of another institution’s processes.
Now with the assistance of my iPod and the growing number of podcasts of similar ilk, my productivity has increased dramatically. As I mow the lawn, wash the cars, vacuum the house, chop wood or engage in other such activities and responsibilities of an adult suburban warrior, I can learn and grow as I listen to insightful discussions on topics of my choosing. I am at liberty to engage or not; fastfoward, rewind, or stop. I have gained back control over a hugh portion of time. Mind you, I fully appreciate the need to unplug and let the mind idle for a while and there is a lot to be said about the value of letting the mind drift as one engages in a physically demanding and productive activity such as chopping wood. But now, I have control.

As for blogging, while I am not posting regularly, which some of my colleagues lament for some reason, I now appreciaite the impact blogging can have on an organization’s overall digital footprint. Therefore, I now intend to spend some effort evangalizing the potential of blogging on our campus. Thanks to those who pushed me in this direction.

National System Admin Day

Just last night I was saying to my wife that there ought to be a National IT Month. Why not? There seems to be one for everything else even though there are only 12 months in the year. BTW, is there some national agency that adjucates contentious “month of” conflicts? Anyway, today I’m going through some email and I see a plug for National SysAdmin Day. Close enough. That removes the pressure on me to create one. Check it out:

What’s particular interesting is that our Senior System Administrator is named Ted. While the list of indignities perpretrated upon sysadmins is fairly comprehensive, I pretty sure my colleagues could easily double it with real life anecdotes that have occured at our instituion.

Identity Management

With the maturing of our portal we are finding that having a solid IDM solution is critical. The options available are in various stages of development. Here’s one of the first third party solutions of which I am aware that works within higher education:

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Google Maps

With the rapid development of AJAX applications, one has to wonder how current Higher Education applications will be improved and more importantly what new services will be developed. For instance, how might Alumni and Admissions offices combine data mining with the visualization capabilities with Googles new mapping API? Will future reports present information in a format to similar to what we find at How will this improve Admissions and Alumni representatives ability to access information while in the field? What other possibilities exist?

My colleague, Zach Tirrell, has speculated that our state-of-the-art web portal now needs significant re-thinking in that our user interface is awkward compared to what could be developed with the incorporation of AJAX. He and another colleague, Matt Batchelder recently developed a “Did You Know” channel, aka., “Tips and Tricks.” Although not the most exciting example, it does highlight some of the significant user interface improvements that give web-applications using AJAX a more desktop client feel.