Predictive Value Educause 2000 conference highlights new technology
By Ronald Roach
T here’s no doubt that rapid changes in information technology create uncertainty and anxiety throughout the economy and society at large. Experts agree that change is nowhere more revolutionary than in American higher education.
“Moore’s Law continues. We’re not going to see a slowdown in this technology change,” says Dr. Michael R. Zastrocky, vice-president and research director for academic strategies at the Conneticut-based Gartner Group Inc.
At Educause 2000, the most recent annual conference sponsored by higher education’s leading association for information technology professionals and administrators,Zastrocky was among a handful of speakers to advise conference attendees on the future course of information technology.
Historically, it has taken 19th and 20th century technologies, such as the telephone, radio and television, more than a few decades to reach mass popularity. Not so with the Internet and wireless communication technologies.
“I think no matter what we look at in terms of technology today, you’re going to be looking at time frames that are going to be shorter,” Zastrocky told conference goers in reference to the Internet and other relatively new technologies.
And it’s evident that higher education IT professionals want information to help them interpret and prepare their institutions to adapt. Among the most popular sessions at the annual Educause conference were the ones on information technology forecasting and updates.
Zastrocky, who has presented an annual update on higher education information technology for nine years, is well-recognized for the Gartner report on IT in higher education. He put emphasis on changes taking place in wireless communications and the creation of new computing devices, such as wearable computers.
He also highlighted the trend toward colleges and universities relying less upon their internal software solutions for administrative and academic systems.
“Look at higher education, the first survey CAUSE….did in 1980 showed that about 25 percent of the applications that we were using on campus were proprietary. Seventy-five percent was home gown. Those numbers were reversed about five years ago and we’re continuing to use vendor applications, which means we’re not doing the development. We’re maintaining those applications and doing enhancements. But by and large, more and more institutions are shying away from doing those application development in-house,” he says.
Zastrocky cautioned conference attendees on the need to focus on standards regarding software solutions that support functions, such as distributed learning or distance education.
“Our surveys, Casey Green’s survey, and other surveys show that less than 10 percent of the faculty on most campuses are really investing time or energy into online learning,” he says.
“As that becomes a more common phenomenon where you’re hitting 50, 60 percent [of faculty], you can’t afford to support all the different tools, course management, course offerings and course assessment tools that are out there. You’re going to have to set some standards. Some campuses are already beginning to do that,” he noted.
Groups, like Educause and its forerunners, Educom and CAUSE, arose, initially in large part, to help IT professionals keep pace of the latest information technology developments. But officials say that the Internet’s advent has placed a premium on presentations and reports that help members become better informed about change.
“It’s always been a part of what we do. But in more recent years, it’s become more important because of the impact of the Internet,” says Mark A. Luker, vice-president of Educause.
Last year, Educause officials organized the Evolving Technologies Committee. After a year of deliberations, the committee developed a list of what the group considered the most important new information technologies being deployed on college and university campuses.
Luker, who is a member of the committee, told Educause 2000 conference attendees that the group was formed during last year’s Educause conference and began studying new technologies to begin providing guidance to its membership. Luker presented the list of new technologies to the Educause membership:
l Digital Video — Digital video involves the presentation, distribution and storage of video images and audio in digital form. Its deployment in higher education is facilitating interactive videoconferencing, one-to-many video multicasting, faculty research collaboration, faculty “team teaching” collaboration and distance/distributed education.
l E-Books — The electronic book is a computerized format for displaying the content of a printed book. E-books are generally electronic devices that present pages of printed books on a flat screen for viewing. The format allows for the transformation of passive print and illustrations into multimedia interactive content.
l Smart Cards — The smart card can be considered a simple microcomputer. Resembling credit cards, the smart cards can retrieve, process, store and secure data. The measure of its intelligence is similar to a regular computer and based on the card’s physical characteristics. Smart cards can have a magnetic strip or be activated with laser/optical technology. Their memory varies, depending on whether they use bar codes or respond to more than one type of fixed device.
l Thin Clients — Meant to be an alternative to personal computers in campus facilities, thin clients are computing devices connected to an institution’s network. Thin clients are similar to the old-fashioned terminals, which pre-date the spread of personal computers on campus. They differ from the old terminals because they are powered by fast processors and feature plenty of memory. Nevertheless, applications are processed over the network rather than by the thin client device.
l Wireless — Wireless technology includes a wide range of devices, such as satellites, digital TV and wireless network connections. Though these technologies may serve certain needs within college departments and university operations, the most significant campus changes will result with applications involving mobile wireless devices and services. This includes wireless Internet access for laptops and personal digital assistants.
l PKI (public key infrastructure) — This term refers to the technologies and services that are evolving to allow campus networks and the Internet to meet legal, business, privacy and intellectual property requirements of higher education. PKI applications include software and hardware tools that enable authentication, authorization, access control, confidentiality, data integrity and technical non-repudiation. These functions help ensure that a computer network is a safe and reliable place for business, legal and policy purposes.
l Portals — A portal is an institutional or organizational Web site destination that allows members of a particular group to perform a multitude of business functions and transactions related to the member’s interest or standing within an organization. In higher education, portals have enabled students, parents of students, alumni, faculty members, administrators and staff to gain access to records and privileged information, and make commercial as well as institutional
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