Coming Soon to Your Campus
Several tracks included sessions on trends in technology, covering such topics as mobile computing, cloud computing, and the community-source-developed Kuali software.
Moving Ahead With Mobile
It's no surprise that mobile applications rank among the top trends identified by the 2010 Horizons Report, a collaboration between the New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. Cellular and wireless network access is becoming ubiquitous, and cell phone coverage exceeds electrical power coverage worldwide, said Rachel Smith of the New Media Consortium in the session titled “New Technologies and the Opportunities Ahead.”
The advanced capabilities of cell phones mean that they can now be used, for example, as an ID card to check out library books. Field work can increasingly take place in the field with a phone instead of in the lab. Labs and other spaces will need to be reconfigured in light of some of the changes technology brings. When asked what type of bricks and mortar business officers should plan, to be flexible for new technologies, Smith replied, “People are working on that problem.”
Another noteworthy development is the rapid adoption of electronic books. Smith predicted that the textbook industry will undergo a transition similar to the way the music industry recently shifted, with a large quantity of songs available online and downloadable to portable devices.
Smith suggested that all attendees experiment with emerging technologies to uncover potential benefits. “We don't know which of them are worth investing in until we know what problems they might solve,” she said. She shared several Web sites worth a look for new technologies and the opportunities they reveal:
- wordle.net creates word clouds, enlarging the words that appear most frequently in a document.
- gapminder.com shows videos with interesting graphics that reveal important worldwide trends.
- pranavmistry.com/projects/sixthsense shows videos that demonstrate “Sixth Sense,” an interface between digital information and the natural world using hand gestures.
Prepare to Enter the Cloud
Standardization, cooperation, and compromise across campus will be the keys to a successful transition to cloud computing, according to Colin Currie, executive director, administrative information services at Princeton University, in the session “Cloud Computing: Is the Forecast Rain or Shine for IT?” The campus will need to come together to agree on goals and standards—an “every-department-for-itself” approach will not be sustainable.
Currie left his audience with a list of things to do now:
- Position yourself to have options. Get out of any corners you've painted yourself into over the years, such as using custom applications even when packaged options exist. Standardize your solutions so that you are not solving the same problems in different ways.
- Think about the skill sets you will need. Cloud computing will change the role of campus IT and your staffing needs. Contract and relationship management will be more important. In addition, campus expectations will need to be managed, and leaders will need to understand how to foster a spirit of cooperation and compromise.
- Build strong, inclusive, campuswide information technology governance. This will be vital to developing the trust necessary for cloud computing to be successful.
Kuali Endowment Is Coming
Endowment accounting can be complex, and there are few tools available for higher education institutions. Stewardship, accountability, valuation, donor agreements, development activities, and reporting are important to an industry with these unique perpetual support assets. In the session “Kuali Endowment Module: The Future of Endowment Accounting,” attendees heard about a module under development in the community source project known as Kuali. The objective of the state-of-the-art system is seamless management, accounting, and reporting of endowment activity. When complete, the new module will be a full subsidiary system of the general ledger that can handle donor relationship information and gift reporting for all types of institutions, as well as transaction and investment accounting.
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