Casey Green launched the Campus Computing Project in 1990; today it is the largest continuing study of the role of IT and e/learning in American higher education. In addition to his Campus Computing Project activities, Casey is also a co-creator and the on-air host of the award-winning Ready2Net Program which will broadcast live from the 2006 Blackboard World Conference on Wednesday morning, March 1st with a program titled “The Future of eLearning.”
Blackboard: What is on the horizon for campus IT? What do your surveys tell us?
Casey Green: There has been a significant shift in the priorities of campus technology leadership from instruction to infrastructure. Specifically, the major concern now is for network and data security.
CG: It’s not that campus technology officials and campus leaders are less interested in instruction technology, its simply that a lot of energy and investment, necessarily, is not focused on security. The continuing attacks on campus networks, along with what have become pervasive viruses and spyware, are the catalyst for the focus on security. The percentage of campuses experiencing these security challenges is high; understandably campus IT officers are very concerned.
Bb: What else is keeping campus leaders up at night?
CG: Staying current with new technologies. Historically over the past two decades, new technologies have gone from "cute" (and expensive) for the early adopters to compelling for the rest of us. Some examples: the Web, cell phones, PDAs and now wireless. This has significant consequences for the campus infrastructure, for the allocation of campus IT resources, and for how students and faculty work. Part of the driver is that students now come to campus expecting to learn about and to learn with technology.
Bb: So, it’s the students who are doing this to the campus?
CG: It’s in part an issue of expectations. Our clientele – students aged 16-67 routinely use the Web and technology as consumers; they want parallel resources and services from their colleges and universities.
Bb: So where does this leave us in the eLearning world?
CG: eLearning has followed the classic diffusion curve first described by Everett Rogers. Overall and across campus sectors, we’re past the early adopters and well into the early or middle majority. With regard to course management systems (CMS), this is a mature market with immature products. It’s a mature market because many institutions have a CMS, although not all faculty or students use it. But is also a market marked by immature products because they are still young – less than a decade old.
Bb: Aren’t some faculty still balking at going online?
CG: Some are resistant, others remain uncertain if the investment of their time and institution’s resources will yield any significant outcome in learning. That said, we are seeing gains in the use of eLearning resources in the curriculum. Data from the Campus Computing Project suggest that about half of all classes now use a CMS; just under 80% are using email in some way or another. Almost two-fifths of college courses use Internet resources (online references, websites, etc.) as part of the syllabus and just over two-fifths of all college courses have a web site for the course.
Bb: Back to eLearning – is it seen as beneficial by Administrations?
CG: My sense is that senior, non-IT campus officials support eLearning initiatives and investments, but sometimes remain befuddled by online activity and the accompanying continuing – and complex costs. It’s hard to know where to make investments. Is this an operating cost versus a capital cost? It can seem like a deep, dark digital hole.
Bb: In the broader sense, IT is not just about technology. IT is also at the heart of campus data collection. We have tremendous quantities of untapped, unobtrusive data in our IT systems that could be used to address and answer some critical questions about educational outcomes and institutional operations.
CG: So you are saying that if campus administrators received useful data, information and analysis that could address learning outcomes and institutional performance, they might act differently?
Bb: Yes! W. Edwards Deming, the quality control guru often quipped that "In God we trust; all others bring data."
CG: Well our institutional investments in IT are, in part, about resources and services, but the investments are also, in part, about data. For example, I don’t know how any campus could attemt to evaluate the impact of its portal or CMS if it only used transaction data for the analysis. We need to break through the silos that separate our sources of data – transaction data from the CMS and portal, the rich data in the student information system, financial data, and more to address outcome and performance issues.
Bb: It sounds like a data revolution is the next big thing?
CG: Yes, definitely data – and converting data into information and insight – could be the BIG next challenge for institutions and also for the enterprise, portal and CMS providers.
Bb: Tell me about the Ready2Net lineup.
CG: On March 1st we will be broadcasting and webcasting live from Bb World’06 in San Diego. The program topic is The future of eLearning. Three decades into the much-hyped "computer revolution in higher education." Our panel participants will discuss the great aspirations for technology and eLearning, factors that contribute to great implementations of eLearning, and move eLearning from unique to ubiquitous. Our panalists include:
David Ernst, CIO for the CSU System
Gil Gonzales, CIO at CSU, Monterey Bay
Phil Long, senior IT Strategist at MIT
Susan Metros, deputy CIO at Ohio State
Susan Patrick, president of NACOL
Matthew Pittinsky, co-founder and chairman of Blackboard
Craig Swenson, Provost at the University of Phoenix
Ruth Sabean, Assistant Vice Provost, Educational Technology, UCLA
John Welty, President of CSU-Fresno
Our panelists will bring a rich array of experience and expertise to the discussion of eLearning. It will be a great program, both for the people in the audience in San Diego and also for the thousands who will watch the program via satellite or webcast. For more information about the program or to register for the satellite broadcast or the webcast please go to http://www.csumb.edu/ready2net.