May 01 2008

Management Enlightens Technology

Editor's Letter

Management Enlightens Technology


Lee Copeland

One concern that weaves a thread through this issue of EdTech is the tricky one of successfully managing technology to get the most out of the investment. There is always some new technology out there, promising ease-of-use, productivity gains or bleeding-edge coolness, but that doesn’t mean that it’s better. Sometimes the answer lies in expanding a legacy technology to provide new services, as in the case of Sinclair Community College, and at other times it’s about starting from scratch, as did the University of Minnesota.

In “Completely Unplugged,” on Page 28, EdTech spotlights a project to expand the wireless network over the next five years at the University of Minnesota. After completion, that 802.11n-based network will have nearly 1,000 access points and span more than 300 buildings, providing coverage for students on the school’s St. Paul and Minneapolis campuses. It will conform to the emerging 802.11n standard with over 150 megabits per second throughput, available across 600 more acres than the current network. In addition to improving access and speed, the network also boasts better security and centralized management capabilities.

The University of Minnesota’s $15 million 802.11n network will be one of the largest in the world. It will span 1,000 acres and will run 15 times faster than the current network.

But IT management at higher education facilities is not only about exploring new wireless protocols and implementing new technologies.

It’s also about understanding how to get the most out of what you have. Sinclair Community College is a perfect example. The college recently looked into broadening the wireless options on its campus in Dayton, Ohio, but with an eye toward expanding its existing technology infrastructure as a way to control costs.

Sinclair wanted to make wireless access available throughout the campus, not only in its dorms but also in classrooms and libraries. The school used its existing wired network to support the wireless expansion by “tunneling” the wireless network through the wired one. The move saved time and it didn’t break the bank. To learn more about their novel approach, turn to “Wireless Tunnel to Security,” on Page 20.

Whether kicking off a new technology from scratch or looking for ways to revamp an existing legacy system, skilled project management is critical to success. Yet as Alfred Essa, deputy CIO of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, notes, poor project management is a recurring problem for most IT organizations. And the larger the IT investment — the more departments and people that it touches — the greater the likelihood that project-management mishaps will lead to an implementation failure. To close the gap between expectations and final delivery, Essa’s team made an important shift from being a technology-focused organization to being a service provider. For more, see his column, “Order From Chaos,”on Page 9.

Editor in Chief,