Technologies such as e-readers, tablet computers, cloud computing and unified communications are exciting innovations to discuss and plan for. In some cases they're already becoming important tools for tackling tough budget and staffing issues, ultimately improving the user experience for university students and staff.
Expectations are high for e-readers and tablets, which are grabbing headlines and showing up more regularly on campus. However, some experts, such as Kenneth Green of the Campus Computing Project, say that it will take several years for the technology to take hold.
But a series of pilot programs at Houston Community College (HCC) in Texas offers some of the most encouraging information to date on the technology's potential.
Doug Rowlett, instructional design coordinator at HCC Southwest, says that in certain situations e-readers have brought down prices for textbooks. HCC students were amazed when they learned that all the materials for a 19th-century literature class were available in the public domain and could be accessed electronically. Plus, science students using e-readers scored, on average, a grade higher on tests at the end of the course.
Another interesting finding by HCC is that older students and those in classes related to their majors did best with tablets that offer a variety of features, such as video, web browsing and e-mail.
For more information on how colleges are using e-readers and tablets to bring down the cost of textbooks and improve teaching and learning, turn to "Reading the Future."
Growing with the Cloud
Colleges and universities looking to expand both regionally and globally are turning to cloud computing to help with budget and management challenges.
Franklin University, which runs its main campus in Columbus, Ohio, chose to build its own private cloud. The university used VMware virtualization software and high-performance HP servers to create two redundant data centers that deliver pooled services.
John Miller, Franklin's director of technology infrastructure and network services, says that from an IT perspective the institution has become an online service provider. He says Franklin is not yet comfortable with using services from a public cloud, so it created the private platform, deriving the flexibility and high-availability benefits that many IT organizations report from public cloud offerings.
For more on how Franklin University built its cloud, read "Room to Grow in the Cloud."
Colleges and universities also report some valuable benefits from unified communications. Take Butler University in Indianapolis.
Before deploying UC, the university did not have call center technology. Chad Miller, a systems engineer at Butler, recalls that customer service agents had no idea how many people were calling and how long it took to answer telephone calls. Now, Cisco Unified Contact Center software lets university call center agents queue callers and track call volume. And if traffic is high, the IT staff can quickly get other employees to assist with calls, says Joe Indiano, Butler's senior director of networks and systems.
"If it gets busy and we have people chatting in the hallway, we can have them go pick up phones to help those waiting in the queue," Indiano says.
To learn more about how UC is helping colleges and universities increase productivity, improve communications and reduce costs, see "The Case for Convergence."
We hope this issue helps your college or university as it implements technology to improve productivity and inspire creative teaching and learning.
Editor in Chief