Big Data Is Getting Bigger. So Are the Privacy and Ethical Questions

Big data is getting bigger. So are the privacy and ethical questions.

The next step in using “big data” for student success is upon us. It’s a little cool. And also kind of creepy.

This new approach goes beyond the tactics now used by hundreds of colleges, which depend on data collected from sources like classroom teaching platforms and student-information systems. It not only makes a technological leap; it also raises issues around ethics and privacy.

Here’s how it works: Whenever you log on to a wireless network with your cellphone or computer, you leave a digital footprint. Move from one building to another while staying on the same network, and that network knows how long you stayed and where you went. That data is collected continuously and automatically from the network’s various nodes.

Now, with the help of a company called Degree Analytics, a few colleges are beginning to use location data collected from students’ cellphones and laptops as they move around campus. Some colleges are using it to improve the kind of advice they might send to students, like a text-message reminder to go to class if they’ve been absent.


Others see it as a tool for making decisions on how to use their facilities. St. Edward’s University, in Austin, Tex., used the data to better understand how students were using its computer-equipped spaces. It found that a renovated lounge, with relatively few computers but with Wi-Fi access and several comfy couches, was one of the most popular such sites on campus. Now the university knows it may not need to buy as many computers as it once thought.

As Gary Garofalo, a co-founder and chief revenue officer of Degree Analytics, told me, “the network data has very intriguing advantages” over the forms of data that colleges now collect.

Some of those advantages are obvious: If you’ve got automatic information on every person walking around with a cellphone, your dataset is more complete than if you need to extract it from a learning-management system or from the swipe-card readers some colleges use to track students’ activities. Many colleges now collect such data to determine students’ engagement with their coursework and campus activities.

Of course, the 24-7 reporting of the data is also what makes this approach seem kind of creepy.

The founder of Degree Analytics had worked with an oil company that used remote sensors to monitor its far-flung wells to track whether any drill bits were about to fail. He’s now adapted that idea for his new company — except this time, it’s the students’ devices that are, in effect, the sensors.

Just having the information isn’t enough. Colleges need to know what to make of it. When it comes to using the information to improve student retention, Garofalo says the assumptions his company makes aren’t all that different from what a host of other data-analytics companies do with the data they collect. it just has richer information on where students are and when, as long as they’re on the Wi-Fi.

Ms. Blumenstyk is a senior writer at The Chronicle of Higher Education covering innovation in and around academe. For more than two years, Ms. Blumenstyk has been curating the weekly Re:Learning newsletter. Going forward Goldie will be using it to share her observations on the people and ideas reshaping the higher-education landscape. 


Degree Analytics is only about three years old, and it’s moving slowly: It has fewer than 10 clients so far. But this fall it will begin a pilot project with the giant California State University system. It will start at the Sacramento campus, but Cal State uses the same Wi-Fi and networking equipment for its entire 23-campus system, so it could easily expand. The system’s chief information officer, Patrick C. Perry, isn’t sure how the experiment will unfold. But, as he told me, “we are piqued.”

I have no reason to doubt anyone’s good intentions. The founder and chief executive of Degree Analytics, Aaron Benz, seems genuinely passionate about using data science to help students. If his company wasn’t doing this, it wouldn’t be too long before another company did. Perhaps some already are.

My concerns are broader: Just because colleges and companies can collect this information and associate it with all sorts of other academic and demographic data they have on students, should they? How far should colleges and companies go with data tracking?

I’m not the first to ask questions like this. A couple of years ago, a group of educators organized by Martin Kurzweil of Ithaka S+R and Mitchell Stevens of Stanford University issued a series of guidelines for colleges and companies to consider as they began to embrace data analytics. Among other principles, the guidelines highlighted the importance of being transparent about how the information is used, and ensuring that institutions’ leaders really understand what companies are doing with the data they collect. Experts at New America weighed in too.

See how is enabling individuals to claim their data as PROPERTY


I asked Kurzweil what he makes of the use of Wi-Fi information. Location tracking tends toward the “dicey” side of the spectrum, he says, though perhaps not as far out as using students’ social-media habits, health information, or what they check out from the library. The fundamental question, he says, is “how are they managing it?”

St. Edwards says it didn’t make extensive disclosures during its one-semester test last spring because it didn’t examine individualized data. But the university says it would be more open if it ever got much beyond the current point of differentiating students by categories like commuter and noncommuter. It’s unclear exactly how Sacramento State will disclose its experiment to students.

When Degree Analytics begins discussions with a college, Benz says, “the No. 1 thing we talk about is privacy.” The company holds meetings with students and takes other steps to make sure they know how their data is being used. It also recommends that colleges create Wi-Fi login pages that explicitly and simply describe their use of the Wi-Fi data — with a clear opt-out option. Even for Degree Analytics customers that do integrate the Wi-Fi data with other student information, he said, the company makes sure that the information is aggregated to cover period of time or a particular event, and not for one-on-one individual tracking. It’s not designed, Benz said, to answer questions like “Where’s Jimmy at 8:01 p.m.?” But, he acknowledged, that’s because of company policy. The technology could easily allow it.

Benz said his company’s policies, if anything, make its use of the data a lot more transparent than most colleges are about how they might use Wi-Fi network information. Fair point. Really, do most students realize that their institutions could use the data now to suss out whether they’re cheating together on remote exams?

So is this the future? Benz, at least, certainly hopes so. Inspired by the Wi-Fi-based StudentLife research project at Dartmouth College and the experiences Purdue University is having with students’ use of its Forecast app, he’s in talks now with a research university about a project that would generate other insights that might be gleaned from students’ Wi-Fi-usage patterns.

He wonders, for example, whether the data could inform decisions about how mental-health facilities are being used. I wonder just how far these kinds of tools can go — and how mindful of the potential pitfalls colleges and companies will be as they take them there.

Reposted from the Chronicle of Higher Education January 31, 2018

AI Effects on Job Growth, by the Numbers

July 2017 IDC

Special report: Higher education’s existential crisis

Published by Alison Snyder, Kim Hart September 21, 2019

The big picture: Higher education institutions — private, public, for-profit and not — are buckling in the face of demographic shifts, the arrival of automation, declining enrollment, political headwinds and faltering faith in the system.

U.S. colleges and universities — historically cornerstones of society — are wrestling with a wave of rapid changes coming at the U.S.

Today’s student isn’t necessarily the “first-time, full-time” one that higher education is currently constructed around, says Julie Peller of Higher Learning Advocates.

  • Instead, 37% are over the age of 25, they often attend classes part-time while they juggle at least one job and nearly a quarter are parents, requiring the higher education system to serve across generations and situations of students.
  • They can be picking classes based on babysitter and bus schedules rather than who is the best professor, says Peller.
  • While more people of color and students from low-income families are attending college than 30 years ago, there is a striking gap in completion rate.

The higher education system is struggling to prepare students for today’s — not to mention tomorrow’s — economy.

  • A college education used to be tackled once in life, early on, and typically supported people through a lifelong career.
  • Today there are gig jobs, the risk of being replaced by a robot and an expectation that life will involve more than one career and require more than one go at education beyond high school.
  • State schools are receiving less funding per student than before the Great Recession, while private institutions face proposed taxes on endowments and scramble for revenue from tuition.
  • A key question then: Who will pay for lifelong learning?

Rising tuition prices and student debt (to the tune of $1.6 trillion across 45 million Americans) are sparking questions about the tradeoffs of higher education.

  • 65% of Americans aren’t satisfied with the country’s higher education system, according to a recent survey from the New America Foundation.
  • According to Pew Research Center, 59% of Republicans believe colleges negatively affect the way things are going in the country, a significant reversal from 2012 when 53% of Republicans had a positive view. In contrast, 67% of Democrats think colleges have an overall positive effect.
  • Meanwhile, employer beneficiaries of the system say they can’t find employees with the skills they seek.

All of this is crashing down on the higher education system, which now has to figure out a new way to serve students — and society.

  • They’re deploying AI and predictive analytics to try to prevent students from falling through the cracks of the system.
  • States are stepping up: This week New Mexico announced a plan to make tuition to state schools free for all residents.
  • Corporations are stepping in: They’re getting involved in designing curricula and alternative credentialing programs that aim to place students in jobs and require some accountability of educators.
  • Yes, but: The tension remains between providing the short-term skills for landing a job and the general ones for further education and citizenry, and between what students borrow and what they earn.

The bottom line: Our idea of what college is and who it should serve has changed, but the institution has not caught up.

“Universities were designed to last, not change.”

— Bridget Burns, executive director, the University Innovation Alliance

Go deeper:

The Blockchain Revolution and Higher Education


Authors: Published:

The blockchain provides a rich, secure, and transparent platform on which to create a global network for higher learning. This Internet of value can help to reinvent higher education in a way the Internet of information alone could not.

What will be the most important technology to change higher education? In our view, it’s not big data, the social web, MOOCs, virtual reality, or even artificial intelligence. We see these as components of something new, all enabled and transformed by an emerging technology called the blockchain.

OK, it’s not the most sonorous word ever, sounding more like a college football strategy than a transformative technology. Yet, sonorous or not, the blockchain represents nothing less than the second generation of the Internet, and it holds the potential to disrupt money, business, government, and yes, higher education.

The opportunities for…

View original post 6,558 more words

Future of Learning Platforms by @PhilKomarny

First let’s acknowledge that the future is already here.

We are living in the midst of the 4th industrial revolution, powered by data, providing every business and organization a digital pathway to engage with their customers in all new ways. The future of learning platforms will leverage the same technologies that are used to engage customers with their favorite brands. By understanding each customer as an individual we can provide each person a custom experience that delivers value and enhances the experience with the company.

Ok, now let’s change one word, ‘customer’. Let’s change it to ‘learner’ because in the 21st century the meaning of illiteracy has changed from not being able to read and write to the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn.

Slide credited to Vala Afshar, Northeast Dreamin Keynote speech

The future learning platform will be unbounded from our current structures of ‘term’ and ‘course’, delivering learning experiences across a lifetime. This model of continuous learning, the ‘Netflix’ model for education, that provides universities with a way to constantly align and engage with necessary learning that will power a world in which 65% of the students entering primary school today do not even know the roles and jobs they will have when they venture into the world.

Slide credited to Lev Gonick, CIO ASU

Here are a few key traits of a future learning platform, one that has the ability to deliver learning across a lifetime:

Extensible/API first design — let’s face it, no platform will ever be the ‘one’ place to learn across a lifetime. Understanding that fact will lead the design down a pathway that is visioned API, or integration first.

Modularity — Modularity both in the design of the application as well as the curriculum. Taking a page from the Salesforce’s Trailhead manual, make it fun, engaging and watch the learning happen. This ‘just in time’ learning is very valuable and is leveraged by large scale learning platforms like Khan Academy.

Standardized data model — President Crow from ASU talks about The Universal Learner. To realize this at world scale a Universal Learner Record, one that captures accomplishments across a lifetime, must be created.There is great work being done in this space by ASU, Concentric Sky, Brighthive and The DXtera Institute to name a few. In the ASU engagement the Universal Learner Record is being defined and leveraged to unlock new values to learners, ASU and the industry.

Universal Learning Record

Knowledge maps — To meet the need of a ever changing future the outcomes that are aggregated into Learning Objectives in a domain need to be decomposed to their granular outcome state. This granularity will produce knowledge maps of the necessary competencies needed for any subject of study. This approach also provides a way to craft content and assessment at the same granularity.

The map of cybersecurity outcomes

Content/Assessments — Sourcing content needed to instruct at this granular level is difficult at best. The system that the necessary, mobile friendly (#DeathToFlash), high fidelity content and assessments that aligned directly to a specific outcome will live and be socially ranked and rated. Over time the prescribed pathway may be augmented by other content that learners on the same or similar journey found helpful.

Curricular design — cataloging the curriculum, experiences, content and assessments for a given domain, if done, is done with tools like Excel. Communing with other faculty members to understand how their instruction fits into the education of a learner is something that is possible today with tools like CourseTune. This tool not only ‘tunes up’ your curriculum, it provides a social capacity for educators to communicate about, and reflect on, what they teach.

Coursetune | The AutoCAD for learning design.

Social — it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. The thesis by Julia Freeland Fisher in her new book titled Who You Know talks about how the social modality can provide access to a demographic that historically is limited by their zip code. To quote Paul LeBlanc the President of SNHU, talent is distributed, opportunity isn’t. The social modality is one way to reach the unreachable and deliver opportunity to the underserved, not to manage a threaded discussion!

Who You Know — Judith Freeland Fisher

BYOD 2.0 — version one of BYOD stood for Bring Your Own Device. In the 4th Industrial Revolution, the D will not stand for devices, it will stand for Data. The promise of distributed ledger technology has provided a way to deliver the learner a valid and trusted representation of their knowledge and understanding. This information that is currently housed in information systems with a registrar as the intermediary validating the credential is released to the learner to power their future in this global knowledge economy. This creates 1/2 of what I’m calling the Digital Rosetta Stone, one that will translate the wants and needs of industry to academia. Insuring that we have the necessary talent to power our futures.

BYOD 2.0 — Bring your own Data

Self sovereign identity — There is a crisis of trust in the digital world, one that has begun to eroded the foundation of truth. With technologies that can create video content that is completely fake, we can not trust what we read, hear, or see. The promise of self sovereign identity systems not only put the person in control of their information it begins to craft a digital reputation. This reputation, validated by others, becomes a representation of our digital selves. Once we value our digital presence, as we do our analog one, we will realize a different digital future.

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise… A digital self valued by a self sovereign identity

A future that is already here…

Stay tuned and I will continue to blog about the work that we are doing at Salesforce to empower our customers, partners and community in the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Most Americans don’t realize state funding for college is down

Published by the Hechinger Report March 14, 2019 Written by Delece Smith-Barrow


While the graphics reference in this post (researched by studentforce) are at least 5 years old the trend seems to be continuing according to Ms. Delece Smith-Barrow

Over the last decade, as the nation recovered from the Great Recession, spending by states on higher education did not recover – in fact, it fell.  Yet only 29 percent of Americans know that, according to a new survey by American Public Media.

The Hechinger Report collaborated with APM to survey more than 1,000 Americans on what they know and what they think about college. The results show that most are unaware of how little their state governments have invested in higher education, during a time when tuition and fees are rapidly increasing.

Over the 10 years ending in 2017, states collectively scaled back their annual higher education funding by $9 billion, when adjusted for inflation, writes my colleague Jon Marcus. That means that money from students and their families now pays about half of a university’s operating costs, his article pointed out, whereas 10 years ago they accounted for about a third.

But 27 percent of those surveyed by APM and The Hechinger Report thought state spending had increased, and 34 percent thought it had stayed the same. (Ten percent said they didn’t know.)

higher-ed-declining-spending-01-768x527The survey showed divides between Republicans and Democrats and between men and women when it comes to the perception of government spending on higher education. Higher-income, college-educated Democrats and women were more likely to be aware that states have cut back on spending, the APM poll found. And people 65 and older are less likely to think this than those between 45 to 54, who may have children in college or college bound.

But even with state spending declining and tuition rising, young adults still believe a bachelor’s degree is worth the cost. Among the age group most gripped by student debt – 18- to 34-year- olds – 59 percent believe a bachelor’s degree is worth its price.

Average one-year costs for tuition, fees and room and board at public colleges totaled $21,370 for in-state students and $37,430 for out-of-state students this academic year, and $48,510 for private college students, according to the College Board.
MW-EC744_big_cu_20160106173902_NS“Cost is all about what you truly think the value of it is,” Anthony Bernazani, a 34-yearold graduate of a George Mason University in Virginia, told me. He believes that because of the job opportunities, salary and intellectual gains that can come with a degree, “the value that you get out of it is worth the cost.”

Sixty percent of those between 35 and 54 also said a four-year degree is worth the cost. Republicans and Democrats, however, have very different views about it. Among those adult Democrats, 69 percent believe college is worth the cost, while 55 percent of Republicans (and Independents) share this belief, according to the survey.

We released the survey results just weeks before the U.S. Department of Justice charged 50 people with participating in a bribery scheme to get the children of wealthy parents into prestigious schools, such as Yale, Georgetown University, the University of Southern California and the University of Texas at Austin.

I can’t help but wonder if this scandal offers another perspective on what Americans think of college. While it’s not worth illegal activity to gain admission, the scheme does show how desperate people are to secure a four-year degree for their children and how admissions opportunities can greatly vary for the haves and the have-nots.

Images/Charts from:
@JillianBerman “Why states are cutting back on higher education funding”
– Public Research Universities: Changes in State Funding

Lifelong Learning Credentials Require Both Technology and a Trust Framework

Published March 13, 2019 by EdTech Written by James Wiley, Eduventures principal analyst at ACT

There has been much discussion recently about the value of credentials in helping students demonstrate the skills required for career success and the need to transform how students collect and share these credentials.

These valuable discussions point to exciting changes in the role of higher education, in which students may have access to a portfolio of skills demonstrations throughout their lifelong learning journey.

Unfortunately, from a technological perspective, conversations about how to realize this vision often devolve into something much less exciting: requirements around establishing identity, formatting data, and designing interfaces to ensure consistency and interoperability across all transactions, often through the use of standards and standardization.

Similarly, as with many conversations around how technology will support innovation in education, this topic sometimes centers on a particular solution, such as blockchain.

The downside of this devolution is that it obfuscates a critical question: How might technology support a new vision of lifelong learning and skills attainment?

We need to answer this question in a way that helps us understand the critical components of the relationship between this vision and technology, to see the areas in which technology can genuinely provide value and where it might fall short.

MORE FROM EDTECH: Read four things experts want higher education professionals to know about blockchain.

Driver’s License Model Reflects the Role of Trust and Authenticity

We already have a model we can use to understand how this might work: driver’s licenses. The majority of us have used our licenses to validate our identity, provide proof of our abilities or gain access to specific places and activities.

While these activities may seem simple, they depend on a complex relationship of trust between the issuer and reviewer. It’s a relationship in which the driver’s license represents an official certification of who you are and what you can do.

At its core, the trust question in higher education requires three components to ensure that individuals, organizations and devices have valid access, exchange, use and transfer of information:

  1. Security: Proper security makes it possible for all parties to accept that there have been no unauthorized changes to the information.
  2. Validity: Validity means all parties can accept that the information and identities are authentic.
  3. Portability: Portability allows all parties to access and show information in different environments. Therefore, it appears that to understand fully how technology can support the new vision of student skills attainment, we should first establish how it provides these three components.


Technology Supports the Trust Framework for Credentials

It should be clear that technology could support the security aspect of the trust framework. Identity and access management solutions, for example, have long handled the provisioning and verification of identity, as well as the linking between credentials and identities.

Likewise, technology can support the ability to recognize that a credential is valid — that is, issued by a recognized authority — similar to the process of identity verification. Last, with the use of portals, students can access their credentials anytime, from anywhere, which would undoubtedly support the portability component of a trust framework.

Equally clear, however, is that these technological activities are necessary but not sufficient. For a trust framework to be successful, there must be much more than simply a technological underpinning.

For example, there must be agreement about the significance of the shared information and understanding that certain information applies to given contexts. As with the driver’s license example, there are agreements about what licenses can certify (identity and driving ability) and where they are applicable (between states, but not between countries, for example).

Technologies such as blockchain and credentialing platforms may be necessary for the vision of where higher education may go. Yet other pieces of the puzzle are equally important.

I hope that viewing a trust framework through the lens of its key components — and not in terms of technology — will help us identify and focus our attention on what is necessary to help students attain, store and share demonstrations of their skills over their lifetimes.

The Year Ahead in IT, 2013

Lev Gonick January 3, 2013

Those reading this column or any of its annual predecessors (in 2012, 20112010, or 2009) are invited to reflect that the historic challenges facing universities and colleges are less related to technological disruption or market evolution and more causally related to self-induced bruising, glacial cycles of adaptation, and torturous processes that pass for decision-making. Creative destruction, as I’ve written before, reflects the incessant dynamic and mutation of our network-enabled era of global and virtualized capitalism. Many within the academy, from our “risk adverse” faculty to our “rating agency-fearing administration and boards of trustees,” fear that creative destruction destroys more than it creates.


The irony of course is that while many in the academy live with a collective psychology of scarcity, ours is an era of abundance. History, until the mid-20th century, has largely been a series of narratives about the human condition in which everything from the metaphysical to the mundane has been constrained by a worldview informed by scarcity.  Most of the enduring institutional anchors defining our cities, our urbane lifestyles, and yes, our universities are themselves products of a bygone historic era premised on scarcity.  As the mutations of the network effect continue to erode the underlying economic structures of that earlier era of scarcity, the explosion of data and the dynamics of knowledge diffusion in the emergent era of abundance challenges all of the received wisdom of the 20th century and its attendant institutional character.

The adaptive capacity for higher education institutions to remain relevant deep into the 21st century is a topic of continuing debate, in books such as Ronald Barnett’s Being a University and Clay Christensen’s and Henry Eyring’s The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from Inside Out. As petrified and ossified as the academy may appear to some, the generative and fertile opportunities for discovery and knowledge development afforded to learners, young and old, continues to grow in exponential fashion.

The learning enterprise for students is changing, most likely forever. A long historical epoch of scarce knowledge and the pursuit of mastery of relevant domains is nearing its final dusk. Competency is less about comprehensive recall, a function that machines and search engines do pretty well. The French philosopher, theologian and technological skeptic Jacques Ellul, asked nearly 50 years ago what role educators will have with the rise of autonomous expert thinking machines.

The most remarkable predictions concerns the transformation of educational methods … Knowledge will be accumulated in “electronic banks” and transmitted directly to the human nervous system by mean of coded electronic messages. There will no longer be any need of reading or learning mountains of useless information; everything will be received and registered according to the needs of the moment. [The Technological Society, Vintage Books, NY, 1964: pg. 432]

Ellul challenges the likely consequence of this technological “imperative” and is skeptical that it is possible that “what is needed will pass directly from the machine to the brain without going through consciousness.”

The emerging learning enterprise is about designing and creating experiences that provide opportunities to discover and gain 21st-century competencies based on assembly, synthesis, perspective, critique, and interconnected systems thinking. It is precisely the role anticipated by Ellul to create opportunities for conscious self-reflection.

The mechanisms for certifying competency, along with the persistence of learning communities, in varying degrees of proximity to the received assumption of the centrality of the physical brick and mortar campus, represent the value, brand and opportunity of universities in the 21st century.  And while the university’s once near-monopoly on the credentialing of a certain set of valued and relevant skills in the post-war era is all but over, the emergent competitive landscape will lead to adaptation and creative destruction.

The year ahead will remain turbulent for universities and opportunistic for learners. The top 10 IT trends impacting the future of higher education in 2013 will enable more learning opportunities. The 10 trends outlined below will also afford those universities and colleges committed to reinvigoration an opportunity to leverage technology to advance university mission and the pursuit and re-dedication to relevance in the year ahead and well beyond.

1.  Open Learning Is Dead! Long Live Open Learning!

Much of the oxygen in the world of technology and higher education in 2013 will continue to be consumed by headlines around MOOCs.  This is a positive development.  The current instantiations of MOOCs are unlikely to have a long and enduring impact but they have catalyzed conversations on the future of higher education in the United States like little else since the GI Bill (The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944). Punctuated equilibrium is likely to set in some time this year and with it, hopefully, an opportunity to assess the pathways forward.

“Open education” once referred to repositories of nonproprietary, repurposable, and reusable learning materials and experiences. And yes, for most earlier iterations, open education also meant free. Over the past 12 months, open education has largely metamorphosized and been reduced to proprietary and closed educational content offered at no charge. MOOCs have been cast by headlines in newspapers, blogs, and in invitation-only venture capital meetings as a new arms race to give away the once-assumed crown jewels of universities in the form of free classes. The pioneers of the new open learning movement like Coursera, Udacity, and very likely a handful of new, well-funded entrants will continue to provoke angst among university boards of trustees and at the same time catalyze maturing and evolving models of instructional design, course creation, and the pursuit of high-quality online offerings to meet the evident demand in the global marketplace for elite-branded education.

Among market forces, expect to see both open universities around the world and a renaissance of old-fashioned open education offerings attempt to grab some of the reverberation of the overhyped MOOC world. Most of these open educational resources originate and will serve online learners, but over time student use of this content will blend both synchronous and asynchronous online use along with self-directed learning and a multiplicity of face-to-face learning environments. Today, millions of students are experimenting with first-generation open content. Within the next year or two, more than 50 million diverse open educational learners will find compelling motives to access the single largest, dynamic body of student-centered learning materials available.

The thirst for accessing globally available open online learning environments will evolve from a focus on efficiency to a broader and more diverse set of offerings informed by effectiveness.  As this transition occurs, new and quite possibly sustainable business models will emerge.  Like Hamlet’s famed response to Rosencrantz beseeching that Hamlet tell him where the body is and go with him to see the king. Hamlet says in response, “The body is with the king, but the king is not with the body. The king is a thing.” The same is likely the case with the arc of activities associated with open learning.  Open learning in the current overhyped environment is one kind of learning experience but it is not the same thing as a high-quality and sustainable form of learning and inquiry, even when it has elite branding.

2. It Takes a Village to Flip a Classroom

The dominance and near-monopoly of text-based learning is being sublimated by a hybrid of video and supplemental learning materials. The $5 billion textbook industry continues to overwhelmingly resist and impede the emergence of the rich media learning platforms of the future. Over the past century higher education has linked the textbook with a culturally constructed use of time in the form of a lecture as a convenient mode for information transmission. In today’s emergent rich media screen culture of video, games, hyperlinks, and simulation, inverting the traditional classroom time is both logical and inevitable.

Flipping the classroom sets expectations that learners take greater responsibility for their own learning by coming to “class” prepared in advance having viewed and assimilated assigned preproduced video materials. Scheduled class time now affords faculty an opportunity to adopt problem-based, challenge-based, or case-based teaching, enabling learners to become more actively involved in the learning process. And while the convenience of lecture and textbook model produces little evidence of learning that lasts nor transforms the learner, the emergence of high quality video-based learning materials affords even the most reluctant lecturer an opportunity to revisit their pedagogical goals.

In 2013 three models of flipping of the classroom will likely emerge. Following on the pioneering work of the Khan Academy, other solo efforts will continue to emerge across the curriculum. Some of these pioneering efforts will  prove to be sustainable. However, rare is the university or the faculty member prepared to make the investment of resources required to support such undertakings over time.

A second path forward could very well be the future of publishing with enlightened publishers leveraging their editorial and production core competencies.  Pilot projects among leading publishers suggest some interest in investing video-based content, together with highly integrated hooks, into textbooks in their catalogs. And while Chegg and Amazon Textbook rental models extend the half-life of the traditional book, the new frontier for publishers is to take a leadership position in the creation of 21st-century learning content.

At some point in the future, but not in 2013, textbook publishers will realize they are in the design, production, and distribution-of-education business. The Internet is the medium of dominant distribution and it is, overwhelmingly, a rich, media-centric medium. Public broadcasters might also play a role in the production and distribution of flipped learning content either collectively and/or in partnership with publishing groups or others. They too face the challenge of reconceptualization their collective future while at the same offering value to their current audiences.

A third path for flipped content will be from academic societies. There is a powerful motivation for academic professional associations with strong teaching centered traditions to seize the opportunity and provide an alternative model for the co-creation, and co-production and distribution, of high-quality learning materials. While some professional association might choose to partner with traditional publishing, it is also possible that in the next year we will see the first large-scale collaborations of academic society members creating their own offerings.  Math and Science teachers have collaborated to support and the International Society for Technology in Education has played an interesting convening role among different disciplinary traditions interested in inverting their learning models.

Between iTunes U, Google education channels, TED talks, PDF talks, institutional lecture capture content, and growing repositories of flipped content, experimentation in creating video search tools, like squrl, for academic content will make for growing value in the educational video environment.

3. The Always-On University

While we were focused on how to contend with laptops in the classroom a funny thing happened. Laptops and personal computers, which we’ve largely thought of as “new” technology for the past 25 years, became largely irrelevant. In the far rearview mirror, we can now recall with nostalgia the era when desktop computers and laptops were more pervasive than smart mobile devices and tablet computing.

No more. On a global basis and among many of our current students and certainly our future students the reality is that they live, work, and play in a world that few in the academy, including many academic technologists, recognize. Twice as many smartphones and tablets will have shipped in 2012 than desktops and notebooks put together. In 2013 the ratio may be as much three times as many. Over the next year more data will move from smartphones and tablets than computers and laptops in countries like India.  And this is just the beginning. Even in economies like the United States, saturated with legacy workplace arrangements and installed infrastructure, nearly a third of adults own an e-reader or tablet, up from 2 percent less than three years ago.

The form factor of choice is a smart phone and/or a smart pad/tablet.  But it’s not only the form factor. The user interface of choice is no longer keyboard, mice, and graphical user interfaces. Touch, voice, and gesture represent the new navigation and invitation to explore.  More than 2 billion Bluetooth devices and sensors are in circulation this year, and there are more than 1.5 billion Wi-Fi devices,  growing between two- and eightfold a year, year over year. And soon we will have wearable computing devices in everything from nanotechnology threads in our clothing to smart and connected wearable eyewear as part of our everyday life.  Our campuses are now always on and connected.  From infrastructure investments to service models, the always-on university is our new reality.

4. Learning Analytics Meet Learning Sciences

For nearly a decade, the Purdue University “Course Signals” project (and its immediate antecedents) led by John Campbell was a beacon to the higher education community of the value of designing a research program to leverage digital artifacts of student engagement and formative assessment to support student success.  A confluence of factors around student success, including demands for accountability, funding formulas based on successful completion, timely remediation and intervention, and the broader social value of a more educated population have converged and the result is a growing expectation of institutional responsiveness.

There has been an explosion of “big data” in research science, consumer behavior, and health care. Framing efforts by the Society for Learning Analytics Research (SOLAR), notable single institutional efforts like Austin Peay State University and multi-institutional data collection efforts led by WICHE’s Predictive Analytics Reporting framework are exemples of important early efforts. In 2013 new and promising initiatives will contribute to greater student success and a better understanding of the ways in which our models of learning experiences can be tested. The e-content and e-textbook program launched by Educause and Internet2 is among the important projects to watch in 2013. Well-designed e-content strategies allow for the possibility of understanding when, where, and for how long students engage on their own, with others and with learning materials.

A more robust learning science informed by both progress in brain research and well-designed learning analytics are prerequisites to the more alluring goal of a learning genome project and the pursuit of a meaningful personalized learning strategy for everyone. Personalized learning ventures like Knewton and startup ventures like Always Prepped and Ontract suggest that in 2013 the market grows more mature and ready for intelligent and savvy use of data for supporting student success.

5. Net+ and University Collaboration in a Cloud-Enabled Technology Era

If ever there was a Tower of Babel in the world of information technology, it would be around “the cloud.”  In its most generic sense, the cloud is any aggregated service offering that leverages the Net. As our university networks have become more reliable (but not infallible), robust (but not impervious to denial of service attacks), and resilient (but still subject to the wrath of Mother Nature), the network effect has led to unprecedented efficiencies, economies of scale, and new sources for substantial investment.

After a number of stalled efforts, the higher education community led by Internet2’s Shel Waggener has embraced the value of highly scalable services enabled over our regional and national research and education networks. Net+, as the service is known, offers two kinds of services. The first is the aggregation of demand from among members of the Internet2 community and collective engagement with various ‘cloud’ service providers. These include dozens of vendor offerings, all of them leveraging Internet2’s dedicated research and education network resources. For many vendors, partnering with Internet2 and leveraging the research and education network actually reduces the cost of delivering commercial services and savings are being passed on to universities participating in those offerings.

In 2013, a second set of offerings is likely to take center stage. These will be services aggregated and led by universities and consortiums of universities.  Building on important existing interuniversity identity management services, the new offerings will include cooperative telephony services, enhanced video collaboration services, data center services, and library and research services all leveraging collective action among Internet2’s university members to enhance the portfolio of services offered and increase the efficiency of the delivery of those services.

While debates at many universities will likely continue to be informed by the division of responsibility between central IT and in other parts of the university, in reality many of those legacy debates are growing increasingly obsolete.  The value of investing in next generation networks is less about access, speeds or raw throughput. As Net+ is demonstrating, the value of our investments is in the enabling and provisioning of service offerings above the campus network to advance the missions of our institution, including research, teaching, and service.

6. The End of ERP (as We Know It)

Some CIOs still wake up in the middle of the night with recurring nightmares, now 15-20 years old, associated with the implementation of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning).  Some presidents and boards can still point to continuing and extended payment schedules for the tens (and in some cases hundreds) of millions of dollars spent on implementations. Indeed, having resisted, avoided, or otherwise deferred the decision, there are some institutions that are still in decision mode on whether to implement ERP for their financial, HR, and student information systems.


ERPs are bloatware and remain more closely linked to a genus of troglodytes than to anything resembling a modern transaction and decision support system. Universities (and most every other large enterprise business) continue to invest precious resources in these large, complex, and highly profitable software environments.  A pioneering generation of university campuses has broken with the pack and has chosen to join other industry leaders in helping to shape and implement administrative systems as a service.

Software as a service hit the major leagues more than a decade ago with Salesforce has announced and of course this past year Workday went public with great fanfare.  Both of these are examples of administrative systems as a service. Modern interfaces (and underlying code) are immediately tantalizing to those who are exposed to them. No hardware, databases, or separate data warehouses on campus.  Full mobility offerings are supported from day one. With debt payments still fresh in the minds of many university CFOs, the year ahead will see important but not overwhelming numbers of new university customers joining these efforts.

There are two key service lines that could well accelerate the adoption of administrative systems as a service at universities.  Some will wait to see what, if, or when Oracle, SAP, and SCT will have meaningful software as a service offering.

In 2013 university leaders should continue to press and Workday to deepen their collective and common commitment to higher education by co-creating a working group in what might be called a student life cycle product. A platform strategy for leveraging administrative systems as a service, the student life cycle initiative can start as early as the prospect phase, but more likely would begin (for now) with the traditional registration services. Like many traditional student information systems there will need to be a core offering in course selection, academic advising, student records, and grades management. New offerings linked to assessment, forms of authentic evaluation, and embedded learning analytics would all represent value-added features.

The second missing service line would address the faculty life cycle. A faculty-centric initiative can build on the workflow of HR and finance systems. Such a project could likewise begin from the recruitment phase but would most certainly start with the onboarding of a new faculty member and include teaching, research, and service mission-related data elements. Faculty reports, web pages, personalized research grants, customized library resources, and a full suite of benefits-related services would be the foundation for such a project. Both Salesforce and Workday have flirted with such nontrivial undertakings. 2013 is the year for accelerating a go-to-market strategy. The market is ripe and ready.

7. Learning Spaces – The Final Frontier

I often use historic images to outline the continuity of experience of student learners from the 19th century through to the present. While most of these historic images show only male students, they are otherwise very reminiscent of faces and spaces we know, namely the lecture hall filled with students distracted, conversing with one another, “texting” (sending notes to each other), bored, and oftentimes not exactly riveted by the lecturer. Beyond inverting the class with preproduced video content, there is much to be done in re-imagining and re-inventing the physical learning environments.  And while creating a replicable, cost effective immersive adventure in the likeness of Universal Studio’s Harry Potter Forbidden Journey may be ambitious, the era of defining technology-enhanced classrooms as a PC and a projector is past..

The serious conversation about the redesign of learning spaces and the incorporation of technology is a decade old. The empirical evidence affirms that well-designed new learning environments can lead to more active learning that supports both engagement and reflection. These in turn lead to a view shared by students that they are learning more as well as to positive learning outcomes.  New opportunities exist for partnership between student learners, faculty instructors, and facilities and learning technologists to create a deployable mix of learning spaces that blend and afford flexible and repurposable furniture, technology, and tools to support a range of learning environments.

The transformations occasioned by scientific visualization and gesture-based screen technology have crossed over into our popular culture, from “Minority Report” and “Matrix Revisited” to dynamic weather maps and election night results. We also have multiple experiences associated with interactive immersive technology like Microsoft’s Kinect. Almost all of those common representations miss the key for scientists and their experience in using large scale visualization and gesture tools. This form of learning by doing is actually about a hybrid of science and play. Full-body interactive learning is now entering the world of visitor experiences in environments as diverse as museums to STEM education. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Next Generation Learning Challenges initiative has raised the visibility and efficacy of further exploration of these immersive, interactive, and responsive wall and room-sized environments for learning.

In 2013, look for the first number of these next-generation enhanced technology classrooms to be instantiated and available for replication and adaptation in partnership with a wide range of partners.

8. Extending the Boundaries of the University: Gig.U and US Ignite

In their e-book, The Politics of Abundance: How Technology Can Fix the Budget, Revive the American Dream, and Establish Obama’s Legacy (Odyssey Editions, November, 2012),  Blair Levin, the author of the National Broadband Plan and Executive Director of Gig.U, and former FCC chairman Reed Hunt make the case for creating what they call a national broadband advantage. The catalyst for creating a national broadband advantage is leveraging our nation’s universities and colleges. As the authors document, students, faculty, and staff — long the progenitors of much of the economic growth and productivity associated with technology — have unique opportunities to accelerate the deployment of next-generation networks in communities around the university campus.

In 2012 a number of city-university partnerships consummated relationships to build out gigabit fiber services to the communities around the country. Leading this effort are pioneers at UC2B, Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Lansing and Michigan State’s Gigabit Ready project, University of Chicago and its Chicago south side community and state partners, Seattle and the University of Washington, University of Florida and the Innovation Square project in Gainesville, University of Maine, and the Case Connection Zones in Cleveland at Case Western Reserve. In 2013 most of these initial pilot projects (and a number of others) will be lit, offering new services that will be shining lights of the art of the possible.

These city-university partnerships afford more than infrastructure services. Across the United States 25 cities have partnered with US Ignite to support the building of a next generation of applications that will leverage gigabit network infrastructure. Born in 2012, the coalition of the willing led by US Ignite is catalyzing network scientists, imagineers, hackers, app developers, video engineers, software programmers, switching engineers, and others to build rapid and working prototypes of a new generation of products and services. With support from NSF and a blue ribbon group of technology partners, US Ignite is at the center of next-generation application development.

In 2013, US Ignite will both invest and promote work across the country to support never-before-seen (or imagined) solutions to some of the nation’s most pressing challenges around health and wellness, STEM education, neighborhood and national security, advanced manufacturing, and energy (among other drivers).

Initiatives like Gig.U and US Ignite are important to creating opportunities for innovation and disruptive technologies that have long been produced in dorm rooms and research labs in our universities and colleges. Gig.U and US Ignite are also important to catalyze the United States and the economy for sustainable growth and new jobs. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a jobs and economic strategy into the 21st century that doesn’t depend on their success.

9. Open Data Models for Campus

Open access data repositories are growing among researchers in higher education. Major funding agencies like the NIH require (within 12 months) that peer-reviewed articles be made available through open access.  Unprecedented access to data from dozens of federal and state agencies has helped to usher in an era of greater openness, transparency, and growing accountability.  An integrated open data framework for universities has been relatively slow in coming.  Clarion calls like those issued in 2012 at the University of North Texas are important but do not go nearly far enough.

Open data needs to be a universitywide commitment. Facilities data are valuable not only for paying the electricity bill; they can be used by students and faculty researchers working on everything from smart buildings to local sustainability efforts. Data collected by librarians are important not only for knowing the number of patrons who use library facilities, butalso for understanding trends in the adoption and use of online and on-shelf resources across disciplines to interlibrary loan borrowing trends and local library portal search terms. Wireless access points data are important not only for network managers, butalso for everything from digital art to understanding patterns of work and study across the university. Institutional research data are not only important for reporting to funding agencies; they can also be used by students to understand their own institution.

In 2013 look forward to a number of leading institutions following the pioneering work at Aalto University in Finland in designing a comprehensive and integrated open data environment for their university.


10. IT as a Service and the Future of IT on Campus

Michiavelli noted in The Prince (1532) that “[t]here is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”  The rollback of public investment in, pressure for access to, and indeterminate impact of globalization on postsecondary education all contribute to significant disorientation in our thinking about the future of the university. Couple those externalities with the commodification of many technologies once thought to be core to the service catalog on our university campuses and the dilemma is at once clear and confounding.

As technology leaders in higher education assess how to align our organizations to these twin challenges, the time has come to consider discontinuous organizational change. Tinkering and tweaking with traditional organizational issues like the federated models for technology support across the university or whether or how to merge academic and administrative computing are inadequate and unlikely to help the institutions we serve with strategic value-add. Expensive external consulting groups can tell our executives what we already know. Our IT organizations (and many other parts of the university) are products of a legacy environment that has, to varying degrees, become calcified and nonresponsive to the needs of the university going forward.

Resistance to the secularization and commodification of IT as a service is futile. Collective and cooperative action in the form of shared service models is one pathway that is well-worn and will necessarily lead to the requirement to re-architect our information technology strategies. New skill sets like vendor relationship and service level management, portfolio and project management, and business analysts are the new IT jobs for the shared services economy of the future.

More fundamental re-examination of our organizations is in our immediate futures. Multiple IT organizations across the country are rethinking the inherited functional organization. The functional IT organization is layered following a traditional stack of services from underlying infrastructure like network engineering, servers and storage, data base and application services, academic and administrative technology subject matter experts, and customer support. Over time, the logic and reproduction of the functional organization has squeezed out innovation in favor of core operational services.  In many organizations 90 percent or more of the IT staff and financial resources are allocated to daily operations. Over time, the functional organization model will suffocate and strangle itself. Many IT professionals are as passionate about the academic and research missions of our institutions as our faculty. The functional organization model makes it increasingly more difficult for IT on campus to be a meaningful partner and contributor to the strategic future of the University if and as it gets painted into the corner of being an expensive infrastructure cost center.

The alternative models to the functionally organized IT organization are many. The challenge for IT leaders is to cede a modicum of control and embrace the need to experiment in new, more porous, organizational models that facilitate and support the co-production of innovative solutions that meet the needs of higher education moving forward. Becoming a solutions-focused and internal consulting organization is at the core of what I take to be the opportunity for IT in higher education.

Partnering with third parties wherever and whenever possible to support commodity services is vital to being able to redistribute internal resources to be able to lead the new change agenda. Recruiting a cadre of designers with multiple skills, including many with deep and hard-core technical skills, to engage directly with faculty, students, and staff colleagues is at the heart of the new service delivery model.  As every CIO knows, no organization will tolerate the pursuit of fanciful ideas, even if they are “good for the organization,” if the basic utility features of the IT service catalog are unresponsive and nonfunctional. The IT professionals responsible for operations must be the “A” team and at the same time fully aligned to the broader vision and mission of the new IT organization.

No matter what kind of higher education institution you are affiliated with, the year ahead is predictably full of trepidation and constraint. If the organization becomes paralyzed through the psychology of scarcity we will have failed in our mission as IT leaders. The abundant and transformational contribution that IT can make to the mission of higher education is less about resource availability and more about leadership vision and commitment.  Leadership in the year ahead is no longer like captaining an ocean liner but more like whitewater rafting that calls for flattened organizations that can change rapidly and with significant agility, embrace decentralized decision-making, and motivate employees, and inspire relationships.

Success is hardly a foregone conclusion. This is distinctly contested terrain.  Good luck on the rapids.


Lev S. Gonick is vice president for information technology services and chief information officer at Case Western Reserve University. He blogs about technology at Bytes From Lev.


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