Thursday, November 1, 2012

What happened to October?

Welcome to November.  

After a month hiatus where I have been doing only the necessary, I am kicking into high gear again.

What happened this last month:

Attended CHECO conference. 
Many Colorado schools are having similar issues and it was nice to hear discussion.

  • BYOD - Bring your own device

    This fall, tablets and smart phones have showed up in force in addition to the laptops.  With more students sporting more devices, and increasingly, always trying to stay connected to the network, issues are bound to happen. 

    Several campuses had issues, specifically with network outages.  The ones that did not had a sandbox with authentication enforced before even issuing an IP address, and relatively short time-outs so that IPs could be released to new devices.

    Some campuses do a best-effort on all devices brought either by students or faculty/staff or both.  Some refuse to service the devices at all.  Many deans and presidents are carrying ipads so the need to support them is there, but these devices don't necessarily play well with the existing network and security infrastructure.  Concerns about privacy limit some use, and some universities refuse to setup email access on these devices while others allow access through a secure portal (using http/ssl).  Since Java is not available on most devices, existing solutions by Cisco and Juniper are not available.  New technologies are coming out, but until they can tie to the security policies and central management, IT staff is reluctantly supporting these, again as a best-effort.

    Personally, I support iPads and Android tablets in a limited capacity.  I use the 'education is the best policy' approach and make sure the users are aware when data is going over the network and the circumstances under which the data on their device is not secure.  We talk about email and remote desktop connections.  Ultimately, it's an issue of portability.  This is a painful transition period to cloud accessible data within a secure context - it WILL arrive, but just like phone security, it's an area that has much development needed before it's "safe".

  • Many IT positions open
    Each college reported at least one IT position they are currently or are soon advertising as open.

    Recently, there has been a shortage of talented help.  There are less people in the pool of applicants and the overall quality of applicants seems to be lower than a few years ago.  Some colleges have reported failed searches.

    This could be a result of the hiring freeze and budget cutbacks that have been in effect the last four years.  Well, educational institutions are financially stable and hiring again, but in general, we cannot compete with the salaries offered in the private sector.  The large number of jobs available allows individuals familiar with Higher Education IT to really have their pick of schools!

    Computer Science major numbers are still going up at CSU, but are a smaller proportion of the student body, which means the program is not growing as fast as other programs.  At the same time, for the last few years, the students who have worked as programmers or help desk have often had to look a little harder for work, but it's looking like that is changing.
  • The future of learning systems
    CSU has been trying an electronic textbook system.  Texts are purchased for each student (win for the publisher - fewer students have been purchasing texts) at a much lower cost (win for students).  It's been limited to a few classes, and the Americans with Disabilities Act watchdogs are crying foul and sending cease and desist to the providing publisher because the electronic texts don't conform to printed text rules of accessibility.

    My personal reactions and thoughts:

    That is strange - if it's digital, screen readers should be able to overcome the differences, and even print-on-demand Braille editions are significantly cheaper because you don't need to digitize the book first!

    Also, the trend of Math and Science courses to have equivalent sections available online for free (MIT and other universities) is providing a push for more digital recording and playback tools in those classes.  It may be that one day the lectures are licensed like the texts, maybe even viewed outside of class, and professors handle the class in more of a discussion or recitation format, which would turn the standard resident instruction format on it's head.

    Already, resources like the Khan Academy are quite popular among students who are not learning well in standard classrooms.
  • Those were my big take-aways.  Lots of smaller items were discussed as well!

Other things I did

  • Added retention and graduation reports to the Outreach Tracking system
  • Presented twice, once on Assessment for Advising and once on the Advising Tools available at CSU
  • Installed Windows 8.  It's been pretty good thus far
  • Enabled java plugins on about 20 machines - Java is required to run Oracle forms, and so it's annoying when it is automatically disabled for security reasons because a proper patch doesn't exist that keeps Java compatible with the systems!  Really, I blame Oracle.  But since Oracle owns Java, there is no excuse.
  • Attended Mile-Hi Con.  Great seeing Carol Berg and so many of my other favorite authors.
  • Went trick or treating with the kids.  

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