CAUSE/EFFECT

Copyright 1998 CAUSE. From CAUSE/EFFECT Volume 20, Number 4, Winter 1997-98, pp. 4-7, 62-63. Permission to copy or disseminate all or part of this material is granted provided that the copies are not made or distributed for commercial advantage, the CAUSE copyright and its date appear, and notice is given that copying is by permission of CAUSE, the association for managing and using information resources in higher education. To disseminate otherwise, or to republish, requires written permission. For further information, contact Jim Roche at CAUSE, 4840 Pearl East Circle, Suite 302E, Boulder, CO 80301 USA; 303-939-0308; e-mail: [email protected]


Current Issues for Higher Education Information Resources Management

The CAUSE Current Issues Committee is responsible for proposing a list of current or developing issues and trends that are important to the future of information resources management and use in higher education. The following topics have been identified by the committee as key emerging or ongoing issues. We encourage articles for CAUSE/EFFECT on these and related topics.

Retaining, Retraining, and Recruiting Information Technology Staff

Our colleges and universities depend on effective use of information technology for instruction, research, and administration. With high demand for technology professionals, it is critical that we continue to recruit, retain, and retrain competent staff. Recruiting challenges include reduced numbers of graduates in computer-related fields, lack of competitive salaries in the higher education environment, and increasing market demand for information technology skills. The continuing explosion of technological change also forces existing staff to continually upgrade their technical skills. As the demand for information technology professionals continues to exceed the supply, our institutions will face even greater staffing challenges. Key issues we will need to discuss, if not resolve, in the next few years include these:

Identification, Authentication, and Authorization: Policy and Technical Issues

College and university initiatives in enhanced networking connectivity and in advanced applications development are the basis for building new knowledge communities of researchers, faculty, and students. Application areas include digital libraries, distance-independent instruction and collaboration, access to remote scientific instruments, remote medical diagnosis, and others. For reasons of security, licensing, etc., people and resources will need unique identities that are properly authenticated and authorized for access. Since application users will connect with people and resources at both local and remote campuses, both campuswide infrastructures and inter-campus communication mechanisms will be necessary. Policy challenges include establishing where access control is determined in the environment (e.g., in the case of digital publications, by publishers or by the university). Technology challenges include identifying and deploying the appropriate solutions (e.g, private key and/or public key). Other issues include:

Growing Complexity and Cost of Enterprise Systems

For many institutions the approach of the Year 2000 has provided the impetus needed to replace legacy enterprise software systems with new, client/server-based, Year-2000 compliant systems. For this reason, growth has been phenomenal among the manufacturers and consulting firms that provide higher education with systems for human resources, financial records, and student information. Each of them has an unprecedented number of implementation projects under way at colleges and universities worldwide. This means that a bonanza of data is available on the cost, both predictable and hidden, of new system implementations. We can all benefit from open discussion of the many questions that are arising:

Student Expectations for Technology Support and Services

Increasingly, new students come to our campuses prepared with a broad range of computing skills and viewing computing as a tool fundamental to their education. Many students consider on-campus and remote access to common computing resources such as e-mail, Internet, and popular software packages as a free commodity. Students have also begun to expect colleges and universities to provide more online services similar to those offered by other industries (such as banking and retail). Furthermore, the use of network and distance learning technologies are helping higher education create an anytime, anywhere, interactive, and collaborative learning environment. While these new technologies hold promises, we urgently need new planning and service models and funding strategies to support student expectations in these areas. Key issues we need to address in meeting these challenges include:

Distributed Learning and Distance Education Challenges

More higher education institutions are getting serious about reaching out beyond their walls and providing distributed learning or distance education opportunities. Traditional models of teaching -- classroom-bound, faculty-centered, degree-focused, �brick-and-mortar� expansions -- are losing ground as the sole option for educating the 21st century student. There are many factors fueling this redefinition of education as distributed learning. These include business demand for reskilling employees, growth of the non-traditional student market, remote interactive technologies, and new brokering arrangements such as the Western Governors University. Gartner Group estimates that by the year 2000, more than 75 percent of traditional colleges and universities will use distributed learning technologies in one or more traditional academic programs. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Education indicate that Americans twenty-five or older will account for five of every eleven college students. DOE numbers suggest that the number of students thirty-five or older will exceed those who are eighteen and nineteen. Gartner also claims that by 1999, an increasing number of general education and core requirements will be delivered to undergraduates via distance technologies. As information technology professionals, we will need to be a part of the discussions undertaken on our campuses to discuss, if not resolve, a number of issues in the immediate future:

Intellectual Property Issues in a Networked Environment

The digital revolution is dramatically changing the ways we create, store, and distribute information and has precipitated a re-examination of law and policies governing intellectual property. As both creators and consumers of information, institutions of higher education need to provide leadership in addressing the questions that concern intellectual property policy in the digital age. Can the current balance between proprietary rights and exceptions for educational and scholarly purposes be preserved in the digital environment? As beneficiaries of the free flow of information, universities and colleges need to be active advocates for keeping at least some types of instructional and scholarly information affordably accessible. Issues include:

Managing Expectations in the Face of Rising Demand and Declining Budgets

Most information technology organizations continue to be challenged by the rising support costs associated with the distributed computing environment. Early in the personal computer lifetime most information technology offices tried to encourage early adopters to use technology solutions in the classroom and administrative offices. In doing so we tended to give away the resource or at least didnt charge a fee for services. The ubiquity of campus networks has changed the landscape radically. Computers are now being connected to campus networks at ever increasing rates. Most campus environments now include networks in residence halls which, for some, doubled the number of computers connected to the campus network. Customers expect central support units to support extremely complex desktop environments, based on the traditional free paradigm. Exacerbating this situation are:

Strategies for dealing with these increasing expectations and declining budgets might include:

Continuing Challenge of Information Technology Support

We have begun to recognize how the complexity of networked environments affects our distributed support models, making it more difficult and costly to isolate problems and fix them. This has exacerbated the ongoing challenge of IT staffs coping with increasing demands for customer support services, typically with limited resources. Although the scope of IT support may vary by size of institution, the basic challenges and issues are quite similar:

Information Access Challenges on the Networked Campus

The networked campus offers the opportunity for distributing information, applications, or access across organizational barriers as well as across institutional cultures. In this distributed environment, the IT organization is finding it necessary to re-examine its core values and address a number of issues related to information access.

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