September/  October 1998

Copyright 1998 EDUCAUSE. From Educom Review, Volume 33, Number 5, 1998, p. 42-47. 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 EDUCAUSE copyright and its date appear, and notice is given that copying is by permission of EDUCAUSE. To disseminate otherwise, or to republish, requires written permission. For further information, contact Jim Roche at EDUCAUSE, 4840 Pearl East Circle, Suite 302E, Boulder, CO 80301 USA; 303-939-0308; e-mail: jroche@educause.edu





Educom: A Retrospective

by Robert C. Heterick, Jr.


I once encountered a bit of graffiti that opined, "Time is nature's way of making sure everything doesn't happen at once."

Certainly for an organization, its contribution to society can be understood only in the fullness of time and in the character of the many people who provided its leadership. If, as Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, "An institution is the lengthened shadow of an individual," then over time an organization becomes the compounded lengthening of many individual shadows.

 


R E T R O S P E C T I V E

1964
Five-year grant of $750,000 offered by W. K. Kellogg Foundation for new administrative operations.

1966
First issue of Educom Bulletin. First EDUCOM conference held at Duke University; attendance 150. Edison Montgomery, University of Pittsburgh vice-chancellor, elected president of Educom.

1967
Headquarters moved to Boston. Educom "resolution on Copyright" published with intention to clarify status of computer programs with regard to Copyright Revision Bill in U.S. Congress.

1968
Jordan Baruch succeeds Edison Montgomery as president.

1969
W. K. Kellogg Foundation renews support for Educom with five-year $600,000 grant.

1970
Jordan Baruch resigns presidency and is replaced by acting president Joseph Becker. Henry Chauncey named president.

1971
Educom launches Consulting Service and Library Catalog Card Service with OCLC.

1972
NSF awards $113,600 for three networking seminars.

1973
John and Mary Markle Foundation awards grant to study cable TV in education; Exxon Education Foundation grants $66,000 to study state agencies and centralized computing services for colleges and universities.

1975
Planning Council on Computing in Education and Research is created by group of 18 universities. Joe B. Wyatt elected president of Educom on resignation of Henry Chauncey.

1976
James C. Emery elected Educom president.

1977
Discount Purchase Program announced for Educom members.

1978
Educom Financial Planning Model (EFPM) completed. National Science Foundation awards Educom $360,000 for study of computer-based sharing in teaching and research.

1979
Educom receives $102,000 from Lilly Foundation to continue research and evaluation of EFPM.

1980
John W. McCredie appointed president of Educom. Lilly Foundation awards $213,000 grant for continued development of EFPM.

1982
Educom receives $282,000 grant from Carnegie Foundation for networking.

1983
First issue of Educom Networking Newsletter mailed.

1984
IBM donates $1 million plus equipment for startup of BITNET information center.

1985
Ernest J. Anastasio named 7th president of Educom.

1986
Ernest Anastasio resigns as president; Mike Roberts named acting president of Educom.

1987
Kenneth M. King named 8th president of Educom. Networking and Telecommunications Task Force (NTTF) formed with five initial members.

1988
First National NET conference held in Washington, D.C. NTTF has 40 members.

1989
Educom Review replaces Educom Bulletin.

1990
Four volumes of the Strategies Series published. Coalition for Networked Information founded.

1991
Higher Education Information Resources Alliance (HEIRA) created.

1992
First issue of Edupage released to a circulation of less than 100. Internet Society founded with Educom as charter member.

1993
Robert C. Heterick, Jr., named 9th president of Educom. Outline of National Learning Infrastructure Initiative (NLII) begun. 1994 Educom Fellows program initiated. NLII announced with 46 members.

1995
First Educom Medals awarded.

1996
Work begun on Instructional Management System (IMS).

1997
Internet2 project spun off from Educom as part of new University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development.


 
 

Thirty-four years ago, a group of medical school deans and vice presidents from Duke, Harvard, SUNY, the universities of California, Illinois, Michigan, Pittsburgh and Virginia met in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to found an organization dedicated to the idea that digital computers offered an incredible opportunity for sharing among institutions of higher education. The organization they founded was the Interuniversity Communications Council, Inc., better known by its trade name--Educom. Those must have been halcyon days for visionaries, as the Online Computer Library Center, Inc. was formed just three years later and CAUSE, Inc.--originally devoted to administrative computing issues--another four years after that. All three were created in response to a dimly perceived, but fervently believed, future made possible by the digital computer.

Among that intrepid group of founders was James Grier Miller, who in the October 1966 issue of Science magazine had this rationale for the founding of Educom: "The dilemma of the information explosion affects all aspects of higher education, the primary function of which may be viewed as information processing broadly conceived--including the creation of new information (research), transmission of information (teaching), learning of information by students, and storage and retrieval of information in libraries. Administration and management of universities also involve many sorts of information processing.

"Each of them, however, needs to be evaluated carefully for effectiveness and costs in human time and money in comparison with more traditional methods. Emphasis must remain on the human goals of educational institutions, rather than on gadgets. It is both to evaluation of this kind and to technological progress in communications that the new Interuniversity Communications Council (Educom) is dedicated."

Miller later served as president of the University of Louisville, and in 1981 he became founding chairman of the board of the University of the World, an organization working to connect institutions worldwide with narrow-band computer and broadband video networks.

In its early years, Educom lived the usual vagabond existence of most small associations, moving its office with its presidents until the presidential term of Henry Chauncey, distinguished former president of Educational Testing Service (ETS), who established a more permanent residence for Educom in Princeton, New Jersey. Educom remained in Princeton until 1988, when, under the presidency of Ken King, it began its move to Washington, D.C.

Educom might well be viewed as having two lifetimes--the first commencing in the mainframe era with the introduction of time-shared systems, and the second somewhere around 1984, with widespread educational adoption of the personal computer. Throughout both eras the focus in Educom has been on sharing--sharing resources, sharing ideas, sharing a vision.

In 1966 the first edition of the Educom Bulletin was published and the first EDUCOM conference was held at Duke University. Attendance was 150. Planning for a resource-sharing network--called EDUNET--began with $150,000 in grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Library of Medicine, the U.S. Office of Education, and the U.S. Public Health Service. Educom dependence on external grant funding was now firmly established.

In 1970 Educom found itself at its first real turning point. President Jordan Baruch resigned in February, and Joseph Becker was named acting president. Martin Greenberger, who had served as board chair since 1968, was asked to head up a search for a successor. Chauncey, who was retiring as president of ETS, was regarded by Greenberger as a vital and energetic person with strong leadership abilities and excellent experience. Chauncey had served on the Educom board for several years and upon being approached by Greenberger for the role of president, indicated he would be interested in the position. Chauncey was named president in July.

In a letter to Chauncey dated March 6, 1994, Greenberger captured the significance of Chauncey's tenure. "From my perspective, you are the reason Educom survived and was able to turn the corner. You brought a dignity, humor, and unflappability to the job that was very much needed. I don't think there would be an Educom today without its having had a Henry Chauncey as president in that critical period."

In the mid-1970s, Educom created EDUNET in an attempt to realize the vision of its founders. This impressive effort by Chauncey and Greenberger on Educom's behalf occurred at a time when the net worth of the organization was negative and dues were $250 per year. A small number of research universities contributed $10,000 a year to explore the viability of national computing resource sharing. Out of that work the Educom Financial Planning Model emerged. The model was developed by Bill Massy at Stanford University, made available through Educom, and used by about 50 institutions until 1987. The effort to share central computers over low-speed, expensive dial-up networks was a mixed success.

During the first era, one might describe Educom conferences as intimate--fewer than 200 attendees. Even during the early 1980s, conference attendance was only 300 to 400 hardy souls. The Educom Review had its start publishing reports from council meetings and conference proceedings. At that time, its circulation was in the mere hundreds. Educom lived a somewhat hand-to-mouth existence. The cash and cash-equivalent balance of Educom on June 30, 1984, was $7,733, with a fund balance of $71,704. The organization's actual net worth by modern accounting standards was undoubtedly significantly lower. Educom had lived--and would continue to live until the 1990s--a tenuous existence, dependent on the ability of the president to secure grant funding for programs.

Throughout nearly the entirety of its life, Educom has been viewed by its members as a frontier-probing rather than evangelical organization--a point of view ratified by its board as recently as 1994. Whereas members have viewed Educom as a small, flexible, dynamic organization, others have seen its approach as elitist. However, with only one minor lapse in the early 1980s, Educom trustees steadfastly maintained this course.

In 1983 Educom convinced IBM to provide a grant for creation of the BITNET (Because It's Time NETwork) Information Center. For nearly a decade, BITNET provided the major source of e-mail connectivity for most of higher education, both in the United States and abroad. At about the same time, the Educom Strategies Series monographs were launched with publication of Campus Computing Strategies, edited by then-president Jack McCredie. Coupled with the growth of campus networking and personal computing, Educom was launched into a period of explosive growth.

It was about that time that computer vendors rediscovered higher education as a major market and a technology-innovation engine. In the earlier mainframe and minicomputer period, computer vendors had used higher education as a source of innovative ideas and to gain market acceptance. With widespread adoption of the personal computer, technology strayed away from a small priesthood of experts and toward the broader populace of everyday professionals. The Educom Corporate Associates Program (CAP) was started in 1984 with a rudimentary vendor exhibit at the conference that year in Boston and CAP membership rapidly grew to100. Educom's membership doubled to 600, and under the guidance of Director of Conferences Sue Ellen Anderson, conference attendance rose quickly to 3,000. By 1989, vendors were spending millions at the EDUCOM annual conference to showcase their products.

The Educom Software Initiative began in 1985 with a three-year, $500,000 grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts. First under the leadership of Frank Connolly and then Educom Vice President Steve Gilbert, the concept was expanded and the name changed in 1987 to Educational Uses of Information Technology (EUIT). Among the major achievements of the EUIT program were the Educom Code, which addressed the use of intellectual property in electronic formats; the Higher Education Software Awards program; Equal Access to Software for Instruction, which addressed the needs of those with disabilities; and a series of materials dealing with dilemmas in the ethical uses of information.

The Networking and Telecommunications Task Force (NTTF) was originally conceived in 1984 as a response to the rapid evolution of computer networks on Educom member campuses. By 1986, 25 institutions had joined the task force at an annual fee of $5,000 each. That year Mike Roberts--the first president of CAUSE--took a leave of absence from Stanford University and accepted a one-year appointment as vice president for networking and director of the task force. The resignation of Ernest Anastasio as Educom president immediately thrust Roberts into the role of acting president as well. The next year Ken King, formerly vice president at Cornell University, was elected president and Roberts decided to join Educom full-time.

Rapidly growing federal interest in networking and high-performance computing--areas of great importance to Educom's members--resulted in a decision in 1988 by the Educom trustees to relocate the organization's offices to Washington. That same year discussions were undertaken with CAUSE about the potential for a merger. The Educom and CAUSE boards both recommended a merger to their memberships and the Educom membership ratified that proposal at its 1988 annual meeting. The CAUSE membership was fairly evenly divided over the issue, and the CAUSE board decided to terminate the discussion. Out of that failed effort arose a relationship between the two organizations that would serve to both differentiate their programs and create new opportunities for working together.

The first major step in this direction was creation of the Higher Education Information Resources Alliance (HEIRA). When Educom joined with CAUSE and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) to found the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), HEIRA was expanded to include ARL. Under the direction of Paul Evan Peters, the CNI broke new ground in the migration of scholarly information to the Internet.

In the early 1990s, Educom had a brief flirtation with the K-12 community when it accepted a grant from IBM to encourage networking in schools. Educom quickly realized its strength lay in higher education, and the program was discontinued. Out of it, however, came the Consortium of School Networks, which remains active in the K-12 arena.

Beginning with King's term as president, Educom moved aggressively to put its financial house in order. In 1993, during the presidency of Bob Heterick, formerly vice president at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Educom took a series of aggressive steps to reduce its overhead costs and dependence on external grants and contracts. The Educom trustees led the membership to agree to a restructuring of the dues schedule, and by 1998 the organization was operating with a $5-million reserve.

A redesign of Educom Review by Wendy Rickard allowed the magazine to gravitate from publishing only conference proceedings to becoming a successful quarterly publication, which then transitioned to a bimonthly publication in 1992. In 1993, the editorship of the magazine was assumed by John Gehl, and by 1997 the magazine had reached a circulation of 18,000. In 1992 Gehl, along with Suzanne Douglas, began publishing the popular Edupage, a three-times-a-week electronically distributed summary of technology news, now translated into eight languages, and reaching an estimated audience of several hundred thousand readers.

As federal interest in first the NSFnet--and then the Internet--began to grow, the voice of Educom through the NTTF became more prominent in debates regarding national telecommunications policy. Beginning with congressional testimony in 1987 that encouraged the U.S. government to add education to its thinking about a national research network, NTTF increasingly assumed the role of facilitator between government, corporations and higher education. In addition to the annual National Net meetings held in Washington, a series of conferences in Monterey, California, helped solidify support for the Internet and laid the foundation for the next generation of the Internet through the Internet2 project.

The Internet2 project was so successful that it was spun off from Educom in 1997 as the not-for-profit University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development. Doug Van Houweling, who had served as chair of the NTTF Advisory Board, left his position at the University of Michigan to serve as its first president.

In 1993 Heterick, Bill Graves, who was on leave from the University of North Carolina as a visiting Educom fellow, and Carol A. Twigg, who joined Educom as vice president, began a series of discussions that developed into the outline for the National Learning Infrastructure Initiative (NLII). As with the maturity of the NTTF, Educom moved beyond a focus on technology and on to policy issues in higher education that required rethinking in light of the ubiquity of personal computers and the expansion of broadband networking. Under Twigg's guidance, the NLII became both a lightning rod and a springboard for discussion about the transformation of teaching and learning.

In concert with publishers, technology companies, and several university groups, the NLII began work on the Instructional Management System (IMS) to provide the fabric that would tie together efforts to make high-quality instructional materials available on the Internet. Under the leadership of Mark Resmer of Sonoma State University and Steve Griffith of the University of North Carolina, the IMS project operated as an entrepreneurial effort to define a set of specifications for computer-mediated learning materials. In addition to a $600,000 grant, the project quickly acquired two dozen corporate and institutional partners, which sustained the effort at $50,000 each per year.

The Software Awards program had become increasingly insular, and in 1994 it metamorphosed into the Educom Medal Awards program. Disciplinary societies were invited to join with Educom by selecting one of their own members for national recognition of the individual's efforts to use information technology for enhancement of the undergraduate learning experience. Educom began awarding four to six medals a year with major presentations at Educom's annual conference and the annual meeting of the disciplinary societies.

In the spring of 1997, CAUSE approached Educom with the idea of renewing merger discussions because in spite of the effort to differentiate programs, the inexorable integration of campus technology efforts made a merger both logical and desirable. Information technology was viewed holistically by member campuses, and the value of a single organization representing campus technology interests was inevitable. Through the summer and fall of that year, a joint committee of the two organizations developed a plan for consolidation of the organizations into EDUCAUSE, and the plan was ratified by both memberships at their annual meetings.

As the united community of higher education information technologists prepares for the 21st century, EDUCAUSE is well positioned to continue and expand the leadership that Educom has provided for the past three decades.

Theodore Roosevelt, the soft walker with the big stick, once observed, "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

That seems a fitting epitaph for Educom and an appropriate challenge for EDUCAUSE as it approaches the next millennium.



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