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IT Governence & Planning

Last week I posted a few comments pointing to a frustrating phenomena I’ve seen with the acceptance (dare I say popularity?) of open source software: we’ve got too many new projects (over a million) in categories already inundated with viable options. Rather than joining an existing project, folks are creating their own. I used 230+ open source learning management systems (and apparently at least one open source “authoring tool“) to make my point.

However, the phenomena is not limited to learning management systems (or authoring tools) or, for that matter, even software, as the problem appears to have crossed over into other sectors capitalizing on “openness” (fauxpenness?) as a development and distribution (promotion?) method. The Open Educational Resources (OER) movement suffers as well from the “starters over joiners phenomena.” Thankfully, there is tremendous interest in both the use of OER broadly and, just as importantly, open source’s foundational practices that enable it–OER is all good and I am way for it. Massive Open Online Courses (OK, I’m not too “for it” with MOOCs–but that’s another post), Creative Commons licensed learning objects, open access journals, open courseware, etc., all harness the collaborative and community processes of co-creation first ascribed to open source software.

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I just updated my desktop from Ubuntu Lucid Lynx (10.04 LTS) to Precise Pangolin (12.04 LTS) and like always after any new version or functionality from Ubuntu (Linux), excited by the new features, I can’t help but leap up on my soap box (well, to be honest, my “high horse“) to bemoan the lack of awareness and adoption of Linux on the desktop–OK really to chastise and ridicule many in IT (especially decision-makers), but especially those working in and with open communities of practice who don’t eat their own dog food.

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At the 2010 Educause National Conference, two colleagues, David Staley and Ken Udas, and I presented “The University as an Agile Organization” (see presentation PDF here). Within the session, we supposed how the organization and operation of a college or university might be enabled–and benefit–through the principles behind the Agile Manifesto, especially in light of various trends in technology, teaching and learning, and management emerging within not only education, but institutions of higher education as well.

In the session, David Staley, offered…

a “university as a networked complex adaptive system is permeable (no formal admissions process); consists of voluntary and self-organizing associations of teachers and students; consists of a self-organizing and intellectually fluid curriculum; does not offer tenure to professors (longevity is determined by the community), who move fluidly between the “real world” and the university; is governed by protocols based on community values and mores rather than on administrative rules and fiats; does not grant diplomas (but does grant certificates); encourages play (and even failure); is governed by “intellectual barter” and makes all knowledge created therein free to anyone; has a fluid temporal structure: there are no “semesters”; teaching and learning are ongoing activities.

I think this just may be the best description I have heard, not for MOOCs specifically, but the environment that has created and allowed MOOC’s (and the various MOOC-like organizations that have benefited from their rise, e.g. Coursera, EdX, Udacity), to emerge, not only as a platform, but as an educational development and delivery model.

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For some time I have been advancing Agile methods, specifically within Higher Education’s Information Technology offices. Beginning in 2012 I began weekly queries of Higher Ed Jobs (www.higheredjobs.com) to identify IT specific jobs which include “Agile” or “Scrum” within their job descriptions. These are then compared to all IT specific jobs posted to the job search site. In order to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the IT industry’s adoption of Agile methods, I added Dice (www.dice.com) in the second week and Indeed (www.indeed.com) in the third.

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With the fiscal crisis facing campuses, many operational systems and services that previously may not have normally undergone much scrutiny during the budgeting process, are now being re-assessed: do these services still provide the value they once did or are they still required–and if not–can they be eliminated? Some of these discussions have become popular throughout higher education, resulting in ideas such as: eliminating or reducing land-line phone service in the residence halls as students with cellular phones increase; moving email off campus to third-party services like Google or Live@edu, or; closing academic computer labs in recognition of the growing number of  student-owned laptop computers. It is interesting to consider how the services offered in these three examples have shifted over the years from innovative to key-differentiator to industry-standard to indifference to wasteful.

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Recently EDUCAUSE released results of their annual “Top Ten IT Issues.” Looking at the 2007 results, it’s interesting to reflect back on the top ten issues from the first survey in 2000. Can you guess which of the following lists is from 2000 and which is from 2007…?

List “A”
1. Funding IT
2. Security
3. Administrative/ERP/Information Systems
4. Identity/Access Management
5. Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity
6. Faculty Development, Support, and Training
7. Infrastructure
8. Strategic Planning
9. Course/Learning Management Systems
10. Governance, Organization, and Leadership for IT

List “B”
1. IT Funding
2. Faculty Development, Support, and Training
3. Distance Education
4. E-Learning Environments
5. Enterprise Administrative Systems
6. IT Staffing and Human Resources
7. IT Strategic Planning
8. Online Student Services
9. Advanced Networking Challenges
10. Support Services Demands

Are any of these issues (on either list) also some of yours?

The number one issue, IT Funding, is still the leading issue seven years later. In fact, it seems that many of the issues that were present in 2000–although labeled differently or actually a subset of issues defined in 2007–persist. What is even more interesting is to look at the advise EDUCAUSE provided in 2000 and that offered most recently, it looks remarkably similar, just like the lists.

What have we been doing for seven years?

By the way list “A” is from 2007.

Earlier this month an email sent out to the Educause CIO Listserv sparked a brief, but heated, discussion among academic CIO’s from across the country. The post that started it all stated:

Walter S. Mossberg, personal-technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal, spoke Monday to more than 250 college presidents and other administrators attending the Chronicle Presidents Forum. “…he began his speech by calling the information-technology departments of large organizations, including colleges, ‘the most regressive and poisonous force in technology today.’” They make decisions based on keeping technology centralized,” he said. “Although lesser-known software may be better,” he said, “technology departments are likely to use big-name products for their own convenience. That may keep costs down for an organization,” he said. “but it puts consistency above customization, preventing individuals from exploring what technology products are best suited to their own needs.”

Obviously no one liked the comments (including me), and we all (I would assume) liked even less the presumption of responsibility for running such “regressive and poisonous” departments. But after the sting from the slap to my face subsided, I reflected, just how far off was he, if at all? After some thought, I realized, a few months ago, before stepping into the role of a CIO, I might have been Mr. Mossberg’s strongest supporter… Read More

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