A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about the decision points when deciding to partner and when it was right to roll your own solution. At the time I was referring to iTunes U ... since then I have been thinking a lot about the growing set of opportunities being provided to higher education from unusal (or usual) sources. Along with these opportunities are a growing set of tensions that we may need to deal with ... tension between the need for us to do things the way we've always done them and the desire to become agile in the delivery of opportunities to our audeinces.
Let's take a look at a couple of the more recent happenings and start to think about what we do to play in this space. How do we integrate the best of the new web models into the higher education enterprise of a big Unvieristy? That is a question I am baiting all of you into thinking about and discussing. So what are we talking about:
iTunes U: This is such an interesting and dynamic opportunity that so many of us want to be a part of it, but are trying to find a place for it at our Institutions. I know it has the potntial to play well in our environment -- let me say that at the moment it only touches a small percetage of our audiences, but it has this feeling that the potential is unlimited. I have honestly never been a part of anything that has grown so quickly and captued the imagintation of faculty as quickly as podcasting. iTunes U gives us (and all sorts of Universities) an opportunity to focus on the right things -- the pedogogical aspects of the technology without having to build yet another service.
Google Video: This one stunned me the other day -- Berkeley releasing a whole host of courses via Google Video. The fact that they are opening the doors to their classrooms is amazing in and of itself, but the fact that Google is hosting it all is interesting to say the least. Just like iTunes U, this approach gives a University the ability to think more critically about the educational value and approaches behind doing something like this instead if building streaming solutions, video services, and huge repositories. Berkeley, by the way, are doing so many things to open their doors to the world it is just stunning to watch. I am impressed.
Gmail for the University: One of the biggest challenges for large Universities is the need to provide and manage email for faculty, staff, and students. Here at PSU, email is called the "Mother of all Applications." WebMail in particular is used at such an amazing level that you litterally walk away speechless when you see the numbers. We spend a lot of time trying to make this the cleanest experiecne on campus. It is important. It takes a ton of time and a lot of energy. Not too long ago Google decided that Gmail may be a better option to manage a University's mail service. Jeez ... that is big time.
This little list doesn't include the LMS, CMS, or ERP space ... I am amazed at how we allow vendors into the enterprise in so many ways, but frown on them in so many others. I am interested in how we as institutions can influence the appropriate design and development of these opportunities ... How do we help them make the right moves for our reasons while helping them protect their own interests? How do we learn to trust companies' motives -- especially with "free" services ... paying for stuff usually makes me feel better. I am really interested in how other Universities are managing the growing tension related to understanding how to integrate these services appropriately. How do we do it? Should we be doing it? Can we do without it? Can we live with the perceived and real handcuffs associated with doing it? We are living in very interesting times.