I don’t remember what an IT organization was like “back in the day” and I don’t have a clue what an IT organization would due during times of smooth sailing — everyone uses the same software, same operating system, same devices etc. From the moment I set foot as a full-time employee in Wharton Computing there were talks of mobile support and then shortly after the tablet craze began to rear it’s shiny app-like face.
I do know that since I’ve been working here, I have read numerous articles about the changing landscape of the university and how universities should take steps to avoid becoming obsolete. I’ve read enough and heard enough to ascertain that our previous notion of school is changing and I’m not sure where that leaves long established universities who have always relied on their reputation, outstanding faculty, and research as a means of attracting students.
Not surprising, with the collision of rapidly changing technology and the changing definition of higher education … it seems that the definition and role of a higher education IT department has been in flux since I arrived in 2007. There have been many articles about “Reengineering IT in Higher Education” and even more articles outlining the strange, interesting, and exciting experiments that IT organizations are doing on their campuses.
There have been times where I felt that it is a difficult and uncertain time to be working in Higher Education IT, but more and more I’m thinking that now is one of the most exciting times to be working in such a sector. Because it’s changing so much, that has opened up an enormous opportunity for redefinition and experimentation. Now that are foundations are being shaken, perhaps it’s time to rethink the entire structure? I know that Higher Education as a whole is going through a similar transition and many schools are rethinking their curriculum.
I think now is the time to either get swept up and washed away in the changing tide … allowing culture to redefine us. Or we can take control and set our own definition of what an IT department should be now and in the future. That thought lead me to read up on the 2011 Campus Technology Innovators to stay up to date with what other universities are doing.
It also had me thinking about how we are always trying to accommodate as many devices, software, operating systems and calendaring options as possible. While I think that’s nice and very open-minded, I’ve often wondered why we don’t control our environment more so that we can optimize that specific much smaller controlled environment. It seems to me that the technical landscape is becoming so large that it’s almost a necessity for Higher Ed IT departments to pick, choose, and mandate certain devices and programs.
I can envision as a student instead of shelling out $500 for textbooks at the beginning of the year that I could shell out $500 for an iPad pre-populated with my course materials. Then the organization would have directions for how I can set up my email, calendar, contacts, and accessing the various university websites all from this one device (and maybe a list of recommended apps). I don’t think I would view it as them trying to control me … in fact, I think I would view it as a relief that they made the decision for me. There’s so many devices to choose from these days that I would rather put the choice into more capable technical hands.
Maybe I am just the type of person who prefers less choices … I’m not really sure? What did universities do back in the day to mandate the purchasing of textbooks? Should a university control it’s technical environment or completely give up control and try to support as many different options as possible as best as they can??
I’m not sure, but for some reason lately I keep leaning towards control. Any thoughts?