Technology and Casey Green on campus: Future Trends Forum #3, notes and full recording

On February 25th Casey Green and I met online for the third Future Trends Forum.  We explored campus technology and faculty attitudes towards digital materials.  Here is the full recording and my notes.

Click here to link to the full recording, or watch and listen to the embed below:

  1. We began by looking at the implications of the Campus Computing Project, which began wayyyy back in the pre-Web year of 1990. Casey noted some long-term persistent trends, such as campus IT seeing technology as an underutilized aid for instruction, and not feeling satisfied about institutional promotion of technology for faculty.  Let’s see if these continue over the next decade.

Another persistent trend is challenges caused by growing user numbers and activites, including both generating and demanding more data, online behavior abuses,  security threats, and challenges about accessibility.

Mitch Weisburgh entered the discussion around this point, to ask a powerful question: “Corporations use tech to bring efficiencies, reducing cost or increasing output. Can’t U’s use tech the same way?”  Casey’s response: we have more information and expanded access to educational materials, but no increase in faculty productivity and no decrease in costs.  So far.  He references the plight of adjuncts, including Doonesbury’s take.

Casey Green and audience member at Future Trends Forum

2. We shifted topics to address the implications of Casey’s recent (launched a couple of days earlier!) study, Going Digital, on faculty attitudes towards digital materials.

One present problem is that faculty see low quality digital and/or open education materials, and that the rise in quantity doesn’t necessarily lead to improved quality.  Moreover, publishers are providing digital content, which can be just *as* good, not necessarily better than independent or academic content, and that’s enough to win their adoption.

GOING DIGITAL Faculty Perspectives on Digital and OER Course MaterialsAnother problem less well discussed is the challenge of accessibility.  Casey broke this into two levels: economic accessibility, especially when users can’t afford hardware and/or connectivity, plus disability, especially visual.  (Green wrote about this in November; very worth reading)

When it comes to faculty attitudes towards digital materials, age is, fascinatingly, not an issue.

Community colleges are much more interested in OER than other sectors.  They are also especially interested, *and* concerned about, access.

I asked if the mobile world offers a partial way to address inequality of access, since we know poorer Americans, plus blacks and hispanics, tend to use mobile devices more often and for more purposes than wealthy and white people.  Casey thought that might be the case, as a partial response.  But academic is playing catch-up with consumer world.  For example,  currently two-thirds of community colleges have launched mobile apps, but CIOs largely don’t see the deployment as effective.  Another example: phones are much more important than tablets for less affluent students, but CIOs see them as equally significant.

Connectivity raises cost issues, too.  Possiblye the FCC will extend E-rate funding to poorer areas.

We then dove into the learning management system (LMS in the US; VLE in Europe).  Casey sees it not as a tool for learning, nor much of an administrative tool, but a content dissemination platform, “like a supermarket scanner” (cites Cat Finnegan’s research in the Virginia community college system).  The LMS market is mature, although the tools are immature.  Re: maturity, by 2004 there was widespread LMS deployment, but relatively shallow use (relatively few classes, few features and functions used; 80% of activity in 20% of application).  Now 65-75% of classes use the campus LMS.

What next for the LMS?  The next step is building in analytics. Analytics and ERP providers are starting to get into this.  Providers are growing more features, each company or project following or leapfrogging the others.

LMSes will remain central to campus technology in my time frame.  The question Casey asks is, how to get more value out of the LMS?  How to grow its functionality?  How to avoid suffering from “semantic remorse”?

3. We concluded with audience questions and discussion.

Q from Mitch Weisburgh: “Organizations like General Assembly seem to be putting universities to shame, using tech to accelerate learning.”  They are doing better than for-profits.

Casey answered by referring to what metaphors of change tell us about our attitudes.  He mentioned the way academia referred to land grant institutions, community colleges, and online learning as “barbarians at the gate”, although we now accept them (mostly).  In economics: as markets grow, they segment.  In biology, organisms become more specialized over time.  All of these metaphors describe what’s happening.  For example, MOOCs are still weak on completion and learning, but evolving.

Q from Bryan: What’s next for the Campus Computing Project and Going Digital research?

A: CCP continues to evolve, complementing the EDUCAUSE Core Data Survey.

And that was the end of a detail-packed hour.  Thank you to Casey, Shindig, and all participants.

Coming up next for Future Trends Forum: a special FTTE discussion, and notes and the recording from our session with Will Richardson.

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