I had the privilege today of attending day one of the 6th annual JISC CETIS conference “A Brave New World?” , held at the The Lakeside, Conference Aston, Birmingham. The conference is billed as an opportunity reflect on the successes and challenges of the previous year, to look into the future, to speculate, and to consider the interventions needed to realise the information systems for teaching and learning into the future.
For me it was an opportunity to link again with several people I’ve come to know over the years through my work in the area of ICT in education, standards, interoperability etc. It was particularly good to be there for the farewell to Oleg Liber, professor of eLearning at Bolton University and the outgoing director of CETIS. I’ve met Oleg on a number of occasions in the past and have a great regard for his work, particularly in the area of educational cybernetics and his visioning the future of online learning environments.
Opening keynote was Chris Cobb, pro vice chancellor, Roehampton University. His talk was titled: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change…” Chris noted that this quote has previously been attributed to Charles Darwin, but was actually said by Clarence Darrow, an early 20th Century Lawyer working out of New York! Chris used a variety of Darrow’s other quotes through his talk.
Chris’s address was a stimulating vision of the future from the perspective of a University administrator with an IT background. His main thrust was about how a SOA (Services Oriented Architecture) is going to unlock a lot of the systems we have in our world today. Chris believes believes there’ll be a move away from ERP systems – huge, monolithic products etc. and move towards a suite of interoperable services. He provided a range of examples of the use of Software as a Service (SaaS) being used to illustrate the benefits of this approach over the current ‘enterprise architecture’ approach and the bloated, monolithic systems that inhabit it. This future will see lots of smaller suppliers delivering things in a different way, resulting in a more agile, responsive approach.
Some of the examples he shared were:
- WPM – hosted automatic online payment system – now used by dozens of universities. Includes online shop feature etc – Birmingham University – using a cloud-based, software as a service approach
- The Princeton Review – shared service for post graduate admissions – also “Graduate Advantage” – online application form delivered to institutions, fast turnaround, information ported into SMS etc (a brokerage service)
- campus M – providing mobile apps (downloadable) that link into core corporate systems and allow download into mobile device – eg links into library management systems, uses GPS technology to help students find where they are on their campus, alerts to timetable system etc. Hosted environment – nothing in the institution itself. Breaking the mould of what a university has always done.
- Student Pad – hosted environment for institution to put their own private landlord information on it.
- Careers – eg Target Connect, Olivedon
- Reading list – eg TALIS Aspire – links reading list to library catalogue – marketed to TALIS and non-TALIS users. Allows users to see books from their reading list in the local library and also in local bookshops
A useful resource Chris pointed us to is an article titled Painting the Clouds by Colin Currie, published by Educause. The article provides a balanced view of the issues involved in shifting the administration of IT functions to external entities.