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    Digital Tweed® is the work of Kenneth C. Green, founding director of The Campus Computing Project. If successful, these posts will inform and entertain, and at times also annoy. A little dissonance can be a good thing.

The 2010 Digital Puck Awards
October 17, 2010 - 9:00pm

Last week The Campus Computing Project announced the winners of the 2010 Digital Puck™ awards. The announcement was the part of my EDUCAUSE conference presentation summarizing the results of the 2010 Campus Computing Survey.

The awards – admittedly arbitrary on my part – reference the widely cited comment of hockey great Wayne Gretsky: asked why he was so much better than many of his peers, Gretsky quipped that “I skate to where the puck is going, not to where it has been.”

I’ve long argued that a digital puck is probably a good metaphor for the conversation about technology in higher education. Like a hockey puck, technology is in motion (dynamic). Moreover, the trajectory – the direction and speed – can change quickly. For individuals and institutions, just as it was for the Great Gretsky, the challenge is to anticipate where the puck is going.

These first Digital Puck awards to go three technologies that loom large for higher education in the next few years. The CIO’s who participated in the 2010 Campus Computing Survey are bullish on these technologies. All three technologies are in the early stage of deployment; the early if affirmative assessments suggest each will have important impacts on instructional resources and campus services in the coming years.

With no further delay, here are the Digital Puck Awards for 2010.

The first Digital Puck Award recipient for 2010 is eBOOKS. Well over four-fifths (87 percent) of the CIOs and senior campus IT officers who participated in the 2010 Campus Computing Survey agree or strongly agree that “eBook content will be an important source for instructional resources in five years,” up from 76 percent in 2009. Additionally, more than three-fourths (79 percent, up from 66 percent in 2009) agree/strongly agree that “eBook readers (hardware) will be important platforms for instructional content in five years.”

I discussed “Year Two” of the eBook in academe in an August DT post. The platform options, market opportunities, and enabling technologies for eBooks continue to improve. However, eBooks and eTextbooks remain an “ever arriving” technology that, to date, are not a competitive alternative to used textbooks: publishers still develop titles primarily for print, and then port print content into electronic formats. Consequently, eBooks and eTextbooks do not yet provide a compelling value proposition for most college students.

But watch this space carefully. Within five years I suspect that we will see the beginnings of a significant market for eBooks designed for college students that provide compelling, price competitive content – more than just print content ported to screen.

Winner Number Two is MOBILE APPS. Again drawing on data from the 2010 Campus Computing Survey, more than two-thirds (70 percent) of the survey participants agree/strongly agree that “mobile [LMS] apps are an important part of our campus plan to enhance instructional resources and campus services.” However, the survey data indicate that mobile apps are in the early phase of campus deployment: as of fall 2010, a little more than an eighth (13 percent) of campuses have activated mobile apps; another tenth (10 percent) report that mobile apps are scheduled to go live at their institutions this current academic year (2010-11), while a quarter (25 percent) report that mobile apps are currently being reviewed by their institution. The fall 2010 deployment numbers are highest in private universities (24 percent) and public universities (21 percent).

No question, of course, that the campus interest in and movement to mobile apps reflects trends in the consumer market. Student Monitor’s spring 2010 survey of full-time undergraduates in four-year colleges indicate that 98 percent of students own cell phones and almost half have smart phones. Students expect their institutions to provide the kinds of resources and services they experience and enjoy as consumers. Mobile apps migrate access to instructional resources and campus services from the bookmarks on your Internet browser to the buttons on your smart phone.

The movement to mobile apps has been lead by the learning management system (LMS) providers. The firms that provide administrative (ERP) systems to higher ed have yet to launch their own mobile apps. Given the lead of the LMS providers in the mobile app arena for higher education, the ERP providers may follow an alliance strategy, as reflected in Datatel’s partnership with Moodlerooms and SunGard’s recently announced alliance with rSmart. Then again, the ERP providers may decide not to cede the Mobile App market to the LMS providers. If so, the ERP providers that dominate key sectors of the campus market – Campus Management, Datatel, Jenzabar, Oracle, and Oracle – will have to move quickly to launch their own branded Mobile Apps for campus clients. (AUTHOR CORRECTION: Datatel's MOX, released in June, is a branded mobile app from an ERP provider.)

The third and final Digital Puck award recipient for 2010 is LECTURE CAPTURE. Fully three-fifths (61 percent) of this fall’s Campus Computing Survey participants agree/strongly agree that “lecture capture is an important part of our campus plan for developing and delivering instructional content.” As with mobile apps, lecture capture is in the early phase of what will likely be widespread campus deployment: as of fall 2010, just 4 percent of courses make use of lecture capture technologies, up from 3 percent in fall 2008.

A month ago I described lecture capture as the new lecture, commenting that lecture capture raises a number of significant questions about intellectual property (who owns it), tagging (who catalogs it?), and utilization (how will it be used, and by whom?), among others. As with other new technologies, we’ll need some carefully designed research projects to understand and assess the impact of lecture capture on the instructional activities of faculty and the learning activities of students, as well as the impact of lecture capture on learning outcomes. Inquiring minds will want to know if lecture capture makes a difference – and if so, in what ways, for which students and faculty, and under what circumstances.

So there you have it: the Digital Puck awards go to three technologies in the early stages of deployment that seem likely to have a major impact on instructional resources and campus services.

What are your thoughts, esteemed reader? What think ye of the Digital Puck Awards? Are eBooks, mobile apps, and lecture capture each worthy of a Digital Puck Award? And what are your thoughts for the 2011 nominees?


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