Friday was the UCISA Executive meeting - an early start to get the 0620 train. There were a couple of main agenda items. The first was the Web 2.0 and Higher Education Report which I've talked about before. It was interesting to get other IT professionals' views, we didn't always agree but it was a good discussion. We touched on the need to remember that there is still a digital divide - some students will not be familiar with new technologies, and some staff are even less familiar. One of our roles will be to guide users to the most appropriate technologies and facilitate their use. There was an agreed view that one of the biggest problems we are facing is that our big software vendors just don't get it. Interfaces are clumsy and awkward. Students come to us being totally familiar and at home with all things web, they read their email on google, buy stuff from amazon, download music from all over the place, chat and share media on social networking sites - and they get to University and we give them a VLE and a clunky interface into webmail.
One option is to change our attitude to risk, to loosen up a bit as IT Directors and stop trying to restrict what people can do, Put it to the University that they can have slow deployment of proprietary systems which are extremely secure, or fast deployment of user friendly, more open systems which which are less secure.
A number of agreed actions, including a discussion with the JISC on how they intend taking the recommendations forward, and some advice and guidance for our members on the pros and cons of using Web2.0/Social web technologies including the legal and security aspects and some case studies.
Another discussion was around the use of Eduroam, the international roaming wireless network for the HE community. In the UK, Eduroam is run as the JANET Roaming service. The reason for our discussion is that we have concerns that it is not being deployed across the UK to allow all of the benefits from it to be realised. Some institutions don't use it at all, some have it set up in non standard ways, some broadcast it but don't call it Eduroam. I travel all over the UK and without changing my settings I can walk into some Universities and connect straight away, and there are others where I've never managed to connect despite help from a local network specialist. If this is going to be successful it needs setting up in a standard way and broadcast by all HEIs. Here is Sheffield it's our main wireless network, used by all staff and students, and we don't seem to have any problems with people from other institutions connecting to it (well done network guys). I thought it was very telling that we had our meeting in the JISC Offices in London - and they weren't using it!