An interesting session, I didn't take too many notes, but the general consecus was that the future would be a mixture of all three, and the exact combination would depend on what sort of institution you want to be, bearing in mind that our biggest expense is people and we need to make sure that our human capital (their phrase, certainly not mine), should deliver the greatest value. Some interesting nuggets such as Indiana University had saved millions ($15m I think) by implementing Kuali Financials instead of Peoplesoft Financials.
The final session was delivered by the President of Indiana University, who was definitely pushing the benefits of open source. his opening statement was that Universities have three missions:
- The Creation of Knowledge, (research)
- The Dissemination of Knowledge, (teaching and learning)
- The Preservation of Knowledge.
One big challenge facing us in the preservation of knowledge is data storage. Researchers are not very good at the long term preservation and curation of data. If data is important and not replicable, long term storage is a significant challenge. The experts in this area are in Information Systems and we need to work with our researchers to address it.
The recession causing severe pressures all over world, and all forms of income are under pressure. This is the new normal for HE - it's not going to get better. We will be under pressure to be more productive, and in other sectors most improvements in productivity have been due to technology. We will need to do this in education. On-line education however is still expensive, when that changes it will have a significant impact on economics of HE. Open source software will and should have an impact on the cost of running a university, either through savings or cost avoidance. They have saved millons of dollars through the implementaion of open source software, and there is much now to choose from including Kuali, Sakai and Moodle. At this point the twitter stream was asking whether these savings counted the cost of development, deployment and maintenance of open source.
He was a believer in the centralisation of IT where appropriate. The basic arguements are economics and security, as well as improvements in service. It's happened in the private sector and we're not that different in terms of basic infrastructure, there are no arguements to sustain uniqueness and the savings can be immense.
He talked about risk and how to manage them, and I was interested that all elements of security in Indiana have been brought together into the Office of Public Safety. It includes campus security, information and data security and emergency planning. They have a good web site here.
Finally, in a closing statement about the importance of people, he said that we are the partners of teachers and researchers in our institutions, not the servants. Rather a good note to end the conference on I thought!
All in all a good trip - a lovely city, some very useful presentations and as always good company leading to some great networking.