Following the Web 2.0 Piper

Where retail and consumer websites lead, will higher ed follow?

Stats

Trends in Website Services: Services on the campus website, percentage of
reporting institutions by category, 1998 to 2006 Source: Campus Computing Survey, 2006.

CAMPUS COMPUTING’S annual survey reveals a tidy growth trend among higher education website services reported from 1998 to 2006, and the gains over the years have been substantial: Nearly four-fifths (79.9 percent) of institutions participating in the 2006 survey reported that they can process credit card payments from the campus website, compared to a mere 5.1 percent capable of online transactions reported in 1998. More than nine-tenths (91.5 percent) now offer online course registration, up from just one-fifth in the 1998 survey. And the “new kid on the block,” digital music service, has at least established a foothold.

While these data may suggest a remarkably productive environment, the 2006 report points out that the services on higher ed sites still don’t compare favorably to those on polished commercial sites. The consumer market—sporting sites from Amazon.com, the airlines, banks, and others— provides highly customized support and services that simply aren’t yet available in higher education web offerings. Campus Computing founding director Kenneth Green tells Campus Technology, “The consumer experience defines and raises students’ expectations for campuses’ online resources and services. Today, students come to campus or to online courses to learn about, and also learn with, technology.”

Still, the technologies that power Amazon.com and numerous other online-shopping and consumer-service sites are not rocket science. What would it take for higher education to catch up? What’s the missing piece? Green explains that it’s more than just technology. “Colleges and universities are only beginning to recover from the 2001 to 2004 budget cuts in IT and elsewhere. The ‘Web 2.0’ technologies that power consumer sites and corporate operations involve investment and planning.” This is not something that campuses simply “decide,” says Green. “These technologies must be integrated into an existing infrastructure, which means that the key campus ERP providers—Datatel, Jenzabar, Oracle, and SunGard Higher Education, among others—need to integrate these front-end services into their ERP offerings for their campus clients,” he explains.

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