Software Licensing | Viewpoint

IU and Adobe: A Tale of Abundance


A college degree is not a vintage Corvette.

The speaker on a New York Times panel of financial experts explained: “A 1968 Corvette will gain or lose value regardless of how Chevrolet is performing. The same is not true with colleges.” This reminds us that the economic crisis hasn’t lessened competition for the best students and faculty. Fewer resources challenge institutions to be even more strategic in developing competitive advantage.

What attracts the best faculty and students? Among students, a high and increasing percentage sees information technology as an important factor in choosing a college and in achieving academic success. In a 2010 CDW-G 21st Century Campus Survey, 63 percent of college students ranked IT as important in their choice of schools, while among concurrent high school students that number soared to 93 percent.

And in today’s workforce, digital fluency is expected--not only for communication and collaboration, but also in the technology relevant to various fields and professions. But colleges need to do a better job of preparing their students for the workplace: According to the CDW-G survey, 67 percent of faculty and 76 percent of students say their schools are doing an adequate job, a decline from 2009 figures of 74 percent and 82 percent, respectively. Among those already in the workforce, less than 32 percent of graduates and 22 percent of faculty feel that school prepared them to use IT in the workforce, according to the 2009 report.

The Challenge of Ubiquitous Access

Why aren’t colleges measuring up? The big problem they face is the cost of providing ubiquitous access to IT resources. At Indiana University (IU), for example, Adobe software was in demand, but even with educational pricing, the software was out of reach for many departments, students, faculty, and staff. Limited budgets hinder many schools from providing ubiquitous access or even updating technology they already have. Some institutions address this by installing popular software in open labs and classrooms. However, lab space rarely equals need, and students can’t count on finding an open seat when they need one. Further, the technology that students use in labs may not be compatible with what they have at home. If faculty can’t assume their students have adequate access, they can’t rely on technology as a teaching and learning tool. These conditions combine to blunt the technology’s effectiveness, and limit the benefit the university can expect from its IT investment. Extend this across the nation’s universities, and you have a problem on a national scale. The cost of not providing ubiquitous access over time can equate to the effect of not providing it at all.

But IU found an answer, which has now been in place for more than two years and has proven to be an effective strategy. In November 2008, IU forged a landmark agreement with Adobe. Under the agreement, IU could provide a wide range of Adobe software across its eight campuses at no cost to the users. The Adobe Education Enterprise License Agreement (ELA) was the first such agreement between Adobe and any university. Today, IU students, faculty, and staff can get Adobe software at no cost by downloading it from IUware, IU’s online software distribution system.

In the first three weeks after the ELA was announced, 28,000 Adobe products were downloaded, choking the very large network. To keep up with demand IU had to upgrade the network connection and install a more powerful server. But in the ELA’s first fiscal year alone, the university distributed Adobe software valued at 16 times the cost of IU’s initial investment. By September 2010, downloads totaled 156,000. Since its inception, and up to now, 203,572 Adobe products/packages have been downloaded [statistic from December 7, 2010].

Technology in Abundance

IT abundance is a core principle in Empowering People, IU’s strategic plan for information technology. The Enterprise License Agreement with Adobe is key in IU’s goal of achieving a philosophy of IT abundance for the university’s more than 100,000 faculty, staff, and students.

The benefits of this abundance are felt all across IU in myriad applications. To the countless administrative tasks that keep the institution running, access to the Adobe software has brought new efficiency. For faculty, software in abundance means having the tools as well as inspiration for developing innovative, technology‐rich curricula that seamlessly integrate the latest technologies students need to compete in the global marketplace.

While Adobe software is a routine part of many art and design classes, now any student can take classes that teach today’s industry‐standard digital skills, because the ELA takes student finances out of the learning equation. Jim Kelly of the IU School of Journalism points to advantages for journalism students. “Today’s students need a lot more skills than was the case a generation ago. They have to make photos, take video, collect audio, and be able to edit all of these things.” And in the Kelley School of Business, students use Adobe Creative Suite Design and Production Premium software to create effective branding, communications, and business campaigns.

In the medical center, Adobe software has been leveraged as an asset for patient care. At the IU School of Medicine, Genetics Center director Janice Zunich credits Adobe Photoshop Creative Suite with allowing her to download and work with the photos she needs to track her patients and to discuss treatments with other physicians via e-mail.

By making Adobe software available to all students, the ELA has opened the door to new levels of flexibility in course delivery. When IU Northwest faculty member Kell Knaga created online and hybrid classes, enrollments soared. And Knaga says the quality of student work has improved since the ELA, because students can spend more time working with the software--they now can use it at home, not just in a classroom or lab.

Indiana University IT VIP & CIO Brad Wheeler sums up how the advantages of ELA are felt throughout IU: “Our Adobe Education Enterprise License Agreement has enabled everything from helping administrative staff become more productive to empowering professors to refresh their curricula and researchers to prepare and submit grant proposals. It’s rewarding to see what happens when everyone has easy access to Adobe software.”

About the Author

Sue B. Workman is the Associate Vice President for Communication and Support in the Office of the Vice President for Information Technology & CIO, Indiana University.

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