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Syllabus News Update for July 29th, 2003

Syllabus News Update:

An Online Newsletter from Syllabus Press


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Education Technology Companies to Exhibit at Syllabus2003


News for Tuesday, July 29, 2003

* Syllabus IT Survey Reveals Higher Ed Priorities, Concerns

* BlackBoard Holds First CMS Developers’ Conference

* NYU Digital Library to Preserve Afghan Heritage

* U. Penn Hospitals Build Global Content Management System

* Biology Mavens Promote Undergrad Bioinformatics Education


Syllabus Survey Reveals Higher Ed IT Priorities, Concerns

Course management systems – their price, their mechanics, and whether they ultimately contribute significant pedagological value – is the number one topic of concern among campus IT executives today, according to a survey of higher ed officials released Sunday by Syllabus magazine.

The survey results were released and discussed at the Syllabus2003 Executive Summit, a gathering of higher ed IT executives prior to the Syllabus2003 conference in San Jose, Calif. Forty-nine senior executives form 45 institutions and university systems, including IT directors and CIOs were interviewed during spring of 2003 for the survey.

The survey showed that campus IT directors are facing an increasingly complex situation in which rapidly rising user expectations, tight budgets, and difficult staffing requirements, have collided. A daunting number of challenges are facing the community as Web-delivered academic and administrative applications converge and are delivered to an ever-expanding range of desktop, laptop, and handheld wireless computing devices.

The institutions covered by the survey ranged from those with an average IT budget of $15M. The average size of the IT staff on campuses represented in the survey was 120 people. About a a third of the schools included had small increases in their IT budgets in the last year; two had 25 percent to 30 percent increases. Less than 10 percent reported decreases of up to 15 percent. The remaining 60 percent of participants reported flat budgets.

A recurring theme from the survey was applications integration and Web-delivery.

In the Course Management System arena, respondents said IT departments are facing rising end-user support demands while at the same time trying to sort out how CMSes will integrate with student information systems and other ERP systems they are bringing online.

The timing of the increased interest in CMSes coincided with migration of legacy systems to modern ERP systems, a task that participants said takes longer and costs more than expected. The demands of CMSes have added enormously to the pressures on IT staff and budget.

CMS suppliers doubled the price of their products at about the same time as budgets and IT headcount were being frozen or cut, the respondents complained. To further complicate the situation, the campus network, which was finally wired, is now transitioning to a wireless overlay, contributing to concerns about security risks.

Among the conclusions from the survey: more meaningful dialogue is needed between the vendors of IT products and the directors who are responsible for IT in the academic enterprise. Vendors create feature-rich products but they rely on the campus IT staff for training and supporting the end users and making the products integrate with other enterprise systems.

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BlackBoard Holds First CMS Developers’ Conference

Course management system vendor BlackBoard Inc. will hold a developer’s conference at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., which the company said was the first time a dedicated developers’ event has been held for a major e-Learning platform. The meeting is intended to shed light on what the next generation of e-Learning technologies will look like, and how developers can use Blackboard's ‘Building Blocks’ architecture and industry standards to build on top of the Blackboard platform. The software development kit includes tools and interfaces to “productize” the discovery of add-ons in a campus learning environment.

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NYU Digital Library to Preserve Afghan Heritage

New York University is working with Sun Microsystems on a project to preserve what's left of the written cultural heritage of Afghanistan. During its reign, the Taliban sought to destroy all pre-Islamic items in Afghanistan. That included famous statues and books that could never be replicated. The NYU-Sun project seeks to digitize all books published in Afghanistan since 1871, when the first book was printed in that country, through 1930. The first phase of the project will digitize, catalog and upload to a Website the 43 books known to have been published in Afghanistan between 1871 and 1900. The books will be downloadable and thus freely available to researchers worldwide.

U. Penn Hospitals to Institute Global Content Management System

The University of Pennsylvania Health System is working on a content management system that would allow hundreds of organizations throughout the system, which includes four hospitals, three specialty satellite facilities, and a primary-care physicians network, to contribute content to their departmental Web presences in a way that is consistent in form, accurate and approved through an appropriate workflow. The system will enable UPHS to manage current content on the Website, expire outdated content, and notify content owners when aging content requires review and updates. The project is being managed by McFadyen Consulting and is using InterWoven, an enterprise content management platform.

Biology Mavens Promote Undergrad Bioinformatics Education

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the National Science Foundation, Geospiza Inc., which develops bioinformatics software and systems, and Sun Microsystems are hosting a meeting to promote the teaching of bioinformatics in undergraduate education. The meeting will include hands-on practice with genomics, proteomics, microarrays, and structural bioinformatics in addition to discussions about how bioinformatics materials can be integrated into biology courses. Conference organizers said that although bioinformatics has become a standard tool in biological research, it's seldom seen in the biology curriculum. This has contributed to a growing technology gap between computational biologists and bench researchers.

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Education Technology Companies to Exhibit at Syllabus2003

Syllabus2003 celebrates its 10th annual summer conference July 27-31 in San Jose, Calif., and on the campus of Stanford University. In addition to cutting-edge keynotes, breakout sessions, and panel discussions, attendees will see the latest products for campus technology during designated exhibit hall hours. Some of the companies attending include: Computer Comforts, designer and manufacturer of innovative furniture and products for the electronic classroom; Unicon, provider of Academus, an enterprise portal solution, with fully integrated course and content management environments; Polyvision, an international manufacturer and installer of static, active, and interactive visual communication products for the education and corporate markets, and TippingPoint Technologies, whose suite of network-based security products protects networks from cyber threats, piracy and bandwidth abuse.To view the entire exhibitor list, as well as to register for Syllabus2003, go to

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