One sign of the growing presence of technology on college campuses is the rising attendance at the annual meetings of Educause, the higher-education technology association, which was held last week in Philadelphia. This year more than 7,800 people signed up, compared with 6,500 last year. Most of them are campus technology leaders, though others represent the 266 tech companies with exhibits designed to persuade colleges to use their products to support teaching, research, or administrative functions.
Innovation—and barriers to it—was a major theme. In a roundtable discussion, technology officials met with Aneesh Chopra, chief technology officer at the White House, and told him that software systems made it hard for students to see their records from multiple institutions, or even see course syllabi on the Web.
"Can't these systems export simple text files, if a user signs in with a password?" he asked. Many agreed that they could. He then asked colleges to join what he termed a "coalition of the willing" to make this happen. Officials from Georgetown University; Montgomery College, in Maryland; and Oakland University, in Michigan, raised their hands. Mr. Chopra exhorted them to get a simple system ready to go in 90 days. Many left the room lauding the goal but wondering if it could really be achieved.
In session titles, "learning" was the most frequently used word, and a survey released at the meeting showed that mobile applications related to education and learning were on a sharp rise, and that course-management systems appeared newly ready to embrace free sharing of resources among faculty.