donderdag, april 19, 2007

Diverse needs for our IT systems

Yesterday I facilitated a workshop for around 60 people, representing quite a few (>15) institutions for Higher Education from The Netherlands, as well as a few commercial ICT-partners that have some affinity with (Higher) Education. This workshop was part of a yearly event that SURFfoundation organizes for the special interest groups that are facilitated by SURFfoundation. The workshop was jointly organized by the coordinator for the Sharepoint Special Interest Group (Nico Juist is his name) and me, as the acting coordinator for the Sakai SIG NL.
Just our joint announcement of the workshop was a big success; within a few days after the online announcement we had more than 70 registered participants! Since we wanted to keep things organized and workable we decided to shutdown the online registration for this workshop after that. In the end we had approximately 60 people in the room.
I will not dwell too much on the non-interactive part of the meeting, where we presented our Special Interest Groups. The workshop-part (for which you really never have enough time!) was much more interesting. We grouped the participants in 10 groups. We asked them to imagine being someone else, for example an undergraduate student, or the administrative staff, or the Chief Information Manager, or the faculty in the institution. From this standpoint we then asked the groups to look at processes and IT-components needed for these processes with regard to an optimal IT-solution.
There were some fascinating results actually. There was an enormous amount of very diverse suggestions that people came up with. Some highlights that stood out for me:
  • The post-graduate student has a urgent need for incorporating study and work. So IT stuff should be efficient and should cover both work and study (ideally).
  • The administration people wanted a completely integrated system.
  • The faculty would really great IT applications with which they can collaborate outside of their institution.
  • The CIO-perspective is the ‘most’ challenging, because they need to balance all the needs that do exist.
  • Several groups asked for better (synchronous) communication tools within our IT infrastructure.
In conclusion I would say that we need flexibility in IT (and thereby providing the right stuff for the very different actors and roles within our institutions) and on the other hand there is a need for structure and stability. I would argue that the Sakai framework might well be the structure on which the need for a lot of different tools can be fulfilled. I am thereby thinking of all the great tools that are in development or will be promoted for the Sakai 2.4.0 release. Unfortunately Agora from Lancaster University, which is a toolset for online collaboration within the Sakai framework, is not yet ready for production.
Some pictures of the workshop are at Flickr.

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