Funding tops campus IT concerns

Slashed campus budgets and dwindling endowments have spurred university IT officials toward cost-saving technologies, and a new survey shows that saving IT dollars has vaulted to the No. 1 priority of campus technology decision makers during the current recession.

The newly released 10th annual EDUCAUSE Current Issues Survey, completed online in December 2008 mostly by campus chief information officers, ranked the most pressing issues in college IT offices. Administrative systems, an issue that has remained among the survey’s top three issues since 2000, ranked second this year. Technology security–the No. 1 concern in 2008–and infrastructure ranked third and fourth, respectively. The Current Issues Survey was completed by 554 college technology officials on public and private campuses of all sizes.

Other top concerns from EDUCAUSE respondents included teaching and learning with technology, identity and access management, IT leadership, and disaster recovery.

Read the full story at eCampus News

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Funding tops campus IT concerns

Slashed campus budgets and dwindling endowments have spurred university IT officials toward cost-saving technologies, and a new survey shows that saving IT dollars has vaulted to the No. 1 priority of campus technology decision makers during the current recession.

The newly released 10th annual EDUCAUSE Current Issues Survey, completed online in December 2008 mostly by campus chief information officers, ranked the most pressing issues in college IT offices. Administrative systems, an issue that has remained among the survey’s top three issues since 2000, ranked second this year. Technology security–the No. 1 concern in 2008–and infrastructure ranked third and fourth, respectively. The Current Issues Survey was completed by 554 college technology officials on public and private campuses of all sizes.

Other top concerns from EDUCAUSE respondents included teaching and learning with technology, identity and access management, IT leadership, and disaster recovery.

The funding crunch faced by departments in nearly every campus nationwide has created a premium on low-cost technology solutions such as cloud computing — i.e., transferring a college’s computing power to off-campus servers so the school can avoid the steep costs of server cooling and maintenance.

Communication via smart phones–iPhones and Blackberrys, for example–has increased contact among IT staff, students, and faculty, saving IT departments money through efficiency, according to the EDUCAUSE report.

The corporate world has recognized the growing demand for cloud computing in higher education. Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon.com Inc.’s cloud-computing service, offers free services to researchers and instructors through an education grant program. One recent grant went to a Harvard University computer science class this spring that let students do coursework with the company’s global computer infrastructure–virtual servers that allow students to complete data-heavy assignments without bogging down or crashing the campus’s hardware. (See “Amazon cloud offer appeals to colleges.”)

“It was a huge win for us pedagogically,” said David J. Malan, a Harvard computer science professor since 1995. “It makes possible resources that universities might not be able to provide for students. … It’s no silver bullet for education at large, but for any course that has computational needs or programming involved, it’s a very interesting opportunity.”

Harvard isn’t the only university that has taken advantage of Amazon’s cloud-computing offer for schools. Student-run computer initiatives at Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Texas, and the University of California, San Diego, have been supported by AWS grants over the past year.

The EDUCAUSE survey also showed that maintaining a reliable administrative system remains a key for IT officials. But tracking student enrollment, tuition, alumni records, and business systems has become increasingly complicated in recent years. Survey respondents reported that sifting through administrative systems involves a complex licensing procedure–one that often requires an outside consultant who will cost the campus more money.

Customization of administrative systems could be limited by universities’ diminishing technology budgets, and outsourcing the job might be the answer until budgets recover from the economic downturn, according to the survey.

Campus security also was a main concern among respondents, and balancing privacy and thorough protection has proven to be a challenge.

The Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education (ACUTA) released a survey this summer showing that college and university IT administrators believe campus computer networks are better protected than they were five years ago. Only 6 percent said their IT infrastructure was less secure than it was in 2004. (See “Campus IT officials feel safer, but fear botnets.”)

Officials who completed the ACUTA survey said they had invested IT money into programs that defend against botnets — i.e., groups of compromised computers that can cause major damage to university hardware and cost colleges tens of thousands to repair.

Matt Arthur, ACUTA’s president-elect and director of incident response at Washington University in St. Louis, said intrusion detection software “has evolved to the point where it’s almost a necessity.”

Cash-strapped colleges and universities also are turning to Software as a Service (SaaS) options for campus-based eMail, according to EDUCAUSE survey respondents. This was among the solutions to the No. 4 IT concern: infrastructure and cyber-infrastructure.

“eMail is more of a commodity now, so why should we spend resources running eMail servers when Google could do it for free and do it a lot better than we could do it?” asked James Langford, director of web integration and programming at Abilene Christian University in Texas. His school began converting its campus to Google eMail accounts–also called Gmail–in April 2007. “We love it. … I can’t imagine having to go back and run all these services ourselves now. There’s almost no downside to it from our perspective.”

Link:

EDUCAUSE Current Issues Survey

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Jury awards $675K in music downloading case

A federal jury on July 31 ordered a Boston University graduate student who admitted illegally downloading and sharing music online to pay $675,000 to four record labels.

Joel Tenenbaum, of Providence, R.I., admitted in court that he downloaded and distributed 30 songs. The only issue for the jury to decide was how much in damages to award the record labels.

Under federal law, the recording companies were entitled to $750 to $30,000 per infringement. But the law allows as much as $150,000 per track if the jury finds the infringements were willful. The maximum jurors could have awarded in Tenenbaum’s case was $4.5 million.

Jurors ordered Tenenbaum to pay $22,500 for each incident of copyright infringement, effectively finding that his actions were willful. The attorney for the 25-year-old student had asked the jury earlier to "send a message" to the music industry by awarding only minimal damages.

Tenenbaum said he was thankful that the case wasn’t in the millions and contrasted the significance of his fine with the maximum.

"That to me sends a message of, ‘We considered your side with some legitimacy,’" he said. "$4.5 million would have been, ‘We don’t buy it at all.’"

He added he will file for bankruptcy if the verdict stands.

Tenenbaum’s lawyer, Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson, said the jury’s verdict was not fair. He said he plans to appeal the decision because he was not allowed to argue a case based on fair use.

The Recording Industry Association of America issued a statement thanking the jury for recognizing the impact illegal downloading has on the music community.

"We appreciate that Mr. Tenenbaum finally acknowledged that artists and music companies deserve to be paid for their work," the statement said. "From the beginning, that’s what this case has been all about. We only wish he had done so sooner rather than lie about his illegal behavior."

Tenenbaum would not say if he regretted downloading music, saying it was a loaded question.

"I don’t regret drinking underage in college, even though I got busted a few times," he said.

The case is only the nation’s second music downloading case against an individual to go to trial.

Last month, a federal jury in Minneapolis ruled that Jammie Thomas-Rasset, 32, must pay $1.92 million, or $80,000 on each of 24 songs, after concluding she willfully violated the copyrights on those tunes.

After Tenenbaum admitted July 30 he is liable for damages for 30 songs at issue in the case, U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner ruled that the jury must consider only whether his copyright infringement was willful and how much in damages to award four recording labels that sued him over the illegal file-sharing.

In his closing statement, Nesson repeatedly referred to Tenenbaum as a "kid" and asked the jury to award only a small amount to the recording companies. At one point, Nesson suggested the damages should be as little as 99 cents per song, roughly the same amount Tenenbaum would have to pay if he legally purchased the music online.

But Tim Reynolds, a lawyer for the recording labels, recounted Tenenbaum’s history of file-sharing from 1999 to 2007, describing him as "a hardcore, habitual, long-term infringer who knew what he was doing was wrong." Tenenbaum admitted on the witness stand that he had downloaded and shared more than 800 songs.

Tenenbaum said he downloaded and shared hundreds of songs by Nirvana, Green Day, The Smashing Pumpkins, and other artists. The recording industry focused on only 30 songs in the case.

The music industry has typically offered to settle such cases for about $5,000, though it has said that it stopped filing such lawsuits last August and is instead working with schools and internet service providers to fight the worst offenders. Cases already filed, however, are proceeding to trial.

Tenenbaum testified that he had lied in pretrial depositions when he said his two sisters, friends, and others might have been responsible for downloading the songs to his computer.

Under questioning from his own lawyer, Tenenbaum said he now takes responsibility for the illegal swapping.

"I used the computer. I uploaded, I downloaded music … I did it," Tenenbaum said.

Link:

Recording Industry Association of America

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Affiliate Programs – A helping hand for e-businesses

 

An affiliate program refers to the modern, web based equivalent of an old concept. In the past businesses have paid other groups or businesses ‘finder’s fees’ for recommending their service. Web based affiliates work on this principle.

 

Company A will ask that company B has an advertisement for their website (site A) included on their website, site B. So when people viewing site B see the advertisement for site A and go on it, company B earns money from company A as reward for providing them with customers. http://www.bestinsurancelover.com

 

 

With online business this payment is commonly done based on the amount of times that an advertisement is clicked on by customers. When the user clicks an advertisement banner and is redirected to the advertised site, it is recorded and an agreed amount of money is given to the site hosting the advert, per click. Many sites are very open about this and will state that the following advertisements are affiliates and that to show support for their site, please click the advertisement at least once, providing them with the funds to continue running the site. The great benefit of this method is that the advertiser only pays for each actual customer referred to them, minimizing money spent on ineffective advertising.

 

Clicking is not the only method used. Sometimes payment is by referral, the customer being more formally referred to the affiliate company by a method such as placing a box on a form suggesting that the user accepts mail from the affiliate. Also, it is common for the advertiser to pay their affiliates per sale, giving them a percentage of the sales made from the customers that they refer.

 

Some companies provide the affiliate connections between businesses as their sole trade. They will seek out companies that can benefit from advertising with each other and for a tariff, provide the connection. http://www.moneyachiever.com

 

 

Affiliate groups have come under fire from internet users for using ‘spam’. This is blanketing the web user with advertisements, through email, pop up windows etc, to get them to click the advertisements. However this is not practiced by the majority of affiliate programs, who are content to simply provide a modest banner linking to the site that is paying for the advertisement, often quite helpful to customers.

 

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Five ways grant reviewers can help applicants

A colleague who serves as a grant proposal reviewer recently asked me if I knew of any resources that reviewers could use to help them provide comments to applicants. Although I don’t know of any–and if you do, please eMail me and let me know!–I started thinking about why this was such a good question that needs more exploration.

I don’t know any proposal writers who have a 100-percent success rate. Chances are, at one time or another, you’re going to receive a rejection letter from a funder. Yes, it will hurt–but once you’re over the initial sting of rejection, it’s time to use this as a learning experience as you move forward.

Unless, of course, you receive the type of letter that simply reads: “We received so many good proposals, and unfortunately we didn’t select yours for funding, but thanks for applying.” In my opinion, these letters don’t help anyone become a better proposal writer.

If you’re like me, then you don’t give up when you receive a rejection letter for the first time. Being rejected makes me more determined to resubmit the application, writing a stronger narrative than I did before and addressing any holes I might have left in my first submission.

However, if you don’t receive any specific feedback, you have to play a guessing game and hope that your second application will be worthy of funding, though the first was not. This is risky, and frankly, I could do with specific feedback.

If I could speak to reviewers before they look at proposals, here is what I would ask of them:

(1) Please be as specific as you can in your comments. For example, don’t tell applicants that their “project raised lots of questions.” What specific questions do you have? Was the target population too hard to figure out? Was the methodology section too vague? Did the personnel section make you question the applicant’s ability to manage the project?

(2) Don’t tell applicants that they had an “excellent proposal, but we decided not to fund it.” This one really hurts! Again, applicants would like to know why you reached this decision. Did you want to fund new areas of the country? Did you end up awarding less money than you originally planned?

(3) Provide applicants with insight as to which sections of their proposal are the strongest and which are weak and need some work. If applicants reapply, they’ll know there are some parts of the proposal they really don’t need to change that much, and they should focus their efforts on strengthening the weaker sections. And, with strong feedback, they should know just what to do to address those weak sections.

(4) Please tell applicants if their writing style made reading the proposal difficult. They might have used sections written by different people and didn’t do a good job putting the sections together so they flowed well. In the future, it might be wiser to have one person do the majority of the writing, using information provided by others.

(5) Use your scoring criteria as a guide to making comments. If specific items were missing from a section of the proposal, and these were used to determine a score, let the applicant know what these items were. If the requested statistics were not included in the needs section, identify them. If evaluation tools were not included, point this out.

If reviewers do not also write grants, it’s important for them to understand the key role their feedback plays for writers. Proposal writers need reviewers to help them learn and make them better at what they do. Without specific feedback, this process cannot occur. Writers might continue to submit proposals that will not be funded–and reviewers will have to continue reading them!

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