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How the Social Campus Enables Tomorrow's Workers Today

Allen Bernard | Jan. 31, 2013
Collaboration is the key to getting anything done. Social technologies are all about enabling that collaboration. Combine social with mobile and sprinkle in technologies like VPNs and SSO, and the idea of 'social' moves to a whole new level, as two higher education CIOs attest.

Just like their corporate cousins, colleges and universities have been playing catch-up with the consumerization of IT trend that has left many IT shops scrambling to provide their employees with the secure, ubiquitous access to the applications they need.

Meeting this challenge is an individual effort often limited by the organization's maturity on many levels: process management, change management, CMMi score, openness to new technologies, ability to let go of entrenched legacy systems, culture of collaboration and many other scores that are hard to measure. Rest assured: If there are people involved, they will find creative ways to make things difficult.

Where you won't find argument is in the need to stay current, thanks to the undeniable benefits that today's consumer technology brings to the table. The big questions revolve around what technologies and which providers in what configuration will offer the most ROI and lowest TCO.

For Phil Komarny, CIO at Seton Hill University in rural Pennsylvania, answering those questions came down to completely rethinking the role of IT in the organization. "We took our IT department and consumerized the whole model," he says. "So we're really worried about the user experience rather than control."

When Komarny arrived in 2009, Seton's 2,500 students were being served by just 25 25-megabyte per second (Mbs) Wi-Fi access points (APs) and a legacy infrastructure. This did not fit Seton's vision of a modern college campus.

The university's goal was a mobile learning environment. To do this, it first had to educate everyone about the technologies they were going to field, the potential of these technologies, and how IT was going to accomplish the mission. Before buying anything, IT put faculty through a year-long tech training program.

The result was an able and willing population of early adopters that allowed Komarny to quickly roll out technologies that were immediately put to use by the folks they were intended to serve.

All for One, an iPad for All

In 2010, the project kicked into high gear when everyone-students, faculty and staff- got either an iPad or a MacBook Pro to take advantage of the more than 360 new Enterasys broadband APs dotted around the campus. Seton was the first school in the country to do this.

Since rolling out the mobile campus concept, Seton Hall has had three of the best enrollment years in its history, while Komarny has cut his budget by 15 percent, 18 percent and 22 percent each of the past three years. In other words, while enrollment is up, the cost of managing those students continues to go down.

Roughly 100 processes that used to leave a huge paper trail, from issuing parking tickets to registering for classes, are now all done on iPads. This enabled the school to drop Microsoft Exchange and move to Google for email and document management; even in the board room, instant access to critical documents is now the norm.


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