Thoughts from the Road

I’m in Tampa, at the University of South Florida, attending the Higher Education Enterprise Mobile Applications Conference (HEEMAC). I’ve seen and heard some really great things that colleges and universities are doing, from a mobile enterprise perspective.

One group, however, is strikingly absent – faculty. I’ve run into Associate Deans, technologists, native app developers, web developers, and even the odd CIO… but only one or two faculty members, out of 100+ conference attendees.

Admittedly, this is an enterprise mobile conference, and not one centered upon pedagogy.

Still.

I believe that faculty are under represented, overlooked, and generally ignored in conversations of campus technology, where they are every bit as much stakeholders as the students we strive to support. This week is only reinforcing – at least, for me – the great divide between academics, and the information technology infrastructure supporting the administrative side of things.

I was heartened to hear words like “enable” and “facilitate” in the context of opening up APIs, mobile development best practices, and providing software development guidance.

I was equally disheartened to hear that some mobile projects are being intentionally “slow walked” in order to have these projects wither and die from neglect.

To paraphrase from Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:

“Other people can talk about how to expand the destiny of mankind. I just want to talk about how to fix a motorcycle mobile application.”

We have much yet to do to make our technology decisions inclusive of all stakeholders; not only because it is the right and proper thing to do, but because we are allowing strategic decisions be driven by what is simple to support and easy to do. If we are to innovate, stand out, and convincingly argue our institutions’ cases for value within the current environment of uncertainty, high debt, and questionable sustainability in higher education, then I believe we must do better than simply be “good enough.” We must be exemplary. And that can’t be done on the cheap, nor the easy.

We have real innovation occurring in higher ed mobile. We also have a lot of cookie cutter, least-common denominator solutions.

Is that good enough?

I’m grateful for the forum that our gracious hosts at USF have afforded us to conduct this inquiry into values, technology, and mobile strategy. We have our work cut out for us.

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