The Next Step

The world of higher education keeps changing and College Planning & Management is there to take note. What will 2011 bring to the campus? Our panel of experts looks into their crystal ball for answers.

‘Study Nook’ Takes on a Whole New Meaning
“Students already enjoy rich multimedia experiences in their lives and are enthusiastic to extend that experience to the classroom,” says Tyler Steben, vice president, Custom Publishing, XanEdu Publishing Inc. The company is poised to deliver that experience. They have partnered with Barnes & Noble and Texas A&M to conduct research on the efficacy of accessing and studying custom course material with NookStudy. Students will access their XanEdu course materials in NookStudy and give feedback on usability, accessibility, and feature preferences.

Texas A&M is actually one of 11 sites currently testing with digital course material, and XanEdu has already picked up some valuable insight. “Students don’t want to be online for course reading,” reports Steben. “They have no problem downloading materials, but they don’t want to rely on Internet connections when they have to study.”

XanEdu studied how students manually handle old school paper materials and found that students are very hands-on. They flip back and forth through papers, taking notes, annotating and highlighting passages. They work in teams, often physically dividing up study materials in order to come back together later and share their findings.

NookStudy facilitates all of these activities and more. Students easily page through course materials, be it eTextbooks, class materials, or notes. They can highlight, annotate, and send notes to each other. Color-coding allows each group to identify itself and its work.

While students remain enthusiastic about the technology, some professors prove reluctant. “I’ve heard that some professors still don’t allow electronic devices in class. They are afraid that students will be hunched over their screens looking at Facebook,” says Steben. “But when they get the technology in their hand, it can change their minds, particularly a tablet like the iPad, which doesn’t let the student disappear behind a screen.”

Even with students and faculty supporting electronic delivery and management of material, cost remains a substantial block; namely the initial layout for the device. “Competition will bring these costs down,” Steben predicts. “However, the price of materials is already 15 to 20 percent less expensive than traditional paper.”

Building a Bridge
Ten years ago George T. Heery, FAIA, RIBA, FCMAA, chairman, Brookwood Group, developed Bridging, a new way to deliver building projects. This hybrid method combines the best of the traditional design-bid-build and the design-build methods to offer the building owner a lower cost project faster and with less financial risk. After slowly gaining acceptance, the building method is now coming into prominence with the State Department and the General Services Administration adopting the practice. Recently colleges like Cal Poly San Louis Obispo and Georgia Tech in Savannah used Bridging for their projects.

“Bridging is gaining prominence with clients because it gives an opportunity to owners who have grown accustomed to doing negotiated work to incorporate price competition into their procurement process without having to go all the way to hard bid,” says Heery. “As far as we can tell, the use of Bridging and competitive bidding is saving our clients at least four to five percent in original contract prices (a good bit more in the current market) for the construction for a fully equivalent end product. These savings are in addition to the savings in reduced change orders.”

Bridging lets architects, engineers, and contractors do what they are best at while clearly defining responsibilities. “Certain structural elements, like the foundation or framing or wiring, are defined by code,” explains Heery. “They have no impact on the building aesthetic, yet in the design-bid-build method the architect is responsible for them even though they may not know the best methods or costs. It also assumes that the final drawings are free of errors and omissions, which isn’t humanly possible.”

 Design-build aimed to fix these issues by bringing the contractor on board from the beginning and giving full responsibility to them. The problem here, according to Heery, is, “There is a clear and serious conflict of interest between the owner and the architect and engineers.”

Bridging combines these methods by employing a Bridging Architect to go through schematic design and confirm project budget and schedule. Bridging contract documents are then drawn up that are architecturally complete but leave some engineering elements blank. The owner then bids out a two-step award contract with the contractor responsible for both the construction and final drawings.

“This method allows owners to get more building for less money in less time with almost no exposure,” says Heery. “The biggest problem is that architects and engineers don’t know how to prepare the Bridging documents.” To assist them Heery has set up for more information.

A Taxing Problem
The world is going global and so are our schools. However, in the rush to establish an overseas presence the complexity of setting up offices in global markets is often overlooked. “Universities are unbelievably decentralized places,” says Larry Harding, founder and president of High Street Partners. “Overseas operations have traditionally been somewhat invisible to compliance departments. As a result they are often, well, non-compliant.”

All that has changed with the passing of IRS form 990 in 2007. This code, specifically written for non-profits, demands that schools and universities report a more complete picture. The Draft’s Schedule F requests specific information about foreign activities from organizations that conduct fundraising, grant making, trade or business, or exempt activities outside the United States, or have accounts, offices, employees, or other agents outside the country.

And of late, universities have been stampeding to foreign soils. Along with Europe and South America, schools are setting up branches and conducting research in China, the Gulf States, and Africa. The host countries have been generally welcoming, but the relationship is a bit of a “push and pull,” according to Harding. “They want to create relationships and opportunities but they don’t want American universities to compete too harshly with their schools. For example, in the case of China, the universities can’t offer degrees.”

 No matter the program it offers, however, the IRS and the local government will now look at an entity that operates overseas more closely. This has compliance departments scrambling to familiarize themselves with ordinances or hiring experts to wade through the different codes. “Universities have to look at issues like visas, local taxes, benefits, payroll; everything varies slightly from country to country,” reports Harding.

Harding also says that ordinance differ by the kind of employees schools hire. “There’s the local national, US expat who spends 183 days or more overseas or the third-country national, where for example a Brazilian citizen goes to work for you in Germany.”

This increased visibility is nothing new to corporations, but as your school untangles the issues, expect the compliance department to become extra busy. “You don’t want to find out you’ve been non-compliant,” concludes Harding. “Everyone will be putting this on the front burner.”

Go Big Green

The green revolution keeps gaining steam. Where’s the latest place to look for energy efficiency? Try your IT department. “Going green is relatively new in this industry,” says Daniel Lichter, director of data and network infrastructure, Saint Xavier University (SXU), Chicago. But IT managers are catching on quickly. Two-thirds of them say understanding best practices in energy efficient IT is critical to their profession, according to CDW•G’s 2010 Energy Efficient IT Report. Thirty-nine percent of them believe that energy efficiency is a very important consideration when purchasing new IT equipment.

Organizations are consolidating data centers and innovating to reduce energy use. According to the CDW•G study, 79 percent of organizations currently have or are developing a data center consolidation strategy. Many cite energy reduction as a top driver. “Traditionally one server was dedicated to one purpose and it wouldn’t be used to capacity,” says Lichter. “Now virtualization lets you eliminate a large number of servers.” SXU went from 50 servers to 20, eliminating excessive cables, reducing power costs, and increasing available physical space.

Along with virtualization, 76 percent of IT managers report they are deploying some kind of innovative approach to reducing energy use, including deploying more power-efficient switches and using the network as a platform to manage energy use. “We are using an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) to make sure the energy is clean,” says Lichter. “This is improving power efficiency by 30 percent.” They are also using a new cooling solution to reduce downtime and increase efficiency by eliminating unnecessary over-cooling.
In all, SXU estimates an annual savings of $7,680 in energy and hardware costs. Other schools are saving, too. According to the study, 61 percent have reduced energy costs by one percent or more, and 10 percent have flattened or reduced IT energy use. However, the increasing prices of electricity continue to drive IT energy costs up.

And barriers to IT efficiency remain. The report cites the top two reasons to be: senior management gives higher priority to investments in other areas, and there is too little budget left for new, more efficient systems after meeting internal client demands. Still, the conversation has started and there’s no turning back. “I’ve never had to meet with facilities over these issues before,” says Lichter. “And I no longer have to explain the benefits of virtualization.”

Tech Talk
Technology and teaching continue to intertwine in the coming year. Josh Robert, senior sales manager, higher education, CDW•G answers a few questions about how will all play out.

Q. What are the big technology trends that you see coming to higher education classrooms in the next year?
A. CDW•G is seeing a significant trend toward extending the learning environment on campuses. Students want access to their course content from wherever they are on campus, meaning institutions need wireless solutions and a strong IT infrastructure to support it. Collaboration is also an important trend this year as students are using technology to collaborate and work on course projects. Lastly, many institutions are adopting digital content and electronic textbooks as a part of their technology offerings. Institutions are looking at these solutions so that students can easily and affordably access course material.

Q. How will teaching change in the coming year and how will technology support that new model?
A. We expect that virtual learning solutions will continue to change some aspects of teaching, as virtual learning enables students to attend class remotely, sometimes from other states and countries. As these solutions become more prevalent on campuses, and are incorporated into the curriculum, professors will need to adapt their teaching style. Leading a classroom of 35 students is one thing, but leading a class of 35 students when they are in four different locations is something completely different.

Additionally, we are seeing the convergence of IT and AV. These two departments previously worked separately, but they are now working more collaboratively, with IT having increased influence on classroom technology.

Q. Will technology guide a new teaching paradigm?

A. Students are tech savvy. They are pushing the boundaries of what professors are doing today and how they are teaching. It’s possible that for some areas of study, professors who fail to incorporate technology as a learning tool may see a decrease in students enrolling in their courses. It’s important that faculty integrate technology as a dynamic part of the curriculum to keep students enrolled and engaged.

Many campuses are also adopting mobile solutions to deliver content. Aside from netbooks and laptops, campuses are looking to personal digital assistants (PDAs) and smartphones as a way to deliver content to students. The solutions offer professors a way to create more engaging classrooms, often using them as voting devices for classroom discussions. Many students already own these devices, so these solutions are affordable and easy to integrate.

Q. How will technology support collaboration?
A. In addition to wireless access, we’re finding that many campuses are utilizing Microsoft SharePoint applications to enable students to share work, edit documents, and collaborate easily. These software applications are starting to mature, and we can expect institutions to adopt them more in the coming year.

Q. Will budget constraints slow the adoption of these new models or do you see more funds available for technology purchases?
A. We know that technology is a big priority at schools, so campuses are becoming creative on how to fund it. Essentially, if it’s important enough, institutions will find ways to pay for it. Student technology fees are a common way to subsidize technology funding.

Security on the Move
Campus security needs are evolving along with the emergence of mobile technology. Mark Jarman, president of Inovonics, a provider of high-performance wireless sensor networks for commercial and life-safety applications, notes that today’s security needs are different than they were a decade ago. “People and assets are mobile so security needs to be as well. People are ‘connected’ thanks to mobile devices so they can stay linked to their security and data systems in real time,” he explains “When security is mobile, you need to be able to track it.”

Jarman predicts that integration of access control panels, video management systems, and alarm sensors with IP-based security solutions will increase substantially. In the coming year, development of IP-based specifications to achieve system-wide interoperability of IP security devices will accelerate and will soon become reality. Vendors will need to shift their product strategies to comply with the new requirements.

Location and situational awareness in conjunction with mobile security capabilities will become a key requirement of campus-wide security systems, Jarman continues. Security guards are mobile and have smartphones or two-way radios. With an increasing number of security persons and human assets mobile these days, knowing where they are within a building or campus setting when they activate an alarm is critical. Then notifying others within that same environment via an integrated, easy-to-deploy and use mass notification system ensures a timely resolution.

Wireless sensor networks in commercial settings will continue to gain traction against traditional hard-wired solutions due to their ease in extending monitored sensor types, speed of installation, cost savings, and mobility, as well as overall reliability. Altogether, this will improve the tangible ROI property owners expect.

“Wireless security systems are poised to take advantage of a number of market factors in 2011,” said Jeff Kessler, managing director of Imperial Capital, a security market research and advisory firm. “In the coming years, we will see security directors and integrators asking vendors to better integrate access control, video analytics, and external sensors into a single view to achieve true physical security information management (PSIM) capabilities. Wireless systems will play an important part in this evolution.”

Echoing this same sentiment, Jarman adds, “Despite all the advances in technology, one thing rings clear: an integrated security solution needs to be simple — not over-featured. As elegant as many integrated solutions can be, their sheer complexity can make them fall short of expectations for usability, and therefore performance, reliability, and in realizing a return on investment. That is why simple to install, easy-to-use, reliable and cost-effective wireless systems will gain growing acceptance among security directors and integrators across many markets in the years ahead.”

I’ll Take It!
The nature of textbooks is changing, and college bookstores need to be ready. Of course, the books were never a real profit center to begin with. “Schools only make about 6.3 cents for every dollar spent on texts,” reports Charles Schmidt, director of public relations, National Association of Campus Stores (NACS). “We project that eTextbooks will make up 10 to 15 percent of the market by 2012 and just continue to grow from there.”

What does that mean for the college store of the future?

College store survival requires that students know, value, even love, the college store. It needs to evolve from a bookstore on campus to a true campus store that supports and is relevant to all aspect of campus life. “I had a college president say that the bookstore is the front door to the college,” remembers Schmidt. “Bookstores have to position themselves to serve their students needs.”

That means building foot traffic by offering the usual and the unexpected. Branded material like clothes and giftware makes real money for the store. This merchandise should be marketed like the star it is. But what about services? Schmidt suggests bookstores offer things like flu shots, résumé services, shipping services, print on demand, and computer repair. They can sell tickets to events both on- and off-campus. And for schools without purchasing departments, they can use their buying clout to obtain necessities like blue books, pencils, and calculators.

He also suggests making the store a destination by offering performance space and a café with fresh food selections. “The University of California in San Diego has a green grocer that features local organic produce,” he says. “San Diego State is a small store that makes a lot of money per square foot by renting out space to third-party suppliers that sell non-branded clothes and jewelry.

“Students should have an emotional attachment to their store,” Schmidt says. “It needs to reflect the student body and serve them. That’s the only way it can survive the competition.”