The chapters deal with the impact of a number of key technologies such as cloud computing, mobility, location awareness, the personal web and semantic aware applications. Each chapter contains a description of the technology, relevance to teaching/learning/research and excellent links to relevant projects and examples of the technologies under discussion. Briefly, the key technologies are:
Not only does virtually everyone own one but they will soon replace the computer as the choice device for accessing the net. The iPhone can download a host of intelligent widgets and some universities are already making use of this in order to offer students greater flexibility in how they access and interact with the university's resources. See especially Stanford's impressive iApps.
- Cloud computing
The thin client returns. Applications run on many computers in a "cloud" and storage space is cheap. As a result we can run everything on a simpler low cost terminal (a mobile for example) as long as it has good net access. Collaborative work becomes simple and IT costs will drop (we hope!).
Geo-positioning will be present in all devices and services will be customised to your present location. Your photos and films will be automatically geo-tagged and immediately linked on to, say, Google Earth.
- The personal web
Web 2.0 moves on and the web becomes increasingly tailored to your own preferences. You control the news feeds you receive, the networks you belong to, the way you organise your work space and social life. Your profiles and settings are available form any device, anywhere.
- Semantic aware applications
Search engines today search for key words but cannot understand context. Future applications will be able to provide more relevant information based on contextual information.
- Smart objects
All objects can be tagged with small chips/smartcards/codes to enable them to be located and traced. A web search could even provide the exact location of a particular object on a map.
- There is a growing need for formal training in digital literacy for both students and staff. Too much today is left to chance, hoping that everyone will somehow pick it all up instinctively. Even our so-called digital natives need help.
- Teaching material is still based on methods and thinking from last century. We need to adapt to the needs and skills of tomorrow and update our materials. Many of our students will work in jobs that do not even exist today.
- Higher education is facing growing demands to put educational content on the net and in appealing formats. Demands for access to learning via mobile terminals will increase and only a few institutions are really responding at present.
- Traditional structures for scholarship and academic review are out of step with how work is carried out today on the net.
Pioneers and enthusiasts at all universities are trying to make all this happen but all too often these efforts crash into a glass ceiling because these issues have not fully filtered through to the heads of faculty. Many universities today are still based around the traditional campus model despite the fact that the majority of their students are studying on the net, often in combination with a career and family. Lifelong learning is a growing market for higher education and it demands a mature IT-strategy to make it work. The universities that see this market as core business and invest in competence development for staff and support for net-based students will succeed.