How do people respond to an increasingly rapid pace of technology change?

We all respond to new technologies in our own ways, at our own pace.

Some take to the latest and greatest technologies with zeal. They're known as early adopters, techno-enthusiasts at heart. They keep pace with new developments and strive to keep up with the latest and greatest. They speak a language of their own. To call them geeks may understate their passion. They're the ones who stood in line for an iPhone. This group comprises about 2.5% of technology users.

On the other end of the spectrum are laggards. They could care less about the iPhone, if they even know what it is. For them, technology is a burden. They get flustered by it and ask others to set it up for them. Begrudgingly, they learn rote tasks, but their focus in life is on other things. They like things the way they are. Only when a technology becomes truly mainstream will they use it. This group represents about 16% of technology users.

Within that spectrum are early adopters (13.5%), early majority (34%) and late majority (34%). You can get a better sense of the groups and how they respond to change on the Innovation and Adoption Curve. These middle groups make up the vast majority of technology users.

On a university campus, IT departments have to play to both ends of the spectrum. We test and play with new technologies, we remain current in our field. We adopt new technologies that survive the initial hype and become new footholds. Once we implement new technologies, we lay out plans to help the early adopters and the majority of users to absorb the new technologies so they can perform their work in new ways. As for the laggards, we hope they come along, but we do not spend an exorbitant amount of time with them. It's not that we are insensitive, we simply have to play to the masses.

Often times, ITS staff are on the front lines of change. We don't ask for software and hardware upgrades. There are times when we want to develop new systems to help you in your work, but most of our change is imposed on us from a hyper-competitive industry that waits for no one. If Oracle, Sungard-SCT or Microsoft upgrade their products, we have little choice but to go along. If there are changes in our systems hosted by USNH and Durham, we need to respond. We are dependent on them. We can bide our time, but sooner or later we're going to have to go with the flow. And we do.

But lest you think we are all passionate geeks that chase new technologies with reckless abandon, take heart. We scrutinize many changes in our industry and assess:

  1. is the technology aligned with our mission as a comprehensive, regional university,
  2. what are the short- and long-term costs, and
  3. do we have a choice?

This semester, many of you are experiencing the fruits of our upgrade labors this summer--for better or worse. Some people roll with the flow. Others are cursing ITS. Banner and WebCT were upgraded. myPlymouth has a new look and feel. Many of the new computers on campus will be sporting Microsoft's new Vista operating system and Office 2007. We also have a new email and online calendar program called Zimbra. Every one of these system changes requires us to do aspects of our work a little differently. We need to learn and adapt to how these systems work.

Where do you fall on the spectrum? Do you curse or thirst for new technologies?

Me, I just want everything to work. 😉

Top Ten Things You Should Know About Technology at PSU

What you need to know about computing, network policy and your personal responsibilities:

PSU has a new email and calendar system...myMail. Last year, a decision was made to replace our aging email system. We selected Zimbra, a web-based email system that has all the bells and whistles of common email applications like Google, Hotmail and Yahoo. You can access your email in my.Plymouth.edu, at mail.plymouth.edu. Outlook users access it through the same mail server. You can also use the calendar, address book and write, store and share documents for online collaboration. Try it. Get to know it and make it work for you. (hint: look at Shortcuts in Options to save time!)

PSU recently adopted a new emergency notification system called PSU Alert. that enables the school to send urgent news to your cell phone. Once you sign up for the service, the school can text your cell phone with timely information about emergencies, snow days, floods or other urgent campus communications. This is an OPT IN service. To register, login to myPlymouth and select the PSU Alert in the My Services sidebar. There you will find FAQs and instructions on how to register.

When you connect to the network for the first time this fall, you were required to update your computer's antivirus and operating system software. This enables you to maintain a secure and protected computer, while keeping our network and PSU information systems safe. We take network security seriously, we hope you do to.

Music and movie file sharing has become a risky behavior. It's been free music for years, but now there is far greater risk to you personally. If you are identified, your computer may be disconnected from the PSU network. Worse, you could be levied a hefty fine. Don't do it! Share music responsibly.

Whether you bring your own or use a PSU computer, you are accountable for how you use your computer on the PSU network. You have high degree of academic and privacy, but know that you leave tracks everywhere you go. All of us are accountable to the PSU Acceptable Use Policy for Computing. Check it out and compute responsibly.

Sunday mornings are reserved for network and system maintenance. We strive to keep downtime periods short, and you can receive text alerts in advance through e2Campus if you would like. Otherwise, we post notices to myPlymouth when work is scheduled.

Protect your portable computer! Never leave it unlocked or unattended. Work out security with your roommates so that you're all covered.

Security is everyone's responsibility. You are responsible for keeping your computer updated with Windows and anti-virus protection. You are accountable for use of your username and password, along with what you do on your computer connected to the PSU network.

Need to send large files? There are limits to the size of attachments in PSU email, but you can go to YouSendIt, SendThisFile, or DropSend, all online services that let you send files up to several gigabytes large for free.

We are a green campus, until it comes to printing. There are valid reasons to print papers, reports and other materials. Please understand, however, that PSU spends an extraordinary amount of funds on paper and toner for student printing. If we all print judiciously and avoid printing whenever possible, we'll be saving money and doing our part to conserve resources.

For questions on these topics and anything else, comment below and/or contact the ITS Help Desk at the Lamson Learning Commons: 2929 or helpdesk@plymouth.edu.

Dwight Fischer, ITS