Bold & Audacious.Part 2

Thank you all for your submissions on ‘bold and audacious’ ideas. As I mentioned in a previous post, I dislike ‘safe.’ Part of our job is to push the envelope, to make people think about how we use technology and, better, how we support the primary mission of the University. We watch industry trends, assess user needs and take steps to converge them at points in the future.

However, while I received some very interesting and provocative comments and ideas, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to include them in the annual report. They are not official, just ideas.

What I received is still worth a look. Sharing them here is a better venue. They’re less official and more open to ongoing debate. Here’s the list so far.

• Do not add any new technologies unless something else of similar value is dropped.

• PSU will never be in the headlines for data security or identity theft incidents

• PSU should block and prohibit all file sharing of music and video files on our network.

• All PSU courses should be developed and presented in WebCT.

• Discontinue support and acquisition of discipline-specific computer clusters. Instead, request that students bring their computers to class

• Require all students to develop ePortfolios.

• If we’re going to standardize on one computer platform, let’s make it Mac.

• Outsource management of the network. It is costly and time-consuming, and others would be willing to come in and provide this service for us.

• Stop using email for news and updates to all employees. Reserve allemp for priority messages. All others should go to the web portal or RSS feeds to which employees can subscribe.

• The role of the librarian as gatekeeper and information overlord has ended. The future of librarianship will go to those who understand and navigate the Google Economy.

• We should place all the reference books and periodicals in storage, retrievable on demand. In their place, we should create more space for students, faculty and staff to work collaboratively and discerningly around online research materials.

• Should we continue to provide email to students when they come to campus with free (and preferred) email accounts?

• Should PSU get out of the phone business? At least we should migrate to VOIP.

• Should we discontinue using Microsoft Office in favor of Google applications that are free and Webiquous?

• Why are we providing computers all over campus if students are bringing their own?

• Why do we not share more hardware and resources with sister campuses in USNH?

• Why don’t we move our Help Desk into the Library (hey, what a good idea!)

A changing PSU Web page...

The PSU Web pages will undergo a subtle but steady transition over the next year. Why? The Web is changing all around us, driven by how young people use it. And they are who we target.

It’s tough business putting a university web page together. Georgina Hibberd wrote about University Home pages, a thankless task.

We first made the web for fun. It was a novel experience to be able to write and publish pages to the World Wide Web. We used hypertext code to make pages come alive. Then every school had to have a Web page. IT shops handed over their early Web pages to PR, professionals who could manage the image. The web became an essential marketing tool.

In the past few years, nothing has changed information and the Web like Google. They are literally transforming the Web to place information and resources at one’s fingertips. Additionally, more and more people are networking socially on the web. Services like mySpace, FaceBook and others are magnets for today’s youth.

I could go on. But the real evidence lives in my house. Two teenage girls who spend more time online than in front of the TV. They navigate and engage online with those they know from school. It’s their world, it’s how they communicate.

So as we roll out new versions of the web pages, the first thing to understand is that this is not for you…it’s for them.; tomorrow’s prospective students.

How we maintain the content on the Web will also change. Many of us will use new tools to write, submit and maintain content of web pages. If you want to keep your pages lively and current, you have all the power to do so. Conversely, if you have pages that are no longer current, they can be timed out until your information is current. It’s called a content management system.

Insiders have myPlymouth. If you haven’t noticed lately, take a look. Have you customized your page? Do you know some of the information channels available besides just the defaults? Have you seen the new student polling area?

Bah, you say? Don’t see the use for myPlymouth?

Think again. When we place announcements on myPlymouth, student responses are extraordinary. If we conduct a survey, we get data. myPlymouth has eyeballs of students.

The Boundaryless Organization

There’s a concept known as the boundaryless organization. It has to do with organizations that move to a higher level of functioning defined less by organizational structure and more by innovation through integration of ideas and people. (see also The Boundaryless Organization)

Most organizations grow and evolve to become very structured. It’s our way of putting order to chaos. Departments are formed to develop areas of expertise and efficiency. Yet as organizations evolve, the very structures that make them organized tend to impede their ability to change, innovate and work across boundary lines. Strong organizational units can become silos.

Turf and philosophy, defined over time by those who created and nurtured the organization, inhibit seamless service with other departments. ‘That’s not what we do’ is what you might hear. Services are defined by extensive documentation and policies. They do what they do very well because it is what they know best.

Over time and in a dynamic environment, however, good organizations need to be nimble. They need people who can generate and implement ideas. If an organization is driven more by innovation and customer service principles, and less by organizational parameters, it cross-trains, shares resources and responds more quickly to initiatives. Self-help is maximized and knowledge is given freely. If you ask a question in one area, it can receive an intelligible response from one person or another within a short period of time.

A boundaryless organization studies and implements best practices. If none exist, they write ‘em.

This concept of boundarylessness is central to the idea of integrated services in the Learning Commons. Our Info Desk students and staff will be cross-trained to know and understand a myriad of services in the areas of the library, technology, tutoring and writing programs. They may not go deep in explanations, but they will be able to answer fundamental questions. And if the question requires a deeper level of expertise, the first responder will get the contact information of the requester and make sure an expert gets back to the person inquiring.


Here’s a vision of where, if we blur organizational boundaries, the Learning Commons might be in 2-3 years. Reference services and Info Desk support share information and resources. If someone is busy in one area, another helps out. We wouldn’t have separate desks for Reference and Information, we’re working side-by-side. Downstairs, if a student gets tutoring in PASS, they walk over to the Writing and Reading Center and just as easily get support for writing a paper. Staffs in both programs are cross-trained in the fundamentals of each program and they share information with one another. Students don’t need to know that the organizations are separate. Sure, they may have some distinguishing characteristics and guidelines, but surrounding the student with empowered, service-oriented people should be the first priority.

More vision. Many of our students work for multiple offices during their time in the Learning Commons. There is a Learning Commons Certificate that students can achieve…they must work for at least one semester with all four academic services in the library and demonstrate learning and service objectives.

The whole would be greater than the sum of its parts. We would deliver our traditional services, but develop new services and support structures. We’ll be student- and customer-centered.

Our organizational units made sense once upon a time. But that is a rear view. Strive for superior, integrated service. We should not stand behind definitions of what we’ve done before, but envision what we might become. In that environment, no ideas are off limits. Sacred cows are put out to pasture.

Those are the hallmarks of a top-notch organization.

Paperless? Environmentally friendly? Hardly.

I met with a group of students recently to discuss technology; where we are now, the challenges in funding, and where we want to be in 2-3 years. They shared a number of valuable perspectives.

One issue that bubbled up that concerns me greatly. Students use our public clusters a lot. Whether to jump online between classes, more in-depth surfing or writing papers, the convenience is obvious. But they also seem to flock to computer clusters for the printing. They can write on their own computers, but they like to print on campus printers. And why wouldn’t they? We provide a large printing quota that, if exceeded, can be increased by a simple request.

Students can print at will. Print a draft, or two or three, then final copies. They are sometimes required by instructors to print several copies of their papers for distribution in class to others. It is not uncommon to see hordes of paper printed and often discarded to recycle bins just as quickly.

The cost of printing is yet another matter. Reams upon reams of paper are consumed. Toner cartridges are replaced often. High volume printers need replacement parts and have to be upgraded every few years. It is one person’s job to keep pace with daily printer needs around campus.

The promise of a paperless world is a concept unproved. In fact, it seems that we are printing more than ever. I understand. While I spend a lot of time reading online, it is still easier and quicker to have that paper in hand.

However, there is a cost to that convenience. And as I preach, change is about modifying behavior.

We are a ‘green’ campus. We promote environmentally friendly themes. This is an area of conspicuous consumption we could address.

How? First raise awareness. Help the campus understand the cost and impact to the environment. Then, engage discussion among faculty, talk about how can we use the technology tools at our disposal to work more online and demote rampant printing. Finally, place appropriate signage and information about printing in the labs.

The funding we save over time would be significant. And we would practice what we preach as environmentalists.

Note to Daughters on use of mySpace

Dear Daughters,


I know you like It’s an online place to share things about yourself—your wit, charm and good looks—and to meet others. Tell a little bit about yourself, post a picture, and give just enough to let others want to know you. It’s also a place to scope out friends and what silly and provocative things they put out. So you’re attracted to the older high school guy, the one who seems so mild mannered and shy in person, but dons an entirely new profile online. I can (gulp!) live with the notion that you might be attracted to his shaved head, rippled stomach, half-mast pants, multiple nose studs and alluring tattoos that complement his wicked grin.


At least you can see this guy. I worry more about are the ones you can’t see. For everything cool about the online world, there is an equal and opposite seamy side. Your generation is so trusting, so quick to share details of yourselves and lives online. Yet while your intent is frolicsome, you’re often sharing yourselves with the world. Beware the dementors of the internet. Every generation has its share of lurkers, perverts and miscreants; it’s just that the online world provides them easy access to you.


You’re not alone. is the craze for college students. It’s cool to a point, but when students start posting pictures of themselves with kegs in the background, smoking a bong or showing some skin, they’re finding out quickly how things travel at the speed of internet. College officials and police find indisputable evidence of underage drinking. Students are sucked into their campus judicial systems for slandering faculty and fellow students. Racy pictures take on a life of their own. Busted!


Once you post things online, there’s no turning back. Web pages are searched and archived daily by internet robots. The pages are there forever, on someone’s server, whether you decide to delete it or not. You are suddenly Googleable!


It’s becoming common practice for employers to Google job applicants. Think about that. You spend a lot of time preparing for a job search by polishing your resume, dressing for success and planning your interview questions. Then, after you do so well, the hiring manager tells you they found your profile online. That little ditty you wrote 3 years ago, the one you thought was so cute and clever, especially by adding a picture from Girls Gone Wild. Well, they decided you weren’t quite the professional profile they were looking for.


Don’t roll your eyes at me, girls. It happens. Just remember this. Have fun, get to know others, but use this tool wisely. Don’t give out any information that would identify you, your address or other vitals. Your first name is fine, a nickname is better. Keep yourself mysterious. And on the internet, start with a position of distrust.


And like a very traditional notion of managing yourself in public, think about what your mother and father would think if they saw your postings online. In many cases, we will.

Student computers and security threats for those less vigilant

Incoming Freshman Unaware of Security Risks

Computer experts are saying that the average computer user, such as students and home computer users, need training in order to protect themselves from online security risks. 11,000 new viruses were documented in the first six months of 2005 according to Symantec, a security software firm. “There is an enormous need to educate non-computer professionals on computer security – there are a lot of naïve users out there,� said Bruce Schneier, Chief Technology Officer of Counterpane Internet Security Inc. A study found that 62 percent of homes with broadband Internet access d0 not regularly update their anti-virus software, which could carry over to their kids headed off to college.