Friday, August 14, 2015

What's on the horizon?

As IT leaders, it is our responsibility to look ahead towards the future, to see what is coming next. In Morris IT, we try to look ahead to the next year, and the next five years. What's next on the horizon?

I see three major innovations that will dramatically reshape campus technology at Morris:

Google Classroom
This is a relatively new feature from Google. Initially aimed at secondary education, Google Classroom is also being used in higher ed. This year, two of our faculty are piloting the system. Our faculty partners have found a few limitations in the system (for example: it seems we can only set an assignment's points on a broad "step" scale, like 1, 5, 10, 20 .. rather than setting a 15-point quiz or a 2-point discussion item). Once these limitations are addressed and Google Classroom becomes more mature, will this replace Moodle? [Update: looks like the points scale is a usability issue in Google Classroom. You can set a specific point value for any assignment; just type it in.]
Computer labs
We have been examining virtual applications in our labs. By virtualizing an application, we can have it execute on a central server, but display on the lab computer. This may mean we can make all licensed software available on all lab computers, license costs permitting. Additionally, we see more applications moving to the Cloud. Over time, the combination of Cloud and virtualization will mean computer labs become less important in a general sense, as students bring their laptops to campus and connect from there. Labs will probably shift to "print centers" for students to print out documents for class. Computers in these labs will then become low-power devices like Chromebox or ComputeStick.
Active Directory
Several years ago, we implemented AD services for managing desktops and laptops, and providing network storage via the S: and H: drives. I imagine computer management will remain an issue, but over time we may see the network storage become less important. Already we are planning for an eventual retirement of the separate NetFiles service, as Google Drive replaces Cloud-based file storage. Will this eventually displace the S: and H: drives? Perhaps some "local" network storage will remain for high-security projects, but most of our file services will likely shift to Google.

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