Higher-ed must not accept "good enough"

While K-12 Ed Tech often has to settle for barely adequate solutions in order to serve the greatest number of students and educators, this short-sighted approach is completely unacceptable for higer-education.

Marc Wagner

In recent years Education IT (especially K-12 Ed Tech) has faced flat or shrinking budgets while schools have struggled with NCLB, unfunded mandates, and uninformed administrators unwilling to challenge citizen school boards with even less knowledge about the needs of educators in the twenty-first century. 

At the root of this problem are state legislatures who are blindly following the lead set by an ever more polarized and cynical electorate unwilling themselves to provide the additional funding necessary to keep their children competitive in an increasingly global society. 

Life-cycle funding is a rarity and purchasing decisions are often made with a "best bang for the buck" approach.  This often leads to Ed Tech being forced to choose solutions which are barely suitable for meeting immediate needs and certain to be unsuitable for meeting advanced student and educator needs in as little as two years. 

Meanwhile, the haggard Ed Tech group, trying to save for the next 'rainy day' often finds it's meager budget robbed by the end of the academic year.  This approach is bad enough in a K-12 setting but it is intolerable in higher education. 

In higher education, "best bang for the buck" is not only insufficient, it is destructive to the mission of the modern university.  Even if your school is focused on undergraduate education rather than faculty research, the school's ability to attract and retain well-trained tenure-track faculty can be severely impacted if a lack of sufficient life-cycle funding means that you cannot provide your faculty with modern tools to meet their teachings and publishing needs. 

If yours is a research institution serving doctoral students and their research faculty, the need for a well-funded comprehensive Education IT department is immeasurable.  Not only does your research faculty depend upon institutional resources for teaching their students but they also depend upon modern tools for doing their own research -- and a state-of-the-art network for collaboration with colleagues throughout the world. 

There is no room for bias in this environment either.  Your decisions must not be made in a vacuum.  Collaboration with those who will use your tools is a must.  You must be willing to examine the suitability of a variety of solutions based solely on the requirements of your faculty and students.  This means that all solutions, be they based upon Linux, Macintosh, UNIX, or Windows should be evaluated without prejudice -- while keeping in mind the needs of your educators and students.  Often the best tools are not the technically superior ones but are instead the tools that your faculty and students will actually use.  Usability trumps superiority every time.