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Tag: facebook

Why Higher Ed IT Staff Should be on Social Media

I was talking with someone working in higher education IT a few days ago about social media and why I have embraced it. He told me  “No way will I be interested in social media. If you watched the movie Social Network,  you’ll know that Zuckerberg created facebook so his buddies could get laid.” He also told me “I don’t want to know what some mom cooked for breakfast.” So I asked him if he has a daughter and he tells me he does. I asked him “Who’s going to teach your daughter about how to properly use social media?” and his response was “Not me.” With the realization that I could not convince him about at least understanding social media and that they won’t go away soon, I changed the topic.  The negative attitude towards social media by some IT professionals is understandable given the security and policy implications. In some sense, social media also represents some loss of control when it comes to what and how technology should be used in the workplace.

Based on my short experience using social media, I would urge other colleagues who work in higher education IT to give social media a chance for the following reasons:

  • Keep up with trends. I have observed the following the last couple of years:
    • Increasing use of mobile devices on our campus by students and staff.
    • Increasing requests from departments we serve to use external software services for their business needs.
    • Increasing social media presence by campus departments, student organizations.

Before I started using twitter last year, I didn’t realize there was actually a term for this phenomenon and it is not unique to our campus.  This trend is called “consumerization of IT” and is defined on Wikipedia as “trend for new information technology to emerge first in the consumer market and then spread into business organizations, resulting in the convergence of the IT and consumer electronics industries, and a shift in IT innovation from large businesses to the home.”

  • Understand our customers.  How can we serve our customers if we don’t know their mindset and tools they use? By just observing the communication between students and our staff on facebook and the general conversations on twitter, IT staff can learn a lot about issues/trends that cannot be found anywhere else.
  • Professional Development. Every day I log onto facebook, google+, twitter, youtube, slideshare and other social media websites, I consider them as free learning opportunities. I have only attended 2 conferences the last 4 years due to lack of training budgets but I have used social media as my personal learning network (PLN) and have learned a lot about mobile web development, social media and leadership.  When I read blogs by experts in technologies and higher ed, I find insights than typical articles and websites would often reveal.
  • Be Relevant and credible. As more of our customers demand to use consumer technologies, inevitably, appropriateness and policy issues will come up for discussion.  Would I  really be credible as an IT professional if I don’t even know how these technologies work? Part of the reason why I spend so much time on social media is to research how they work and how they relate to our business, including what issues to consider. If I have to take the position of rejecting a customer’s proposal to use an external service, I want to be able to credibly tell them the reasons for my position. On the other hand, if I do approve their proposal, I need to be able to assist them in using the service that is consistent with university policies and in ways they may not have thought of.
  • Keep up or get left behind. I was told a year ago that social media is a fad and so is Skype so I shouldn’t bother investing any time/resources investigating it for business use. I was also told students do not use mobile devices. Ironically, part of what motivated me to be on social media is to find out for myself on whether what I am being told are actually true. Given the pace at which consumer technology changes, it is a challenge to keep up. I generally spend up to 4 hours most nights just learning new technologies including mobile web and social media and I still feel as if I am behind. In some ways, I consider the time I spend on social media as career investment. I don’t know what IT will look like five years from now but all I know is that the convergence of social media and the enterprise will be even greater than what it is today and I want to be in a position where my knowledge lie in both areas to be employable, competing against our current students who will have entered the work place and who have far greater knowledge about consumer technologies than I do.
  • Learn about hobbies, personal interests; connect with folks with same interests. While I hear stereotypes about IT folks as not being too sociable and have no lives, all the IT folks I work with have some outside interests/hobbies. I spend my weekends watching sports and it’s fun being able to watch the games with others that are in different cities, states and in some cases, other countries.

Social media definitely have some pitfalls but I think the benefits outweigh the risks. For anyone working in higher education, not just IT, the days of questioning the values of social media in higher education is long gone. If we are to stay relevant and provide quality customer service, we need to do our part to understand the current needs of our customers and future trends so that we are prepared to adopt them rather than reacting.

What other reasons should higher education IT staff be on social media?



Facebook as a Model for Business Agility?

The agility at which facebook can make changes is something I can admire. In creating company this big, facebook is not going to please everyone, but led by Mark Zuckerberg who at times is faulted for his naivete because of his young age – he has optimism and energy on his side. As a line in the Social Network movie says “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.” Facebook, in my mind, represents a new breed of consumer-driven organization who must continually adapt at a very high rate of change to satisfy their stakeholders. I realize that arguments have been made that facebook changes are made for the sake of revenue and to maximize advertising, etc and not for the sake of customers. That is most likely true. However, even with that argument, I think that facebook must make changes that will not completely upset its customer base as revenue would then suffer. Consider the following quotes attributed to another brilliant innovator, Steve Jobs:

  • “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”
  • “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”

Apple and Facebook, led by these two innovators are probably rare companies in that they are able to define their products and services to whatever visions they have set, making mistakes along the way, yet are able to survive and even thrive.

As a facebook user, I sometimes get annoyed with the changes. Specifically with the latest ones released yesterday which makes the site looks very cluttered with all the different functions I can’t even name. It’s beginning to remind me of the cluttered myspace. However, as someone who is in a technology leadership position at a university, I sometimes envy how facebook can seemingly introduce changes overnight without having to go through committee approvals. This is not to say that the need for approval process and committees are all bad given security, policy and legal constraints that must be considered when introducing new technologies like social media. It is those instances when “paralysis by over analysis” cripple a project that bothers me a lot. Finding balance between making sure we are not introducing high risk but at the same time have the room to innovate is a challenge.

One of the guiding principles I have applied in my career is from a mentor I admire so much, the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs  at UCSB – Dr. Michael Young. He told me way back when I was just starting my career that “I’d rather have you continually moving forward, making mistakes along the way, than stagnate.

One of the challenges I face at work (and life) is determining when to apply the principle of  “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission”.  Looking back at what I have been able to accomplish throughout the years as a developer dating back to 1998 with our university’s campus calendar of events to the numerous applications I’ve built after, I wonder how much of it I would have even built if I had to ask for permission and if I had to prove the value of every single one of them every single time.

Do you agree/disagree with the idea that universities can learn from facebook or are we just different organizational models with different goals, stakeholders and customers?

Facebook as Student Portal? Some Considerations

Eric Stoller wrote about the idea of facebook as a student portal in his blog post “Is Facebook Mature Enough To Be a Portal Solution?” and it truly is an interesting proposition. Below is my response to the post outlining some considerations any institution might need to consider if they are to use facebook as their student portal.

It’s certainly an interesting proposition. Looking at it from someone who works with all departments in student affairs in implementing enterprise solutions like student info systems, medical records, advising systems, judicial affairs, etc – there are major factors to consider. I’m not suggesting at all that using facebook as student portal is impossible or a bad idea. I’m just not sure what the conditions would be for an institution to start using facebook as its student portal.
I never expected social media to be used as a networking management tool either but it now exists in the form of Enterasys’ ISAAC system. If institutions are to partner with facebook, here are some things I would think need to be considered:

1) Policies – is facebook’s current terms of use/privacy consistent with an institution’s policies. For example, University of California campuses are not supposed to use Google Web Analytics. From a policy staff at UC, Google’s Terms of Service agreement for Google Analytics includes a clause requiring indemnification. (Term #8). Third party indemnification requires Regents approval and Campuses do not have the authority to agree to terms that require indemnification.

When facebook does change its terms of use/privacy policies, which seems to happen without notice, would institutions need to change their policies to comply with facebook? Given the slow and bureaucratic nature of higher ed, will facebook or partner institutions be willing to work at the same pace? With regards to FERPA, HIPAA and other confidentiality and security policies, as well as accessibility requirements, are institutions confident enough that facebook policies do meet these requirements?

2) Campus culture/Readiness – technology is not always the issue when it comes to implementing tech solutions. Given the campus-wide scope of a student portal, I would think different parts of the campus from student affairs/academics/legal/administrative/IT would have to be involved in the discussion and they’d all have to agree to this partnership.

3) Technology
Student portal would have to potentially tap into the different systems on campus from electronic medical records, student academic info, billing, etc and these systems interface with each other sometimes in standard protocols like HL 7 for medical systems (radiology, emr) and proprietary formats. How would this work with facebook? If facebook is to be used to do billing transactions using credit cards, does it meet PCI compliance? In addition, a single sign-on would have to be implemented for these campus systems so students can access data from these different systems. Do institutions have authentication/authorization systems that can work with facebook? Are identity providers on campus willing to use facebook as the single sign-on solution?

4) Support/Training
– If facebook is to be used, how/who would support the system? Certainly, I would think facebook knowledge be required by those who will support the system, not only from the functional area but from the technical as well.

5) Implementation
– how long, how much resources would need to be allocated?

6) Other
– Would the institution require all students, staff then to sign up for facebook? I’m not sure if 100% of all students, staff are in facebook.

Facebook as student portal is an interesting concept and it’s certainly an idea I will closely follow if it has more traction.

Social Media in Student Affairs and the Need for Institutional Support

Institutional support is necessary for social media to thrive in higher education.  Individuals and grassroots efforts have opened the door for social media to be accepted at universities and have proven the values of it.  To further the use of social media,  institutional support is required for it to be embraced, to be sustained and to explore further uses. While the mention of policies and guidelines and even having committees that represent the different factions of the university including marketing, IT, legal, business unit reps could be seen as overly bureaucratic, it is my opinion, based on experience, that it is necessary for social media to be embraced as part of official university business. If a group, representing the different functions of your organization, does not clearly define the use and boundaries of social media, some individual(s) will improperly define it for the organization based on limited and biased perspectives.

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