Colleges turn to unified communications to save costs, boost productivity

More schools are implementing unified communications solutions.
More schools are implementing unified communications solutions.

More K-12 schools, colleges, and universities are turning to unified communications as a way to streamline campus communication and save money in unpredictable economic times, a new survey suggests.

Unified communications is the convergence of enterprise voice, video, and data services with software applications designed to achieve greater collaboration among individuals or groups and improve business processes. Component technologies include video, audio, and web conferencing; unified messaging; and more.

The benefits that education technology stakeholders see in implementing unified communications are the same that executives in the government and business sectors see, according to the second annual Unified Communications Tracking Poll from CDW Government Inc. (CDW-G), which provides products and services to education and other sectors.…Read More

Technology makes student aid more accessible

Students have increasingly looked to the web for financial aid.
Students have increasingly looked to the web for financial aid.

Over the past decade and a half, the internet has made it easier for families to learn about, find, and apply for college scholarships, government grants, and other types of student financial aid. This transformation of the financial aid industry continues even today with a simplified federal aid form and a new XML data standard that will make applying for scholarships easier than ever.

I have acted as a catalyst for some of these major developments and have a unique perspective on the role of the internet in paying for college.

I founded the FinAid web site in the early 1990s to help people plan for and pay for college by making the process easier to understand and more efficient. FinAid was one of the internet’s first web sites, not just one of the first web sites about student financial aid. It is also one of the oldest web sites still in existence.…Read More

Microsoft opens its cloud to researchers

A new partnership between Microsoft and NSF will give researchers access to Microsoft's cloud-computing infrastructure.
A new partnership between Microsoft and NSF will give researchers access to Microsoft's cloud-computing infrastructure.

Researchers have until March 15 to submit proposals to the National Science Foundation (NSF) that would grant access to Microsoft Corp.’s massive cloud-computing power for three years.

Researchers and academic teams chosen by NSF officials will use Microsoft Azure, a program that offers enormous data storage and computing capabilities using the corporation’s data centers.

College and university researchers have gravitated to cloud computing in recent years as the model has proven cost efficient—campuses don’t have to maintain pricey on-site server racks—and has removed many restrictions prevalent on traditional computer networks.…Read More

Wireless mic frequency change could affect colleges

Faculty members might have to use new wireless microphones after a recent FCC ruling.
Instructors might have to use new wireless microphones in lecture halls after a recent FCC ruling.

Colleges and universities that use wireless microphones operating on the 700 megahertz (MHz) frequency band have until June 12 to change the radio frequency or buy new equipment, according to a Jan. 15 ruling by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The FCC’s decision is part of a larger government effort to clear the 700 MHz band for use by cell phones, digital TV transmissions, and emergency communications. About 25 percent of the country’s wireless microphones will have to be modified or replaced, according to federal projections.

The ruling affects schools, colleges, sports stadiums, churches, theater groups, musicians, and others who rely on wireless microphones to amplify sound. Some colleges using wireless mics to help their instructors or performers be heard more clearly could end up spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars to replace the banned equipment.…Read More

Interest in hybrid courses on the rise

Hybrid courses combine the benefits of online and face-to-face instruction.
Hybrid courses combine the benefits of online and face-to-face instruction.

Several colleges and universities say they’ve seen double-digit increases in the number of students taking online courses in recent years. Increasingly, some of the online offerings are what’s known as “hybrid” courses, which mix an online experience with traditional classroom learning.

Scott Pilgram is working on his business management degree from Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minn. Last semester, Pilgram took his first hybrid course.

The class, Linguistics in Society, alternated between classroom work one week and online work the next.…Read More

Has Google developed the next wave of online education?

Google Wave marks the next step in collaboration capabilities for group projects, some in education say.
Google Wave marks the next step in collaboration capabilities for group projects, some in education say.

Combining text, audio, and video chat with features like drag-and-drop documents and interactive polls, Google Wave is a free web program that could add unprecedented depth to student interaction, many educators say.

Programmers who designed Google Wave, a tool still in development and only available through limited invites, started with a question: What would eMail look like if it were invented today?

The answer is a format that merges social networking with multimedia in an online meeting space where students and instructors can see each other type in real time, conduct private conversations, and edit documents simultaneously.…Read More