Sunday, March 30, 2008

Campus safety a major concern

Over the past year the tragedy at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University have shocked college campuses. These Columbine High type events have caused worry and action on college campuses. Since the Virgina Tech shootings took place campuses have been looking at ways to contact their students, all of their students, quickly should a similar event take place at their schools.

Some may say that this is an over reaction to high publicity tragedies that are unlikely to occur on most campuses. This may be somewhat true, but these events have pushed college presidents to address the question with parents and students. The Campus Computing Project ( has been tracking technology trends on campus for many years. The 2007 survey shows that most campuses have some plan for contacting students in the event of violence, weather alerts, accidents, fires, or other emergencies. Most are using their web sites, email systems, and/or text messaging to let their students know about any major safety threats. Some campuses even send voice messages to cell phones. On some campuses a simple siren system has become one of a more than one methods of alerting students that something bad is happening.

Providing these services can run from the inexpensive (email) to those which can cost tens of thousands of dollars (text messaging), but students and parents are more focused on campus safety than ever and the costs are worth it. These are very different times on college campuses. Although violence is rare on most campuses, students should stay alert and parents should ask what systems are in place to communicate with students.

As you look at college campuses you should ask the campus admissions officials what systems are in use. Have they been tested? Has there ever been an event in which the systems were needed. These are all reasonable questions today. You might also check the campus web site searching under emergency notification.

Safety is one of the key concerns of college students today. Although it may be a little blown out of proportion by the media, it is important and should be investigated as you make your college choice.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

March is acceptance letter month, not just madness month

March is the month for acceptance letters and financial aid pages, not just basketball. Once the letters start coming in, take a close look at each colleges reputation, location, "campus feel", academic programs, and cost. If you have a major in mind you are way ahead of the game, but keep in mind that most students change majors three or more times before graduation. I know this can be unsettling for parents, but the facts speak for themselves. I suggest that you look at all of the factors noted above, not just one or two. This is a big decision and one that should not be impulsive or linked to "where all of your friends are going". In two years you will not be close friends with the same people who are close to you now. This is just the way it works.

On the tech front, its too early to buy the laptop or desktop just yet. National surveys show that over 95% of freshmen come to campus with a computer. If you cannot afford one, fear not. All campuses have computer labs and libraries which generally provide free access. I suggest taking a close look at the colleges Helpdesk and Bookstore web sites. Often colleges have tips on what type of computer to buy and may even have special purchasing programs for computers and software. In Maryland we have exceptional pricing on Microsoft products and we always tell students to wait to buy software until they are enrolled. Always look for these programs before buying. You can save some serious money.

If the college requires that you own a computer you can probably use financial aid to pay for it. If they only recommend it, you will likely be on your on. When in doubt call the financial aid office.

You should also see if you can find information about the campuses wireless Internet access. Most campuses are working on full coverage for wireless access, but most have not completed this just yet. There should be info on this at the Helpdesk site or the telecommunications pages. More on this later.

Good luck in making your college choice. Remember that big is not always better and private is not always perfect. A good student can get a good education at most colleges.

Friday, March 21, 2008

FreshmanTech gets started

FreshmanTech is a new blog designed to provide college freshmen and/or their parents with information regarding technologies in use on college campuses. Things are changing so fast that new students often don't know what they will need, in term of technology, as they head off for college. This blog will provide info and answer questions that you might have in this area. Colleges have been ramping up technology for both academic and entertainment purposes for the past several years. The web, laoptop purchasing programs, wireless networking, learning management systems, web based student information, portals, music services, and text message emergency notification systems are just a few of things that were not even thought about ten years ago.

I have been involved in higher education technology for 20+ years and have been a Chief Technology Officer at a state university for the past eleven years. What are your questions regarding technology in the college/university environment?