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Archive for November 6th, 2007

Why We Should All Use Externally-Hosted Web Services

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 6 November 2007

There may be an argument that in higher education we have no need to make use of externally hosted Web services, such as blogs, wikis, photographic sharing sites, etc. as institutions will typically have IT services departments with expertise in installing and supporting enterprise systems. And we also have a wide range of JISC services which can provide access to applications on a national basis, including services such as JISCMail which are used by all institutions, as well as more niche services aimed at the research community.

However. although this view was probably true ten years ago, I feel that it ignores a significant change to the IT landscape over the past few years: the use of networked services outside of a work context and use by large numbers of people who aren’t members of the HE community. I suspect a large number of users of in-house IT services will also be likely to make use of IT services for social purposes – such as storing personal photographs and sharing them with friends and family. In such cases it may not be possible to make use of an institutional service. So we, as individuals, will need to learn how to use such services and evaluate the risks of such services. It is not only institutions which will need to safeguard access to teaching and learning and research resources – individual members of the institutions, staff and students, will need to safeguard their precious digital assets.

I also feel that we can also expect to see lecturers who use such services for personal use to explore the potential of such services in teaching. Indeed shouldn’t institutions be pro-active in this, in order to ensure that students (and staff) are experienced in such risk management issues when they leave the institution?

Is this how institutions see things? Or do they focus on just providing a safe, managed, secure IT environment? And if the latter approach is taken, how can we expect staff and students to react when they leave the nest?  After all, we no longer expect to me in the same jobs for life.

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