UK Web Focus

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The Gaps Between The Owned And The Externally-Hosted Services

Posted by Brian Kelly on 21 November 2007

Scott Wilson (JISC CETIS) and Andy Powell (Eduserv Foundation) has recently published a couple of interesting posts on their blogs. which reflects my areas of interest.

Scott’s post on PLEs and the institution contains an image which depicts his thoughts on “the set of connections between what an institution offers and what individuals manage“.
Diagram from Scott Wilson's blog

I tend to agree with this vision which acknowledges that MySpace, Facebook, Slideshare, etc. will have a role to play in the services which are used to support institutional activities, but there will be a for the institution to “provide a coordination space“.

It’s the gaps in Scott’s diagram which particularly interest me. As well as the technical aspects of the coordination space (which could include automated dumps of data held elsewhere, bulk uploads of metadata, etc.) there are also the implied questions associated with this space: Do we trust the services? Can we compete with them? Do we compete on all fronts or select the appropriate areas? What are our institutional liabilities if things go wrong? What are the risks to the individuals and what responsibilities do we have to safeguard the interests of the individuals in our institutions?

Some of these issues were touched on by Andy Powell in his recent report on Eduserv’s OpenID event entitled OpenID – every student should have one. Andy argued that

the management of our online identities is increasingly a user-centric and lifelong activity – it doesn’t start and stop at the system-induced transition points of our lives (going to school – leaving school, going to uni – leaving uni, getting a job – leaving a job, etc.). In consequence, there is a danger of us offering a poor fit to our user’s requirements if the approaches to identity management that we adopt are too rooted within particular sectors or phases of sectors.

Andy identifies that there is a time dimension to the issue of the services institutions should be providing. Those of us who have been working in IT support or development within educational institution for some time with have been brought up with the view that it is an institutional responsibility to provide a quality, safe managed IT environment for members of the institution. But now we are starting to find that individuals will have their own digital identities when arriving at the institution, together with their own preferred applications (email, photo repositories, social networks, etc.) And this will not only apply to students arriving at our institutions, but also visitors, part time staff, staff on short term contracts, etc.

The spaces in Scott’s diagram is starting to look very interesting, I think.

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3 Responses to “The Gaps Between The Owned And The Externally-Hosted Services”

  1. I think this is a really interesting topic.

    “Those of us who have been working in IT support or development within educational institution for some time with have been brought up with the view that it is an institutional responsibility to provide a quality, safe managed IT environment for members of the institution.”

    What has always puzzled me is the assumption that we MUST provide email, storage etc. for our students. We assume it is our responsibility to do so and now that new technologies are coming along we’re concerned about the security and management of these.

    I understand we (universities) would have wanted to provide new and exciting services for students back in the day when they weren’t widely available elsewhere but now that they are – and moving students across to our systems/services makes things more complex for them – shouldn’t we be re-thinking our strategy and asking the question “what do we actually need to provide?”.

  2. […] The Gaps Between The Owned And The Externally-Hosted Services […]

  3. […] our wiki service, students shouldn’t really need to go elsewhere and there are definitely gaps between internally and externally hosted services…) […]

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