Friday, 12 March 2010

Reading: collaboration in Higher Education and its benefits for ICT

This article is one of a special issue of Educause Quarterly on the future of Higher Education and describes how collaboration in Higher Education is driving benefits in the ICT community. Parallels are drawn between information sharing  in the ICT community and Higher Education. This has been facilitated by advances like the Internet. Ideals like open-source, open standards and open access are common to both fields (Read 2010).

This article highlights the fact that research collaboration has stimulated developments like the World Wide Web, and high performance computing (although perhaps it should be added that military and commercial  applications have also been strong drivers).

The article argues for the professionalisation of "research technologists" (and draws parallels to Learning Technologists) to further enable collaboration in research.

Cloud computing is explored as a way for research institutions to outsource ICT applications through the internet and the example of student email accounts is cited as one way that this is already happening. Web 2.0 tools such as YouTube and blogging for collaboration between research teams is also mentioned. Cloud computing is heralded as a way to harness tools on the internet without the institution having to invest in expensive hardware. The security and sustainability issues of using web services (that are ultimately beyond the control of the institution) are later highlighted. In circumstances where data is ethically sensitive, or where long term access needs to be guaranteed,  cloud computing may not be appropriate (Read 2010) but the examples of using social media tools in the cloud to foster collaboration are useful.

Distributed computing is measured against shared services. It occurs at this point that tools like DropBox might be the sign that a third way is possible. DropBox uses cloud computing to sync files between different "distributed" computers. Copies of files are available "offline" because they are stored on the client (as well as client having the software to manage the file syncing), there is also a copy "in the cloud" on DropBox's servers. One of the benefits is that old copies of the file are also kept so it is possible to revert to earlier versions of works.

But I digress. In summary the article provides useful examples of opportunities to use cloud computing for high level collaboration and economies of scale in providing research tools.


Read, M., 2010. Collaboration in Higher Education and its benefits for ICT. Educause Quarterly, 33 (1). Available from: [Accessed  11 March 2010].

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