Posts Tagged 'innovation'


It’s late, and I have to be up early. But before I head off to sleep, I wanted to share a few thoughts from my day.

I spent the day at EDUCAUSE’s annual conference. Technically, the conference starts tomorrow, but today was filled with pre-conference workshops and other events. EDUCAUSE is a great place for someone like me. And a terrible one.

A couple of years ago I took the StrengthFinders assessment, and one of my strengths is characterized by finding connections in ideas, people, and things. My brain — and occasionally my Twitter feed — was exploding today, exploring the intersections of (sometimes) seemingly dichotomous things.

It started with a conversation last night about two areas I’m actively involved in on my campus: risk management and innovation. A concern over one often precludes the other, and yet, the types of risks our institutions face may only be able to be solved through innovation.

Today, the intersections between and/or convergence of ideas filled my thoughts. I considered how tweets from a workshop on unconscious bias influenced my thinking in the one I was attending on the (completely unrelated) topic of building futures capacity. The construct of work-life balance and the blurring of our private and professional lives. And the interesting distinctions we draw between the physical and the virtual, and how we define place, space, and community in an increasingly connected world.

For tomorrow, I’ve been asked to reflect on more intersections and connections, between leadership, power, marginality, and resistance. But for now….I should sleep.


MOOCs, MOOCs, MOOCs! (said in the cadence of “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia“…)

I am *so* tired of hearing about MOOCs these days. There are cMOOCs and xMOOCs and blended MOOCs, oh my. There are small MOOCs — called SPOCs, standing for Small Private Online Classes — which defy all logic because, umm….doesn’t the first letter in MOOC stand for “massive”, making it, by definition *not* small?!? [pause rant] Okay, I’m being a little snarky here, SPOCs do bring with them some interesting and new elements to online education. But still…. [continue rant] I cannot go two days without hearing, seeing, or reading something about MOOCs. I mean, I now get *entire* newsletters and ezines dedicated to MOOCs, for pete’s sake. Anyway….you get the point. Seems like these days it’s all MOOCs, all the time.

College campuses like mine are abuzz with conversations about MOOCs. Should we be afraid of them? Do they even apply to us? How do they fit into a liberal arts educational context? Are they the next big business model? Will they replace traditional colleges? For the record, the answers probably go something like: no, yes, figure it out, no, and no (but will they alter it? yes).

As someone who came up working in startups, in Silicon Valley, in the late ’90s, I know something about hype. The first startup I worked for went from 13 to 200+ employees in the first year. We *literally* created an industry that hadn’t existed before — email marketing (yes, for all of you who now get spammed by dozens of “email marketers” each day, you can thank me). We went public after my first year, and had a billion — with a “B” — dollar valuation on day one with only about a million in sales. And we actually had a good business model, unlike so many other startups with similar trajectories but no chance of making money, ever. Now that’s hype.

The MOOC thing? Also hype. But — and this is a biggie — the startup hype of the late ’90s *did* produce ideas and businesses that ended up revolutionizing the way we do things. Like email marketing. And so will MOOCs. It may only be in hindsight — like with the dotcom bubble and burst — that we understand how.

Imagining the Possibilities: WWYD With VDI?

Virtual desktop infrastructure — otherwise known as VDI — is, without a doubt, a hot topic.

When we first started down the VDI path in January 2011, I agreed to document and share our experiences — for better or for worse — to help showcase the benefits of desktop virtualization. And as a result, I’ve talked and written *a lot* on VDI over the last year. I was a guest blogger on VMware’s End User Computing site (see posts here: VDI Right on the Money; Out on a Limb With Virtual Desktops; and 10 VDI Lessons from the Real World) and have contributed to the eCIO Forum on the subject; I’ve hosted a desktop virtualization workshop and presented in several webinars and conferences (my BrightTalk session was ranked one of their “Top 6 IT Infrastructure Webinars of 2011” — how cool is that?!?); and fielded emails and calls on an almost weekly basis from colleagues looking for recommendations or advice as they begin their own VDI projects.

The topics I’ve covered, and questions I frequently receive, are generally along the lines of:

  • Is it really as easy as vendors make it out to be? (Not always, but what ever is?)
  • Will we save money doing VDI? (Depends)
  • How can we best prepare? (Plan, test, revise, plan, test, and plan some more)
  • Should we even be considering this, especially if the savings are unclear? (Absolutely!)

Most institutions, including my own, are looking towards VDI to improve their desktop management capabilities, save PC refresh dollars, expand access to institutional software, and reduce their carbon footprint — and roughly in that order. These are all great goals, and certainly reason enough to implement virtual desktops. But they are also reflective of incremental (however large) improvements, rather than true innovation.

What do I mean? Well, we’re using virtual desktops to replace physical desktops, but in many (most? all?) implementations, the model we’re implementing against is still the same. Students still do work in computer labs — physical ones with virtual machines or virtual ones, but labs nonetheless. Faculty and staff still have one office with one client connecting to one “desktop”. VDI makes it a lot better, but….

With VDI, so many other things are possible.

Employees, for example, don’t need to be tethered to one device or location, or even one desktop. We could work from our own device(s) or provided ones, or both. We could use one desktop or several, depending on the task we need to accomplish and the software associated with it. We could structure flexible work environments that support the formation and re-formation of cross-functional teams as projects change.

For students, what if we looked at it from a class or individual level, instead of by lab? Perhaps we could provision desktops by student, so that an entering freshman receives her own virtual desktop that automatically updates with software she needs, based on course enrollment. Or we could enable faculty to teach — in real time — with students working remotely “in the field” on laptops and tablets and other mobile devices, but still view and share student work across the class.

We are over a year in to our VDI implementation, and are just now starting to scratch the surface of VDI’s true potential for innovation. Imagine if we started over, designed our ideal environment first, and *then* applied VDI to it…what could we do? What would *you* do?

@rclemmons on Twitter

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