EDUCAUSE’s Core Data Service is the premiere source of data for and about information technology in higher education. Their very-cool web interface that allows you to generate custom reports is only available to those who submit data for each institution but each year they release an Summary Report chock full of details and tables. The fiscal year 2005 Summary Report has just been released. It’s not exactly the kind of material you print out and read for fun (unless you’re a higher ed IT geek – like me!) but it’s a fantastic resource to which one can periodically refer as it’s often the best or only source of data for many of the statistics it catalogs.
There is (literally) no mention of student affairs or even student services in this summary. That’s okay – it’s a focused document with voluminous document about IT services, support, funding, staffing, infrastructure, and other IT-related topics.
There is, however, mention of a few topics that overlap with student affairs or student affairs concerns. The most prominent of these are:
- Legal online entertainment services (Ruckus, Cdigix, etc.), perceived by many as an answer to the challenges posed by accusations that students are engaged in widespread copyright infringement, rose again in prominence on this year’s survey. The authors of this summary note that while the absolute number of respondents employing these services is low (8% of all respondents), that is nearly twice the number as last year. That’s also a pretty significant uptake of a relatively new class of services. Also of note is that the percentage of respondents classified as doctoral institutions who replied that they are employing a service is much higher than the other types of institutions. Based on previous research in which I have participated on this very topic, I hypothesize that the larger research institutions are the ones who (a) perceive that they are the more likely targets of lawsuits and pressure to “do something” about this perceived problem and (b) have the resources (money, staff, infrastructure, etc.) to dedicate to fielding a potential solution.
- Several questions were specifically asked about residential computer networks. The index lists these for ease of reference although a few areas in which questions about residential networks and residence halls were asked are not listed in the index (e.g. the brief wireless section makes a mention of residence halls and the relative paucity of wireless access in them). None of the questions asked specifically about ResNet are surprising to those knowledgeable in this area. I have had not yet had time to make a thorough comparison of the results of this survey with current and recent ResNet-specific research but there are definitely several areas where the research overlaps. The most prominent of these were the questions dealing with security, particularly those about required software and network authentication. As a ResNet researcher, I am very surprised that this is the first year that EDUCAUSE has asked in the CDS about network authentication as it’s been an active area of development and deployment in residential computer networks for many years now (likely over a decade but I don’t have a reference available to clarify this point – anyone know when NetReg was first developed and deployed? It was certainly some time in the mid ’90s.).
Like other important and foundational research, this is not necessarily exciting stuff. But it’s critical and when you need it there is no substitute. It’s worth glancing at to become familiar with the kind of information that is available. If you’re interested in conducting research, it’s also worth looking at to see what kind of information is not available.