Plagiarism of ResNet Research

This does not represent the views or opinions of anyone other than myself.   Specifically but not exclusively, this does not represent the views or opinions of anyone with whom I have worked in the past, my employer, or anyone associated with ResNet, Inc.

I am very, very sad to have to write and publish this entry.  I have always thought very highly of ACUTA, the U.S. higher education professional organization that focuses on networking and telephony. They have produced high quality reports and conferences, including conferences and webinars at which colleagues and I have presented.  They were also very gracious in allowing me to visit their headquarters in Lexington, Kentucky, a few years ago to comb through some of their historical archives as I performed historical research.

Six months ago, on April 6, I contacted ACUTA to draw attention to the material in the then-recently released ACUTA ResNet Survey that is identical to material in previous research conducted by me and other colleagues loosely associated with the ResNet Symposium (now the ResNet Student Technology Conference). Although ACUTA initially claimed that any similarities were “inadvertent,” they later admitted that at least 15 of the 45 questions – one-third – on their survey are virtually identical to older questions copied without attribution.  Despite this admission, ACUTA has only impartially and reluctantly publicly acknowledged the previous work from which a substantial portion of their current survey was copied. In particular, the (a) summary report and infographic associated with ACUTA’s survey make no mention whatsoever of the previous work upon which those work are substantially built and (b) ACUTA website was only edited in the past few days, presumably in response to an e-mail I sent on September 28 allowing them one more week to make edits before making this issue public.

This is not a legal issue.  Although I am one of the copyright holders of the original 2005 and 2008 survey instruments and reports and I could pursue legal action against ACUTA and their contractor Forward Analytics, it is highly unlikely that I will do so.  I have no interest in making money from my original work or the work performed by ACUTA and Forward Analytics.  I’m not very interested in stopping ACUTA from conducting their surveys and publishing results; in fact, I’m quite pleased that the work is being continued and I am flattered that they believe that the survey instrument I helped create is of sufficient quality that they are reusing and building on it.

This is an ethical issue.  In academia, we respect the work that others have done by clearly drawing attention to it when we build on their work.  It is right to give people credit for what they have done, especially when we are benefiting from that work.  Moreover, it is essential that we give readers a clear idea of the provenance of our ideas so they can perform due diligence to assure themselves of the quality and rigor of our work.

It is not necessary to ask permission to build on the ideas of another; as far as I am concerned, ACUTA is welcome to use, modify, and adapt questions from the survey instruments I helped to develop. But it is necessary to give us credit, both to acknowledge the work that my colleagues and I did and to allow others to know where some of the content in the ACUTA survey originated.  I don’t think it’s asking very much when I have asked ACUTA to play by the same rules as everyone else in academia.  I am perplexed and saddened that half a year ago I initially contacted ACUTA and since then they have not taken a few minutes to add a sentence or a footnote to their documents acknowledging the work on which theirs is built.

Page from draft of 2005 ResNet survey
Page one of draft 7 of the 2005 ResNet Survey. Note (a) the date in the bottom right corner: January 10, 2005 and (b) a note at the very top noting the previous research most influential on this instrument, an internal note that was later expanded when we solicited responses and published results of the survey.

Plagiarism is a very serious charge.  ACUTA has acknowledged in private e-mail messages that many questions were copied from the 2005 and 2008 survey instruments.  I am not quite comfortable publicly publishing the contents of private e-mail messages but here are some examples of the evidence that originally led me to be concerned about this:

1. Based on ACUTA’s report, their survey instrument asked “Is your institution’s residential network separate from the rest of the campus network(s)?” with the response options of (a) Yes, only physically, (b) Yes, only logically, (c) Yes, both physically and logically, and (d) No.  In 2005, my colleagues and I asked “Is your residential computer network separate from the rest of the campus network(s)? with the response options of (a) Yes, our residential computer network is physically separate, (b) Yes, our residential computer network is logically separate, (c) Yes, our residential computer network is both physically and logically separate, and (d) No.

2. Based on ACUTA’s report, their survey instrument asked “How many staff members (FTE) provide direct support to your campus residential computer network and its users?”  In 2008, my colleagues and I asked “How many full-time equivalent (FTE) staff provide direct support to your campus residential computer network and its users?”

3. ACUTA’s report states that “50% of IT Departments pay for bandwidth supplied to the residential networks but do not recover the cost.”  In 2005, my colleagues and I asked “Who pays for the bandwidth available to the residential computer network and are the costs recovered? (Check all that apply)” with the response options of (a) An outside vendor supplies the bandwidth and recovers some or all of the cost through a charge to the university, (b) An outside vendor supplies the bandwidth and recovers some or all of the cost through resident fees, (c) Central IT pays for it and recovers some or all of the cost through fees to residents or interdepartmental charges to Housing, (d) Central IT pays for it and does not recover the cost, (e) The Housing department pays a non-university ISP and recovers some or all of the cost through rent or other fees, and (f) Other (please specify) [emphasis added].

4. ACUTA’s report states that respondents were asked “What organization on your campus is primarily responsible for maintaining the infrastructure of your residential computer network?” with two pie charts displaying the responses, one pie chart for the Logical Infrastructure and the other pie chart for the Physical Infrastructure.  In 2005, my colleagues and I asked “What organization on your campus is primarily responsible for maintaining the physical infrastructure of the computer network for your on-campus housing facilities? Examples of this responsibility may include physical installation and maintenance of wiring, network switches, and installing and repairing data ports. (Check all that apply)” and “What
organization on your campus is primarily responsible for managing the logical infrastructure of the computer network for your on-campus housing facilities? Examples of this responsibility may include configuring switches and routers, monitoring network traffic, administering servers (DHCP, DNS, etc.), and shaping/filtering network traffic. (Check all that apply)”

5. ACUTA’s report states that “About 9 % of higher education institutions report thet [sic] they are currently outsourcing all or significant portions of their residential network. Another 4% of survey respondants [sic] indicate they are currently considering oursourcing [sic], while 15% of institutions have considered outsourcing their residential network but have yet to pursue such an option.”  In 2005, my colleagues and I asked “Has your institution considered outsourcing any significant portion of the residential computer network, including its support or maintenance, to an outside
entity not affiliated with your institution?” with the response options of (a) Yes, we have outsourced significant portions to a non-university organization, (b) Yes, we have considered outsourcing to a non-university organization but not pursued it, (c) We are considering outsourcing to a non-university organization right now, (d) No, we have not seriously considered outsourcing to a non-university organization, and (e) Other (please specify).

EFF Publishes a Bit of ResNet History

The EFF, one of my favorite organizations, has announced a report describing a security vulnerability in Impulse Point’s SafeConnect product. I don’t have any new insight to add regarding the security flaw or SafeConnect. But the announcement is a quick read with a nice little history of Network Access Control (NAC) technology and its important role in managing residential computer networks.

(Off-topic reminiscing: In 2003, college and university campuses experienced massive problems on their student computer networks thanks to the Blaster and SoBig worms. In response, colleges and universities rapidly adopted NAC and similar technologies to curtail those problems. Around that time, a few people from a brand new company visited the campus where I worked to pitch their product; the company was located in Florida and they were visiting nearby colleges and universities to collect feedback and gauge interest. They had a nice product but it didn’t address our needs. If I remember correctly, the product hijacked downloads of copyrighted material – music, movies, etc. – and redirected students to vendors selling the material legally. Again, it was a neat product but one in which we had no interest. Instead, we told them how badly we needed a good NAC, especially after getting our asses kicked by Blaster and SoBig so badly that we shut down the network for several days until we could get a handle on things. Importantly, their product shared a lot with NAC products so our recommendation to develop a NAC was realistic. The nice people from Impulse Point left and when I next heard of them it was about the success of their SafeConnect NAC product. Maybe my memory is faulty or maybe I’m just silly and arrogant but I like to think that I played a teeny tiny role in the success of this company and their popular product. You’re welcome!)

Assessment in IT

A few weeks ago, I attended the 2010 ResNet Symposium in Bellingham, Washington where I was invited to present a preconference session on assessment.  I presented two identical sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  In this post I’ll reflect on what we discussed in these sessions and my perceptions of assessment in IT in American colleges and universities.

ResNet preconference session

I was invited to present these sessions by one of the conference organizers who has a strong student affairs background.  As a profession, student affairs has tried to embrace outcomes assessment so this person is familiar with the issues.  We both share a perception that IT professionals and organizations in American higher education have not yet begun to understand and perform outcomes assessment so an introductory session at the ResNet Symposium would be beneficial for attendees.  I didn’t know how well it would be received but I was pleased with the turnout: 15-16 attendees were in the two sessions, a good representation of the 101 attendees of this small conference.

At the beginning of the session, I asked the attendees to write on the whiteboard the words they associate with “assessment.”  I wanted to gather a bit of information about the attendees and their preconceived notions and I also wanted them to begin thinking about the topic.  The words they wrote most often were analysis/analyze, data, measure(ment), and evaluation.  Not a bad start.

In the first half of the session, we talked about assessment in broad, general terms.  I began by trying to provide some context for the importance of assessment, concentrating particularly on the political context and how academic and student affairs have reacted.  Next, I tried my best to introduce topics that I believe are important to understand or least know exist such as direct vs. indirect assessment and formative vs. summative assessment.  I also tried to get attendees thinking about issues and collaborating with one another by having them brainstorm in small groups to generate a list of sources of data already available on their campuses.

In the second half of the session I focused on surveys and survey development.  Not only are surveys (unfortunately) one of the most common ways of gathering data, they are also a topic in which I have some expertise.  After discussing some survey methodology concepts, primarily sources of error as identified by Dillman in many of his publications, we looked at a survey instrument I recently put into the field.  More specifically, we looked at different iterations of the survey and discussed how and why the survey changed throughout the development process.  I closed with a brief list of survey tips.

I think the session was successful in introducing some of the important concepts in assessment.  It was hard to figure out what to concentrate on during this brief session (the Assessment Framework developed by NASPA’s Assessment, Evaluation, and Research Knowledge Community was very helpful!)  and I’m still not sure that I struck the right balance between introducing important ideas and engaging the participants and meeting their expectations.  It would have been easier, I think, if I had titled the session “Outcomes Assessment” and used that phrase throughout the session; that would have provided some needed focus and better described the topic I intended to introduce.

Outcomes assessment in IT

As mentioned above, this preconference session was developed because of a shared concern about the lack of outcomes assessment in higher education IT.  We’re doing a very poor job of not only establishing how we contribute to the bottom line of our institutions (and the bottom line, of course, is the production and dissemination of knowledge) but also if we’re actually succeeding in meeting those objectives.  I believe this is fundamentally important in justifying the resources expended on in-house IT operations.  You should know why you’re doing what it is you’re doing and you should know if you’re succeeding.

Student affairs professionals realized this a decade or two ago and began emphasizing assessment both in practice and in their graduate programs.  I think that was a very smart move in that it tries to move student affairs from the periphery of the academic enterprise to a place much closer to the center, making student affairs more visible and important in many ways.  Much of IT is in the same boat that student affairs was in a few decades ago where there is an implicit belief that their services are necessary but it’s hard to explain exactly why they’re necessary and should be supplied by the institution itself.  Simply arguing that the services are “important” or even that they’re in demand doesn’t give us a license for incorporating them into our colleges and universities.  Many services are important and desirable but we’re content to contract them, outsource them, or just rely on the outside world to provide them.

We have to prove that what we do significantly contributes to the mission of our institutions and that we do it better – more effectively, more efficiently, cheaper, etc. – than anyone else.  I know that it’s hard to do that; the rest of the campus has been trying to do that for some time and they’re still struggling!  But IT has to get on board and move beyond mere measures of satisfaction and internal metrics that are uncoupled from the mission of the institution.  It’s not even about self-preservation (although that should be a motive!).  It’s about know what you’re doing, why, and if you’re getting it done.

Current and Upcoming Projects

(I started to write an e-mail to some colleagues outlining my current and upcoming projects and the e-mail was getting a bit long.  So I’m writing it all out here as perhaps some of you will be interested in one or more of these projects.)

Here are my current and upcoming projects, listed in no particular order…

  • Continue editing and submit for publication (EDUCAUSE Quarterly?) the paper (A Comparison of Student and Faculty Academic Technology Use Across Disciplines) I just presented with Allison BrckaLorenz at the AIR Forum.
  • Finish preparing for my ResNet 2010 assessment preconference session.
  • Continue working with the ResNet 2010 hosts to schedule and conduct attendee focus groups to supplement the survey data we recently collected regarding the current state and future direction of the ResNet organization.
  • Two potential AERA proposals:
    • Discourse analysis of #sachat.  I wrote a solid paper for the discourse analysis class I took in the spring but Rey Junco will be helping me to redo some of the analysis and edit the paper.
    • Historical analysis of student affairs and technology.  I have a solid draft of this paper already done (another class paper) but it’s very long and needs to be edited down to a more manageable, readable length.  Additionally, I’ve recently discovered that we have in the library stacks at Indiana University proceedings from NASPA and ACPA meetings held during the first half of the twentieth century.  I need to spend time in the library with those proceedings as I haven’t yet incorporated them into my study (I didn’t know where I could find them; I certainly didn’t expect to find them at my home institution!).
  • Begin a new project analyzing the demographics of student affairs professionals.  I wanted to use these data in my Twitter research but no one has done this work in 15 years so I’ll have to do it (I hope that I’m wrong and that I simply haven’t found a current or recent source!).
  • Wait to hear back from ASHE to know if our Wikipedia proposal has been accepted.  If so, then we need to do more work on it to update it and get it into shape for the conference later this year.

Of course, I have other things going on and coming up: quals in 2 months, ongoing projects at work, and beginning data collection for my dissertation.  I thought that summer – especially the summer after you finish coursework – was supposed to be quiet and relaxing?

Reflections on the 2009 ResNet Symposium: Part 2

Kevin presenting at the 2009 ResNet SymposiumThe next session that I “attended” was the program I presented on Monday morning.  The program was entitled Playing Well With Others: Understanding ResLife, Housing, and Student Affairs.  Its abstract:

ResNet professionals work hand-in-hand with residence life, housing, and student affairs professionals. These professions share common histories, traditions, and professional and personal cultures. Learning about these professions and their cultures, particularly their specific histories and relationships with technology, will make your work easier, more efficient, and more effective. Attendees will learn how to interact with, collaborate with, and better understand these non-IT professionals.

The program was relatively well-attended and it seemed to go pretty well.  I left a lot of time for questions and discussion and the amount of time I left seemed just right.  I could tell that some of the attendees were a bit bored but I know that this topic isn’t one that speaks to all of the ResNet Symposium attendees, particularly those who are more focused on technical issues such as network management. But it’s important and often overlooked.

I believe that not only are there different personalities attracted to technology and student affairs but that the two groups have very different histories and cultures.  For these two groups to work well together, they should have some understanding of the history and culture of the other group, something that many successful professionals pick up on informally and through hard-earned experience if not through more direct training and education.  This program spoke to the technology professionals, introducing student affairs to technology professionals.  (In part spurred by a question asked by an attendee at my program, I’m currently working with several other members of NASPA’s Technology Knowledge Community to put together a program that does the opposite: presenting the culture and history of technology professionals to student affairs professionals so they can more effectively collaborate.)

The Board of Directors listens to comments and questions at the ResNet 2009 Town Hall MeetingThe second event on Monday was the Town Hall Meeting.  Dee Childs stepped down as President and handed over her duties to Sheila Crowe.  A few other positions were shuffled around before I was handed the floor to give a brief plug for the RARG, the symposium’s research arm.  Afterward, the meeting was devoted to discussing the future of the symposium with questions and comments being taken from the floor.  I had hoped this would be an expansive discussion but the entire conversation focused on whether or not there should be a membership fee.  I really didn’t understand or follow the discussion, particularly as it seemed to go round in circles with no firm conclusion or consensus. The proposed “membership fee” seems to be an ill-defined solution in search of a problem.

The remainder of the symposium was dedicated to the vendor fair, t-shirt exchange, and closing ceremony/dinner.  They all went over very well and were enjoyable.

I wonder about the longevity of this organization and its annual event.  Attendance was down significantly this year and while that is probably largely reflective of the economy I don’t see that (the lower attendance or the economy) changing in the next year or two.  Moreover, now that many of the bigger challenges of residential computer networking have been solved (standards are more developed, equipment is more prevalent and standardized, successful support models are in place and easily copied and modified, etc.) I’m not sure that the event as it exists has enough to offer attendees, particularly newcomers.  Much of the draw seems to be based on friendship and community, conditions that are difficult to advertise and extend to those who have not attended multiple times and become familiar with those involved in the event.  I believe that the ResNet Symposium must shift or widen its focus, perhaps taking as its purview a broader view of student technology support and student supervision, if it is to remain relevant and viable.

Reflections on the 2009 ResNet Symposium: Part 1

A few weeks ago I attended and presented at the 2009 ResNet Symposium. Held at St. Cloud State University in Saint Cloud, Minnesota from June 26 through June 30, the symposium was smaller than in previous years with only 134 registered attendees. However, the programs, activities, and interaction were all wonderful, interesting, and useful so the lower number of attendees didn’t seem to significantly hurt or change the nature of the conference.

I took detailed notes for most of the sessions I attended but I feel that too much time has passed for me to write detailed descriptions of each session.  I like to do that right away to help me reflect on what I learned.  But this time around I made more of an effort to socialize, network, and enjoy time with my colleagues and friends so I spent more of my time doing that and less time on my computer engaged in solitary activity.  Of course, having my own presentation on the last day of the conference and spending time each night to continue preparing for it also significantly impinged on the amount of time available for reflection and writing.

As I become more experienced and professionally mature, I find my interests and ideas changing.  Those changing interests led me to pay more attention this year to trying to ascertain the maturity of the programs and services represented at this year’s conference.  In particular, I was interested in seeing (a) the maturity of the assessment activities carried out by ResNet programs and (b) the levels of strategic planning and how well those plans are integrated with other plans (campus-wide, divisional, etc.).  In general, it seems that even the most mature of the programs represented at this conference are still in a relatively early stage of performing assessment as they are still heavily rooted in measuring opinion and input/output (number and type of computers, number and frequency of computer lab logins, amount of bandwidth consumed, etc.).  Learning outcomes seems to have not penetrated to many of these programs, perhaps because many seem to see themselves primarily as service centers with minor auxiliary educational responsibilities.  On the strategic planning side, it’s hard to gauge the level of depth and integration of these programs’ plans given the focus of many of these programs and the interests of the participants.

Brief reflections on some of the specific sessions I attended:

  1. Keynote address: Leading Geeks

    Paul Glenn, Computer World columnist and author of How to Manage and Lead People Who Deliver Technology presented the keynote address at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday. His talk focused on explaining how “geeks” are different from other people and how to lead geeks in an organization. I’ve become a complete academic snob so I didn’t really enjoy this talk as the depth of his research was very shallow. Luckily, much of what he said is relatively close to what the real research says (yes, there is actual research into the social and cultural phenomenon of “geeks” … and “nerds”). If you’re interested in learning more about Glenn’s thoughts about leading geeks, he maintains a website at

  2. Session 1: From Labs to Learning Space: Enabling Student Use of Technology

    Beth McCullough, Learning Spaces Manager for Stanford’s Academic Computing group, led a practical discussion of learning space concerns. Much of her discussion focused on her attempts to maintain and rehabilitate computer labs in Stanford residence halls. I greatly liked how much of her presentation and the decisions she has made are tied to data collected from and about Stanford residents as too often we make decisions in a void (see above regarding the current state of assessment in most ResNet shops). The most interesting discussion related to working with housing professionals in understanding and trying to reconceptualize how they understand (and use and fund and label and maintain and…) study spaces that happen to have computers.

  3. Session 2: Strategic Planning: Transforming Ideas Into Reality

    The second session I attended was presented by my good friend from Northern Illinois University, Jan Gerenstein. Jan is an Associate Director in their housing department and a former colleague in the ResNet Applied Research Group (RARG). She discussed with us how her group – Residential Technology – is participating in and integrating themselves into their division’s strategic planning process. This was a very interesting session for me as I strongly suspect that it would have been very different if Jan’s group were housed in a technology division instead of student affairs. Based on several years of observation, the cultural differences between these two groups – ResNet operations housed in central IT vs. those in housing – are clear (a topic that was the basis for my own program at this year’s ResNet Symposium and a potential program for NASPA’s 2010 conference). But I wonder if the different planning and assessment skills and emphases and driving these two groups farther away in terms of their goals and services. The reason why we ask about the program’s parent group (central IT, housing, etc.) on the ResNet surveys is because we – or at least I – strongly believe this to be one of the key lens through which we can and should examine and understand residential computing.

  4. Session 3: Millennial Misconceptions: How to Work Successfully with Generation X

    I didn’t take very many notes during this session. Karen McRitchie of Grinnell College did a great job with this program but I struggle mightily with programs that seem to arbitrarily lump together so many people and draw conclusions about those people from limited and flawed data (is my bias and academic snobbery showing?). During my darkest, bleakest moments in these sessions, I want to bludgeon Howe and Strauss with their own book. Karen was very complimentary of the students with whom she works and I was very happy that this was explicitly not a session that bemoaned the fate of the world today with Generation X taking the helm. I was most interested in this session as it closely mirrors so many (so many!) programs at student affairs conferences I’ve attended.

  5. Session 4: Adventures in Cyber Security: Tufts and Yale

    Judi Renni from Tufts and Loriann Higashi from Yale are ResNet old timers and they presented a wonderfully entertaining and informative session describing their latest efforts at getting students interested in and aware of better security practices. Unlike most ResNet Symposium programs, this one was not videotaped; the presenters showed us several videos that made fair use of copyrighted material and they (and their lawyers) didn’t want those videos to be recorded and distributed. Judi and Lori also took advantage of the privacy offered their session by sharing with us frank (but not disrespectful, disparaging, or unprofessional!) evaluations of their entire processes from start to finish. We very much appreciated their honesty, particularly when they were brave enough to share with us their challenges and failures. Some of the Tufts materials can be viewed online as can the Yale materials.

2008 ResNet Survey Results Released

Yesterday, my colleagues and I posted the following message to several higher education IT support listservs:

Earlier this year, the ResNet Applied Research Group solicited participation in the 2008 ResNet Survey. This comprehensive survey focused on residential technology support groups, their responsibilities in supporting technologies to residential students, the service issues they addressed, and their organizational structure. Over 100 institutions participated and we are pleased to inform you that we have publicly released data from the survey at
We are profoundly grateful to those who participated and we look forward to answering any questions you may have as we continue this and related research.

It’s taken us quite a bit longer to release these results that we hoped and anticipated. We’re a tiny (3-person) volunteer group so when life and work call it’s easy for our research projects to become lower priorities. And we have other things going on, too, within the group.

Despite releasing data from most of the survey, we still have some work to do with the open-ended questions. Making sense of that data is more involved than tossing data into SPSS and running some calculations. We’ve done some of that work but have more to do.

Current Project: Historical Origins of Student Technologies in Residence Halls

One of my current projects is an examination of the history of student-used communication and entertainment technologies in American college and university residence halls. Examples of such technologies include buzzers, telephones, televisions, computer labs, and in-room computer network connections. I’ve still got a lot of work to do, particularly on the older technologies, as those resources are more challenging to identify and locate. This is serious historical research complete with examinations of dusty old papers and searches for hand-scrawled notes and letters (it’s not Indiana Jones-type work as it’s all 20th century material but it’s still fun and exciting, especially for a computer geek). I am trying to anchor the research in the history of student affairs/college student personnel but as most of the student affairs technology literature is both (a) recent (so far, my oldest document in my literature review is from the 60s) and (b) very focused on the here-and-now I have even that portion of my job cut out for me.

That is all very vague so let me share with you a few questions related to residential computer networks that either I am working to answer or that have arisen in the course of this research:

  1. Were most networks preceded by computer labs in residence halls? It is clear that in many cases computer labs (sometimes referred to as “clusters” instead of labs), composed of dumb terminals, preceded in-room network connections. However, I don’t know how prevalent this was nor do I think that I may be able to answer that question except in particular cases. And that’s okay as the question really seems to get at the historical evolution of computers in residence halls. So the question really reduces to “Did those institutions who were the pioneers of in-room network connections have computer labs before they installed in-room connections?” Of course, that means that I have to identify the “pioneers.” That question is easy to dodge answer by simply stating that those institutions for whom I have the earliest records are, as far as I can tell, the pioneers. I can only work with the information that I can locate but if I do a good job hunting for information then my answer should be okay.
  2. What role, if any, did the 1984 divestiture of AT&T have on the development of American college and university campus computer networks and telecommunications, particularly computer networks installed in residence halls? I know from the primary and secondary sources that in-room connections were being explored and piloted by several institutions in the mid 80s. Was it just coincidence that these experiments were being tried right after the telephone monopoly was broken? Was innovation stirred by the AT&T breakup or were old habits and mindsets shaken loose? Or was it just a coincidence? Of course, this is complicated by the fact that networking technology and minicomputers were becoming mature enough for these experiments to be tried at that same time.

As stated before: I still have a lot of work to do. The ultimate goal with the current project is to see if I can figure out the reasons why these technologies were introduced. That’s a difficult question to answer, particularly in a historical context. Figuring when or how something was done is rather straight-forward. Figuring out why it was done seems to be a different and more difficult challenge. The AT&T question is a rather large question and I will almost certainly put it aside for later; I need a much better grounding in the history of AT&T and telephony in America before I can adequately begin to search for the answer to that question. But it sure is an interesting question and I hope it yields interesting answers!

This appears to be a novel and underresearched topic and I feel as if I am having to build the foundation as I go along. I am spending as much time in the Indiana University archives as I am in the library or online looking for resources with the hope that the historical questions about which I can not provide general answers I may be able to provide answers for one institution. I have even found a few gems in the archives that relate to other institutions.

I hope I can report back in a few months that I have some answers. The immediate goal is to produce a final paper for one of my classes (Andrea Walton’s History of Higher Education in the 20th Century) but this topic is close to my heart. It’s a joy when I am able to pursue a project such as this for a class or for work as it serves multiple interests and needs. If it turns out well, I hope to spin the paper and other findings into a handful of articles for publication. In the meantime, I hope to begin adding the documents I am locating to my bibliography in the near-future if anyone would like to follow along or glance over my shoulder.

Higher Ed Act P2P Amendment: If At First You Don’t Succeed…

In July, those of us interested in technology issues related to higher education were whipped into a frenzy by an amendment to the Higher Education Act proposed by Sen. Reid (D-NV) that would have put a spotlight on institutions that receive lots of notices alleging online copyright infringement by students and required them to adopt technological measures to reduce infringement. Many in higher education opposed this amendment and Reid dropped it rather quickly. Shortly thereafter, the Senate passed their version of the Higher Education Act.

Now it’s the House’s turn to introduce their bills to renew the Higher Education Act. Yesterday, House Republicans unveiled their version of the House bill. It’s a 409 page document but we’ll only concentrate on our narrow, niche interest of technology affecting students.

As Inside Higher Ed has reported, this bill includes one section that is identical to Reid’s contentious and subsequently withdrawn amendment. Specifically, the bill requires that those institutions identified by the Secretary of Education identity each year the 25 institutions that have received the most allegations of online copyright infringement (and a minimum of 100 notices) provide evidence to the Secretary that they:

  1. Have notified students on their policies and procedures related to the illegal downloading and distribution of copyrighted materials by students
  2. Undertake a review of their procedures and plans related to preventing illegal downloading and distribution to determine the program’s effectiveness and implement changes to the program if the changes are needed
  3. Have developed a plan for implementing a technology-based deterrent to prevent the illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution of intellectual property.

This section of the Republican’s bill is almost word-for-word identical to Reid’s amendment. As I see it, the primary difference between this bill and Reid’s proposed amendment are that (a) this section is part of a much larger bill, potentially making it more difficult to focus on or repudiate, (b) the bill is proposed by Republicans, the minority party, whereas Reid;s amendment was proposed by the Senate Majority Leader (and thus a Democrat), and (c) this is a House bill and the House has been much more sympathetic to copyright holders and very unsympathetic to concerns of colleges and universities.

Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, is quoted by Inside Higher Ed as saying: “Ironically, as drafted the legislation would wrap institutions in an amazing amount of new federal red tape and, at the same time, order the Secretary of Education to study ways to reduce overregulation.” Contradictory political and financial demands are neither new nor unexpected but they take on additional significance when the political demands are of unproven and dubious effectiveness. We can be sure that this portion of the bill, if passed, would increase costs and likely decrease freedom for students on campus but we have no assurances that the required technical means will have any lasting or significant effect on reducing copyright infringement or effecting a change in the ethics, actions, or beliefs of students. As demanded and rewarded by our current electoral system, these legislators are overlooking or ignoring the long-term view in favor of the short-term view that favors financial gain.

Looking beyond this particular section of the bill, other sections address issues of concern or interest to us:

  • Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) funds would be made available for “supporting efforts to establish pilot programs and initiatives to help college campuses to reduce illegal downloading of copyrighted content, in order to improve the security and integrity of campus computer networks and save bandwidth costs.”
  • Several sections specifically address distance education, including sections focusing on Title III funding for Tribal Colleges and Universities and Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-serving institutions and another section mandating the Secretary of Education work with the National Academy of Sciences to “conduct a scientifically correct and statistically valid evaluation of the quality of distance education programs, as compared to campus-based education programs, at institutions of higher education.”
  • Many sections include amendments to include or require electronically-distributed information and resources.

I am also slightly amused that several sections of this bill specifically focus on the Department of Education’s College Online Opportunities Locater (COOL) online tool. Not only do many of the recommendations seem to be micromanagerial and overly specific for a federal law but the tool itself was recently revamped and relaunched as “College Navigator.” This is another fine example of the speed with which technologies and technological tools change.

Update: EDUCAUSE has posted some talking points (Word document) for those who wish to contact their representatives and urge them to oppose this bill.

Video Of And Materials From Social Networking Services Pre-conference Session

I’ve finally made the time to encode the video from a 3-hour pre-conference session I ran at this summer’s ResNet Symposium. Although the session was entitled “The Impact of Social Networking on ResNet Users,” it was broader than the title indicates (the title changed several times as the it was being put together).

In many ways, the session was a follow-up to and a successor to NCSU’s Facebook Phenomenon. Leslie Dare, my co-chair in the NASPA Technology Knowledge Community and the person as NCSU who hosted their event, told me that some of the feedback from attendees at their event asked for more “advanced” material and discussion. I watched their event as it was streamed live and I agreed with that feedback. So my session focused not on “introductory” topics such as “What is Facebook?” but assumed that knowledge. I hope that those who attended and participated in this session walked away with a foundation of knowledge that applies not only to today’s Facebook but to the SNSes of tomorrow.

The session was organized in three parts:

  1. Foundation and generalities (132 mb Windows Media Video file): Introduced the foundational concept of Web 2.0 (or at least the concept of user-generated content and greatly increased usability of web-based tools), a group activity to work towards a definition of “Social Networking Site,” an overview of some definitions used by scholars and researchers, boyd’s properties of SNSes and thesis regarding youth’s use of SNSes, and Suler’s Internet Disinhibition theory.
  2. Facebook (133 mb Windows Media Video file): Review of research about Facebook and users, including basic stats, how many undergrads use it, how often, numbers of friends (and relationship with Dunbar’s number), group activity to list some common uses of Facebook, and what the research says about uses of and motivations for using Facebook.
  3. Practical Implications and Practice (94 mb Windows Media Video file): Hodgepodge of issues and discussion including Digital Divide, Participation Gap, group activity about the use of SNSes in hiring decisions, how NYU addresses Facebook during orientation, institutional monitoring, and Facebook apps.

The PowerPoint file for the entire session is also available. In both the video and the PowerPoint, I removed the videos that were shown as part of the session. However, I’ve provided links to the videos (they’re all available online) so you can view them. I noted the removed videos and group activities in red text in the PowerPoint. I also added some notes to the presentation but obviously there is a whole lot more in the video. I also made an editorial decision to remove the group discussions as the participants were very candid and open and I am not comfortable sharing those conversations openly on the Internet; they knew that they were being filmed but I am not comfortable assuming they remembered that during some of our discussions.

I hope that someone will find these resources useful and interesting. In conjunction with the materials that NCSU provides on the Facebook Phenomenon website, these materials should provide one with a very solid foundation and understanding of how and why undergraduate students use SNSes, particularly Facebook, and how institutions can use these tools.

Thank you to Judi Rennie for inviting me to present this Professional Development Seminar. A special “thank you” goes to our hosts at UCSD, particularly Erik Strahm and Arianna Pilram, who helped find a room suitable for this session and a video camera to record it.