There are so many times that a bunch of us sit down and talk about what is next … we’ve spent so much time looking at all this web 2.0 stuff that we are ready to look into the future a bit. The problem is that I keep coming back to the same conclusion — the future looks a hell of a lot like today. If you look around at today’s higher education campuses you see a ton of faculty, staff, and students using three apps — Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.
At the moment these apps are locked into a desktop environment … one without the real feature that web 2.0 is built on — collaboration. I would also add portability, convenience, and accessibility to that basic tenant, but the collaboration thing is paramount. I teach here and there at PSU and I can tell you that these are the true killer apps on campus. In the web space there are two champs — google and PSU webmail — but these are in the background serving the community in a different way. The Office suite is the thing that we all rely on. But you know what? It is starting to change … people are starting to get the Google Docs fever around here. The last time I taught I introduced my class to Writely (google docs) and I have never seen students react so positively to a technology. When I asked them why, they looked at me like I was an idiot — “we need this” is what they told me.
Made sense given the fact that so many of them are now asked to work in teams. In the old scenario there is a real mess … think about what a pain in the ass it is to have 5 people all working on the same Word document. People adding new sections, sending it around to each other, and trying like mad to merge changes. No wonder they like it.
The more I talk to my friends about this it is clear that the google docs suite will continue to have a major impact on our campus. As with all this stuff, it will take time for it to gain wide adoption. Within the next 18 months I am guessing that our primary stake holders will be clamoring for a local solution to this issue. So, as I look into the future all I see is the current … the big differences are that we’ll be able to connect with others and run it all in our browser. The future looks a lot like today — sorta.