Content Management Shifting the Dynamics of Technology in Higher Education

Most organizations struggling with the relentless spread of unstructured data would like to reduce the amount of it they generate. Marist College would like to make more.

Marist considers itself a leader among academic institutions that incorporate information technology into their educational processes, and with good reason. The Hudson Valley, NY, liberal arts college developed the first online MBA program to be approved by the New York State Education Department, and now offers other MA programs online. Marist also worked with IBM, the Library of Congress, and other colleges to develop the Digital Library of the Future, a Web-based system that provides access to library materials online.

Two years ago, the college embarked on Project Greystone, an initiative with a twofold purpose: to incorporate rich media into their system as just another data type that the faculty could use for distance learning courses; and to provide a portal through which K-12 schools could access those resources.

"We have a ton of unstructured data," says Marist's CIO Joe Aulino. "And there's an interest in creating more of it--if we can put it in the context of a course, and distribute it to students. The unstructured data we have is stored in all kinds of formats, so we had a real content management problem."

Marist has been a longtime user of IBM's Content Manager product, but the Greystone Project caused the school to dig deeper into the application's capabilities.

"The college has been using the product almost from its initial launch," says Aulino. "And we've used a lot of its capability. But we are using more now. We've integrated it with our courseware management system, and we may eventually employ it for Web-based content management."

Marist is currently beta testing the latest release of Content Manager. The 8.3 version, which was unveiled earlier this month, is part of a new software portfolio of Web services-based content management applications.

"Various services within the Content Manager portfolio have essentially been wrapped with Web services so that they can be called by other applications," explains Theresa O'Neil, IBM's director of content management. "[This approach] supports IBM's whole view of the component nature of what we do. And we see content management increasingly becoming a capability that's included in a lot of different applications."

Along with IBM DB2 Content Manager 8.3, the new portfolio includes IBM DB2 Document Manager 8.3 (records management integration), and IBM DB2 CommonStore 8.3 (archive and retention management of e-mail, attachments, and messaging system content). The company also added some new industry-specific content management solutions targeting the banking and life sciences industries.

Although industry nomenclature dictates that the new product suite fall into the "enterprise content management" product category, O'Neil says she doesn't like the label. "It implies that this is just for large companies," she says. "It's not. Mid-size companies, and even small ones, are facing the same problems and looking for the same solutions. Also, content management, because it's so closely tied to business processes, is not just an issue inside an organization that touches employees; it reaches partners, customers--a whole ecosystem. It really goes well beyond the enterprise."

Marist's efforts to get control of its digital content for academic purposes have yielded some opportunities to employ the technology administratively.

"We can invest in this technology as an academic support product, and leverage that investment to support our administrative side," says Aulino. "That's the opposite of how it's usually done. Products like this are creating a real shift in the dynamics of technology in higher education."

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About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].