Monthly Archives: April 2014

Trends in Higher Education

Woman and child with laptopI have been talking with people this last week about education and their needs. Specifically, I have been thinking about trends in education. How are our needs changing, and is the education world changing fast enough to meet those needs? Here are some current trends that I think we need to be talking about and that need to be addressed.

Education for Skills

Because of the recent recession, it is even more imperative that students are trained for tangible and applicable skills. Often, college is seen as a time for exploring career options, but that can be a very pricey journey, given the current tuition rates. I would like to suggest a series of low-price courses at the beginning of the academic pursuit that allow students to briefly explore different career options. Such an approach would ensure that the bulk of college experience is applied to preparing for a career of the student’s choice. This is one way to minimize the time spent in college and money spent on the education journey.

Rising Tuition

Rising tuition over the last several years has brought about two fundamental shifts. First of all, students are borrowing more to complete their education, which means they are saddled with debt. Tuition hikes are also pushing students who are unwilling, or unable to take on that debt, out of the college experience. This makes it even more important that we educate for skills so that the learning is directly applicable to a vocation. In the end, it is employers who will dictate what skills and qualifications they expect to see in a prospective hire, which may include undergraduate, graduate, or even less expensive vocational or certification training. Employers need to be clear about their preferences and expectations so students can make their choices accordingly. This clarity will help students avoid costly mistakes by being overeducated or overqualified.

Changing Demographics

We are currently going through a generational shift as baby boomers are starting to retire and the next two generations are working their way up or into the workforce. The next generations do not necessarily have the same learning styles or expectations as their parents; they are more computer savvy and more comfortable learning outside of a traditional classroom. Are we changing our delivery methods to accommodate them or are we still clinging to the same educational models used in ancient Greece? I am suggesting that we may have outlived those models and need to be responsive to other methods of learning.

Changing Technology

With the advent of pervasive computing, the Internet, and mobile technologies, there are so many more methods available to deliver quality education. I think that employing a combination of these will help drive down the cost of education in the future. It is possible that students can continue to live in their hometown while pursuing an education from a remote college. Will that reduce their academic experience or will it prepare them that much more for an increasingly distributed work environment?


The purpose of this post is to get us thinking about the business of academia and question whether we are doing all that we can to deliver the promise of a first rate education to as many students as possible. Are we being creative enough in developing options or are we clinging to models that are becoming irrelevant and obsolete? Do you feel that you are prepared for our changing professional world? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

The Evolution of Record Keeping

Colorful folders fly into your laptopToday’s post is written by Charles Gilman, a current student of the AIM Program. We asked Charles to share his thoughts on his experience with information management.

When I joined the Air Force in 1995, we had two computers in our office— one for our boss and the other to be shared by the rest of us. The shared computer had two main functions: (1) it had MS DOS software which allowed us to record the results of our inspections and download them weekly onto a floppy disk that was sent to a repository each month; (2) it held our medical intelligence (med intel) information which we received from a paramilitary contractor (an expensive one, at that).

The med intel arrived each quarter in a large envelope or a box, if it was a big update. The package contained a disk to upload into the computer and three-hole-punched sheets of paper, including an errata sheet, telling us which pages in these giant binders need to be replaced. You see, for decades, we maintained all med intel in binders under double lock and key. In our office, we secured these binders in the boss’s office in a large, bright red metal footlocker with a white cross on it, and only our boss had the key. This information was classified “secret” so any of us who had to work with the med intel had to have a security clearance. In reality, because the med intel came from the CIA and other assets on the ground, by the time it had been vetted, processed, printed, and sent out to update us, it was months, if not years out of date.

When we connected to the Internet in 1997, it didn’t take long to realize just how obsolete this entire process was. Being able to plug directly into the CIA’s World Factbook, I found it had far more information than what had been contained in our binders. Plus, the information was/is free and updated regularly, so I suggested we stop wasting money on the contractor’s product and use what was already available.

I cannot describe the skepticism towards the Internet in those early days. The absolute resistance to trust computers, much less the Internet, was incredibly intense because so many viewed the Internet as a fad—a toy which was simply a waste of time. Those who were resistant to change argued their case and would rather continue paying thousands of taxpayer dollars per year for out-of-date information (which really wasn’t very exciting anyway—most of the “intel” just listed flora and fauna which had been present for a very long time), instead of using what was available free of charge. I had to print out pages of the Factbook to compare to what we had in our binders to demonstrate how much more information was available.

Back then, I never would have predicted what happened next—our boss loved the change, but she required me to print out those pages to update our binder. I actually wasted several days burning through reams of paper to create our own Factbook (a printed product that could have been ordered from the CIA), before my direct supervisor discovered what I had been doing and brought this insanity to a halt.

Thankfully, we’re far more trusting of computers and electronic information today; although, working for a state agency, I continue to see remnants of that past. We still have staff who print out electronically submitted forms and employees who, rather than e-mailing information, send it by mail and pick up the phone to call and notify the recipient to expect a letter. Electronic security is still a concern, but the sooner we fully buy into electronic media, the sooner we will make greater strides toward sustainability.

Our Shrinking World

Hand holds the worldI spent the past few days in New Jersey and New York City. As I walked around, I heard some languages that I speak, some that I recognized, and some that were totally foreign to me. I was born and raised in a small town and still live in a relatively small town, so hearing this array of languages is unusual for me. As I thought more about this, I realized that the world is becoming smaller. Due to advancements in communications, transportation, and technology, I can easily go to New Delhi or Sao Paulo, or I can meet those citizens who have traveled to my own town. It is possible to communicate with people of the world either face to face or through electronic means. I wonder though, with everything we have in place, are we really tapping the potential of a shrinking world or still limiting ourselves to the familiar surroundings and friends to supply us with answers and advice?


We have come a long way in terms of communications in the past 150 years. We sometimes think that we have always been able to communicate with someone instantly, but that is not the case. The first telegraph message was sent by Samuel Morse in 1844 between Baltimore and Washington D.C. Never before could a message go from point to point without having to be carried by runner, horse, or boat. The first voice broadcast over wire took place in 1876 and shortly after, in 1901, Guglielmo Marconi followed with the first transatlantic wireless broadcast. These technologies allowed communication from ship to shore. Wired telephone communications turned wireless and transformed into the phones that we all enjoy today. Our smartphone has an incredible heritage and now doubles as a data communication device.


Transportation has also developed rapidly to allow us the freedom to move easily about the world. Early maritime travel was hampered by the notion that the world was flat, but once that was disproven, explorers could reach out to new lands and new people. Voyaging over land and water advanced dramatically after the invention of the steam engine, enabling people to go great distances on steam ships and trains. This led to similar inventions in personal transportation by giving us the internal combustion engine that allowed for automobile travel. The world got even smaller with the advent of air transit and it has only gotten faster over the past 100 years. With our modern infrastructure, we can make a journey to the next town or around the world with very little effort on our part.


Technology has also made our world smaller. It has completely changed the way we communicate with each other and how we organize work. Work groups, by necessity, were originally created around developing, manufacturing, and distributing physical goods. People in the group could see each other, speak with each other, and create products together. Many knowledge workers today are separated from their teams by miles if not continents. We can now take advantage of the moving sun by shifting work around the globe. In essence, a team could, with the right coordination, work on an idea or a product twenty-four hours a day. Even with the great advancements in transportation, we are no longer bound by those constructs. We can create a team of people from far-flung places of the globe and generate incredible new ideas and products. I think that this is the promise that was launched by Morse, Marconi, Bell, Fulton, and other pioneers.


Are you using advanced technologies to your advantages or are you stuck in an old paradigm? How has communications changed for you over the past ten years? Have you changed the way you organize work and recruit the best people for your project? The power is in your hands if only you will use it to develop and create something great. Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at nigh

The Dark Side of the Deep Web

Digital vortexThere have been a number of stories and references to the “Deep Web” in the media over the last two months, including references in Season Two of the Netflix series “House of Cards.” With a renewed interest, I wanted to make sure that I was clear on the different terms associated with the Deep Web. My research prompted me to dig even deeper (pun intended).

The Surface Web

The surface web is the part of the web that is searched by sites such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. It is estimated that this surface layer accounts for only 1–5 percent of the entire web, as illustrated in a recently posted infographic from CNN. This surface layer excludes database search results and all corporate and academic sites behind a firewall. Search engines build and search from an index, so if a site is not part of the publicly searchable index, then it is not included in this layer. It is also possible for a website to intentionally become unsearchable by using a particular metatag.

The Deep Web

The Deep Web is the layer that lies below the surface. Every time you query an online database, the site creates a new page. That new page, however, is not included in the surface layer index because the web crawlers cannot do the same thing. The web crawler can only build an index by visiting websites and searching their links as well as the links referencing those sites. Other examples of data in the Deep Web are academic journals that are either behind a “for fee” structure or protected by a firewall. All intranet data on corporate networks also resides in the Deep Web layer. Businesses such as Bright Planet provide services that assist you in navigating the Deep Web.

The Dark Web

The top two layers can be considered to house legitimate data and transactions; they simply represent information that can be searched and indexed by web crawlers (surface) and information that cannot be seen by automated searchers (deep). Within the Deep Web, however, is an isolated area called the dark web. This is the area where cyber tracks are erased and transactions for goods and services may or may not be legal or legitimate. You can access this part of the web through browsers such as TOR that can be downloaded and allows access to the TOR network. TOR is an acronym which stands for “The Onion Router.” If you think about an onion and its layers, TOR allows you to access the core of that onion. TOR operates by hiding originating addresses among a network of servers so the end user remains anonymous. This area may house legitimate anonymous transactions but it is also the home of drug and other illicit trading.


I think it is important to understand the different terms relating to the different layers of the web and to understand the purpose of each layer. Could you benefit from a service that dissects the larger Deep Web for big data not available in the surface web? It is possible and very useful to be knowledgeable about all available options so you can provide the best IT service to your customers.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

The Perils of Being Last

Road Closed sign in Death Valley“After 12 years, support for Windows XP will end on April 8, 2014. There will be no more security updates or technical support for the Windows XP operating system. It is very important that customers and partners migrate to a modern operating system such as Windows 8.1.”

So begins the official declaration on the Microsoft website. There are still many active instances of the Windows XP operating system, including one on my home PC. Should we be more worried about “no more security updates” or “no more technical support”? Which is likely to cause more pain, and should we decide to continue using the soon-to-be unsupported operating system?


According to a recent article published by Retail Banking Research in London, “Virtually all ATMs around the world use a Windows operating system and many still use XP.” This could leave those ATMs subject to attack, should there be new security holes discovered in the XP operating system after April 8. While there are extended service contracts that customers can purchase, those only provide support and not new patches. Such contracts will also become increasingly expensive, thus are considered to be only a short-term solution. In the case of ATMs, the article mentions further security measures that are already deployed that will most likely thwart attacks while manufacturers and banks deal with upgrading their operating systems.

HIPAA Compliance

Does the Security Rule mandate minimum operating system requirements for the personal computer systems used by a covered entity?”

This was a recent question posed to the Office of Human Rights, the arm of the government charged with enforcing HIPAA and HITECH rulings and mandates. While the answer is vague, it does say:

“ … any known security vulnerabilities of an operating system should be considered in the covered entity’s risk analysis (e.g., does an operating system include known vulnerabilities for which a security patch is unavailable, e.g., because the operating system is no longer supported by its manufacturer).”

Taken to its logical conclusion, this means that after April 8, any computer system running Windows XP and generating or housing private patient information is not in compliance with HIPAA regulations. Do you have any vulnerable systems or do you know of any systems that could be out of compliance in the very near future? Do you have plans to remedy these soon?

Home Computers

According to market share statistics site, Windows XP is still running on 29 percent of desktop systems worldwide. The end-of-life/end-of-support for XP was announced by Microsoft in June 2008 through end user notifications, so why the reluctance? I don’t think that it is apathy as much as familiarity. Windows XP has been around for so long that it has become a trusted and—thanks to the additional service packs— stable operating system. Why change? Changing requires time and disruption to our normal routines, and the alternatives may not be that enticing. Do we switch to Windows 7 or the much maligned Windows 8, or are we still holding out for something better?


This blog is as much about change as it is about technology. I know that in my own life, I sometimes resist change until I am forced to face it head on, like in the case of increased security vulnerabilities in my operating system. To not change is comfortable and to change is hard. Sometimes, though, it is better and actually easier to change before we are the last one to do so.

I still have one last home PC on Windows XP. What do you recommend? Windows 7? Linux? Let me know your thoughts. I think it is time for me to change.


Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.