First, a quick background. The economy sucks. This is good news and bad news for higher ed. Enrollment and applications will be up. Bad news, is that most institutions arenapost entirely funded by tuition. Money comes into schools from state governements and the federal government in addition to money from their endowments and donations. All of those sources will be down in the next two years at least. Also in the picture is that fact that because of institutional culture of tenure, and the compliance issues that come from taking federal money, most higher ed institutions cannot cut budgets by trimming employees from the books. Good news, you’ve still got your job, bad news, remember Ed who quit, you’ve got his too.
Cost savings will be sought elsewhere. This is going to lead to a contraction of commitments. Upgrades will be postponed. Technology investments (big virtual machine hosting hardware, SAN’s) will not be pursued.
So what will all this lead to…
Up until now, a penchant for open source technology, and educational discounts have made schools prefer to host their own services a little longer than the rest of technological community. However, that was before the financial craptaculon. External hosting will be considered for applications which would never have been outsourced before. It’s already started for student email, IM, web sites, and storage. It will accelerate and be targeted for smaller burdens like staff email, intranet sites, and public websites.
Virtual classrooms where schools could sell an unlimited number of seats to an audience for a set cost has been a holy grail for a few years now. With cut travel budgets hitting continuing education dollars, and the rise in applications coupled with the pressure to bring in revenue, they will have no choice to squeeze every dollar they can. Expect a lot of activity here.
Development Language free for all
Because of the rise of hosting for previously unhosted solutions, there will be no lock in for particular platforms or languages. Want to try Ruby or make the switch to .NET? No worries, you don’t have to build an environment, just rent it. It provides opportunities for highly productive languages and solutions to re-argue their case to the higher education world.
Students are going to be looking to either stay out of the job market for as long as possible, or get trained in skills that will more likely get them hired. Any schools out there have Flex or Ajax content in their program, congrats, your students are still marketable. Expect more focus on vocational skills, like specific languages to be the rage.