Leveraging a Digitally Enhanced Education Through an Open Campus

Technology has undoubtedly revolutionized the way students research and study, given teachers new tools to communicate concepts and ideas, and helped administrators manage complex institutions. But have educational institutions yet realized the full benefits of the digital revolution? There is a pervasive sense that they have not. Computers and computer networks have been complex and expensive. They needed experts to run them and were difficult to adapt to individual needs. And teachers were too busy teaching their core subjects to devote time to difficult technologies.

Schools learned the hard way that investing in computers without devoting equal resources to their maintenance and infrastructure resulted in an expensive mishmash of devices - from old computers, through Microsoft Windows XP to wireless devices - none of which fulfilled their potential. But things are changing. Sun Microsystems, which got its start 20 years ago at Stanford University, is one of the few companies that has consistently devoted time, resources and creativity to thousands of educational institutions. Our guiding motto - the network is the computer - inspires our commitment to eliminating the digital divide by providing the tools that every student, teacher and administrator needs.

Our products have long been the technological backbone of renowned educational institutions, and now we are taking our efforts one step further. With Sun Open Net Environment (Sun ONE), we are leveraging the Internet to enable a new level of e-learning that realizes the promise of a digitally enhanced education. Sun ONE is the vision, architecture, platform and expertise that helps our customers leverage their information assets for building and deploying services on demand. Four main components make up the Sun ONE platform: iPlanet, Solaris Operating Environment, Forte Tools and Java. By supporting services on demand, the Sun ONE platform enables campuses to provide information, data and applications to anyone, anytime, anywhere, on any device. Hundreds of schools, colleges, universities and research institutes have already found that the unlimited possibilities of Sun ONE can save money and support integration across the entire organization.

Implemented for Education

Sun ONE is open and supports industry standards, so administrators can interoperate with existing systems now and with new add-ons in the future. For example, if you already have Apache running as your application server, and are not worried about scalability or other product concerns, you can keep it running while you implement new pieces on the Sun ONE platform. When implemented in education, Sun ONE enables an inclusive and comprehensive Web-based educational environment that adapts to the specific needs of students, teachers and administrators. It integrates information across the network - from coursework to calendars, from reports to research, from football tickets to parking fines, and from attendance records to budget management.

When enrolling for school, a student might register for several book-buying services, such as a campus bookstore or Amazon.com, and explicitly allow those services access to their class schedule. Similarly, an instructor could publish a class schedule on a calendar service, along with the books to be read by certain dates during the semester. Given permission, book-buying services might combine information from a student's class registration and an instructor's class calendar, and compete by e-mailing students offers for book purchases via different formats, such as hard copy, downloading to a PDA or online access via the Web. In addition, student preferences could be used to determine how far in advance to e-mail the student with notification of book availability.

Web Services

Sun is in a unique position to power this value proposition. Since its founding, Sun has always been synonymous with open systems standards, pioneering the Network File System (NFS), Java, HTML and Sun ONE. It continues to be the largest single contributor to the open source movement, based on both lines of code contributed and number of standards adopted. Because Java is a core part of the Sun ONE architecture, Sun ONE also supports all key Web services' standards as they become available.

Sun ONE offers a different vision of Web-based education services to other closed systems. In Sun's vision, each individual person or organization controls what information to share with service providers, safeguarding privacy and keeping the market for smart Web services open to competition. And since Sun partners with many leading technology companies, its noncompete business model offers customers a choice of the best solutions its partners have to offer, instead of locking customers into one vendor. Another factor is cost. Other vendors charge hefty fees for their software, and recent revisions to academic pricing plans will force institutions into paying costly monthly subscriptions for every installed piece of code. Sun makes its productivity tools and other software packages like Forte and iPlanet available to educational institutions for a nominal cost.

Powering Higher Education

Sun ONE and iPlanet technology were the choice for Campus Pipeline, whose Web-based platform is used by more than 100 colleges and universities to provide students, faculty and administrators with a highly connected network of resources right at their fingertips. Campus Pipeline's open architecture allows students to enroll in school, register for classes, pay tuition, access coursework, buy books, manage calendars, run e-mail, buy football tickets, and even pay parking fines on a campuswide network that is accessible from any Internet device.

Fathom.com is a distance learning site that has put together the most complete interactive knowledge portal ever assembled. It features content and coursework from the world's most renowned universities, libraries and museums, including Columbia University, the London School of Economics and Political Science, Cambridge University Press, The British Library, Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, and The New York Public Library. Using Sun, Fathom has helped lifelong learners access unique content and learning opportunities, anytime, anywhere and on any Web-enabled device. Its students can mix and match coursework from among the world's finest educational institutions, from wherever they happen to be.

Sun is committed to building on this success by using Sun ONE to spread equitable access and eliminate the digital divide. As Sun ONE spreads wider and deeper in the educational community, computers and computer networks will increasingly enhance the abilities of students, teachers and administrators. As open systems inspire innovation, schools will finally get the tools they need to help them and their students thrive in the modern world.

Contact Information

Sun Microsystems
Palo Alto, CA
(800) 422-8020

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2002 issue of THE Journal.