Tuition – Psychological Pricing

We learned about it in the business class I took this semester – psychological pricing. It’s the $99.99 or $999 pricing structure you see in many stores. It makes the product feel less expensive. Now, the University of Waterloo’s taking some lessons from retail and applying it to tuition.

University of Waterloo Tuition

My, doesn’t $4,999.38 just seem a lot easier to swallow than $5k?

Taking Push Email and PIM Beyond the Enterprise

I’ve become quite enamored with the BlackBerry and its email and PIM functions. While Sybase won’t open up their email system to me (I don’t blame them, to be honest), I’ve been manually inputting meetings and schedules into my BlackBerry. The ability to get a reminder of a meeting or task deadline is invaluable in the fast-paced and busy work day.

So it got me thinking – why not extend the convenience and usefulness of schedule management and push email to the university? I know many students are just as busy, if not busier than full-time workers. I already get my university email pushed to my BlackBerry, but I’d like to connect my calendar up as well. Waterloo is the hometown of a leading-edge university (University of Waterloo) and a pioneer in the wireless email business, Research in Motion. What better place for a trail deployment of a university BES for students? Here’s what I’d like to see.

The university implements a BES that manages the existing email infrastructure. Furthermore, course calendars would be synchronized and professors and teaching assistants can add assignment due dates to these calendars directly.

Now I haven’t quite nailed down how the project would be run – whether all students would have access to it or if only a subset of them would – there is an existing program at the Minota Hagey residence that gives students smartphones, replacing their existing land-line phone and boosting wireless usage and personal management, so recruiting a subset of the population can definitely work. The program would be far simpler to implement for a smaller group, so for trial purposes, that is probably the best solution.

What are the benefits? Let’s look at it from all parties.

  1. The University of Waterloo – the university has been on the forefront of several initiatives, some good, some not so good. PDEng, the Velocity residence, and the co-op program itself are some leading edge programs that the university has undertaken. In order to maintain its image of being a school of innovation at the forefront of technology, a student email/calendar system would be one more step towards this goal.
  2. Research in Motion/Microsoft – I mentioned a BES for students because I use a BlackBerry, but in reality it could be Microsoft Exchange and Windows Mobile devices as well, or any other wireless email + PIM service. This builds a large student population that is familiar with the product and service, and if they’re like me and find it useful, will continue to be users down the road, upon graduating from university.
  3. Wireless carriers – Data service is more lucrative for wireless carriers and is one part of the market that they have all been targeting to offset declining voice revenues. Just imagine entire universities filled with BlackBerry/Windows Mobile toting students. The revenue growth would be significant, even if some sort of cheaper student plan is introduced for the market. Again, if these students find the service useful, they will continue to use it after graduation, adding a whole new revenue group for the wireless carriers.
  4. And finally the students – Although the above-mentioned parties all stand to gain from this program, the student benefit is the end goal of the program. After all, this is something I’m conjuring up – clearly it’s to my benefit. 🙂 A student’s life can be extremely busy at university. Assignment after assignment are due and examinations seem to pop up without warning. The ability to have calendars with these events pre-populated pushed to a wireless device that is with the user at all times allows reminders and constant contact.

Hopefully something like what I’ve written about here will help students get more organized, plan their free time more effectively, and allow them to do better at their academic and extracurricular activities. I know in the past month with the BlackBerry, I’ve become more organized and event reminders have helped me at least appear more intelligent and on the ball to co-workers. Well worth the investment in my opinion.

PDEng 35: Turn for the Better

You’ve heard me complain about PDEng over and over again through the past couple years. I still stand by what I said about the program. In fact, having seen the changes being enacted in PDEng 35, I share those sentiments more than ever. PDEng 15 and 25 were pointless exercises in fancy writing and rounds of ‘make-believe’. One assignment after each pointless module had to be written by me, graded by the marker, more often than not, rewritten by me, following the exact deficiencies outlined in the comments, and remarked for a pass. The whole idea behind the program – ethics, professionalism, defensible decision making – were all lost in the jumble of words and half-truths. I hated the time I had to spend on PDEng and looked forward to each due date with remorse.

But I think the program has taken a turn for the best. I can’t say if PDEng 15 or 25 have been modified, but from what I can see in PDEng 35 (wow, my third work term already?) it’s manageable. The assignments following each content module in 15 and 25 have been done away with (they felt more like make work projects for both the writer and the marker) and instead, larger, more encapsulating assignments have taken their place. Instead of doing 8-10 assignment each work semester, there are only 3. Each one encompasses several modules and the written assignments are less about giving what they want to hear, but actually writing defensible decisions. For example, the previous assignment I just handed in (number 2) involved writing an opinion piece on a choice of three topics. I’m fully capable of doing that, and I believe it means much more than a prime example from previous PDEng courses, write about which animal you would be and why…

It feels almost blasphemous as a student to say this, but the first assignment of PDEng 35 was almost enjoyable. I was required to come up with an ethical dilemma to place a fictional character in and then attempt to come to a decision regarding the situation by weighing the outcomes. It actually required genuine thought and analysis of all angles of the problem. I’m sure the markers didn’t get a ton of cookie cutter responses to that assignment, which makes life a little more interesting for both parties.

Professional Development for Engineers. I would grimace every time I heard those words or any variation of PDEng. Now it doesn’t seem so bad. I can only hope that these changes are the result of countless complaints from students. I do urge them to continue improving the program as I believe it has merit, just not with the previous implementation.

Something to Look Foward To

All I’ll say for now is that I’m hard at work making/hacking up a new theme for the blogs. I’ve never really liked how the sidebar was setup. At first I thought going for a three column theme would be best, a la Joomla theme that I’d got right now. But I found something much, much better. And way cooler. 🙂 It’s a work in progress and I won’t make it public until I’m closer to completion, but I’ll give you an idea of which direction I’m headed. Think along the lines of WordPress 2.0’s write page, but better. I hate to say it and use the term, but it’ll be full Web 2.0 and AJAX power. 😛

Of course I can’t say I actually did it myself. I’m (once again) hacking something up to look the way I want it. Trust me I tried making my own from scratch. Didn’t even come close to getting it to work to say the least… The wonders of GPL eh?

Unrelated news: I officially ranked 16/124 in my Comp Eng class for the first semester. Not great but not terrible I guess. I’m aiming for at least top 10 next semester. Maybe even crack the top 5-7. It’s an ambitious goal, but quite doable in my opinion. I spent way too much of that last semester catching up. And now that I have, I’m definitely going to push myself to do better. Damn PEI education. (I mean that in the most loving way possible) 🙂

[tags]web 2.0, AJAX, WordPress, University of Waterloo[/tags]

There’s Always A Way Around It

Nah, I don’t mean there’s a way around doing the work that is necessary. I mean just look at me right now. I’ve spend the good portion of this evening at the library slaving away. What could I possibly have to do after work you say? Well, I have a weekly work update due tomorrow morning and there’s this course, PDEng, we actually have to take on ethics, morals, and professionalism during our work terms. Basically I get to write a lot of… *cough*bs*cough* and get a passing grade that essentially says I’m competent. But apparently not, since I managed to fail a few of the assignments that we had to do before the end of last semester. According to the evaluators, my supporting examples are too ‘vague’ or somesuch. Well, hello, of course they’re vague. The questions are unclear as hell. “State a personal strength and why.” Isn’t that like the most vague question you can ask short of “Tell me about yourself”…? But to please the university gods (program heads) I’ll resubmit them and put down some small itty bitty example that I’ll be very specific with and have absolutely no reflection of my actual person. Of course, I’m here to please.

How am I writing all this with my nastily constrained connection? (Let me tell you, using dial-up after that constraint would be like blazing speeds relatively. I’ve taken a measurement of the actual speeds I get in the slow queue. It’s in the range of 500 bytes per second.) Well, as the title would imply, there’s always a way around the chains society (university ResNet in this case) puts around you. I’m in the library siphoning the wireless of course. Yes, the joys of wireless. And to smite them all, I’m listening to the music that forced me to play this hand. Yes, I’ve saved the files that Pandora cached on my hard drive and stuffed them on the iPod. So as I write this, I’m happily listening to, hmm… Kieth Jarrett’s rendition of “In Front”, introduced to me after I searched up Bill Evans I believe it was. Actually, this stuff reminds me more of Vince Guaraldi than anyone else… When I get my connection back (like this Friday, maybe, when I got home that is:)) I’ll be sure to look up old buddy Vince. I’ll just jot that down on my Rainlendar todo list. By the way, if you don’t know what Rainlendar is, I suggest you look it up on Google or something. As the name may imply, it’s a calendar or sorts that allows you to set events (alarms) and todo lists in a neat little package that sites as a widget-like tool on your desktop. And if you’re as obsessed with computers as I am, you’ll be staring at your computer desktop a lot more than some little day planner. 😉

In totally separate news, I’ve become slightly addicted to French Vanilla cappuccino. As any employee of a tech company should, I have at my disposal free pop, coffee, hot chocolate and cappuccino at work. All that caffeine is good for a kick start of the brain at the beginning of the day and then the continual rush is required for proper functioning throughout the rest of the work day. Of course, by the time you get back home, you’re just so tired you could pass out instantly in all your clothes in the most awkward position on the ground. Not that I’ve done that, I swear… Only for a little bit. Really. 😐 I’ve got a finished large cup of Timmy’s French Vanilla here beside me keeping me company while I slug through these assignments and this post. Ahem.

But oh! It’s 10:00pm and I really should get going back to res. I usually try to get to bed slightly earlier these days as getting up at 6:30/7:00am isn’t the most enjoyable thing in the world. One thing I’ve noticed about getting up early, before everyone else, is that the showers take forever to get warm. Since I’m usually the first in the whole building to take a shower, I’ve got to like start the furnace up or something in the mornings. I’m glad I’m making that second person’s shower more enjoyable… (not)

[tags]university of waterloo, Rainlendar, Pandora[/tags]