4.0523 Planning Academic Computing (2/106)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Tue, 25 Sep 90 22:39:43 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0523. Tuesday, 25 Sep 1990.

(1) Date: Thu, 20 Sep 90 21:21:43 EDT (78 lines)
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: planning

(2) Date: Thu, 20 Sep 90 22:32:26 EDT (28 lines)
From: Frank Dane <FDANE@UGA>
Subject: Re: 4.0506 Query: Planning Academic Computing

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Thu, 20 Sep 90 21:21:43 EDT
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: planning

Charles Ess has asked for contributions on the subject of planning for
the future of computing in universities. His is indeed an excellent
idea. I think that many of us could benefit from a lively discussion on
this subject, which I hope would include voices of experience.

Let me suggest some useful questions that a comprehensive plan might
respond to.

1. What kind of a (computer-assisted) instructional environment should
we be working towards? What functions should be provided for
instructors, what for students?

2. Should a communications system ideally be a substitute for
face-to-face meetings (e.g. for distance education), or a supplement to
class meetings? If a supplement, what role would it play?

3. At what level should a comprehensive environment make distinctions by
discipline? Do we want to see separate labs (if that's the way we think
of computerized classrooms) for the humanities, say? If so, why?

4. In what way should we proceed to get instructors interested in the
tools? How best can we fit an individual's pedagogy to them? If
authoring systems (such as HyperCard) are the answer, what can be
expected from the instructor, what assistance should be given by staff
dedicated to the purpose, and how far should it extend?

5. What kind of research environment could best serve everyone and be
sufficiently flexible to adapt to new developments? What basic tools are
needed to serve undergraduates as well as graduate students and faculty?
In other words, what should the electronic library-without-walls look
like? (I am not thinking here of anything that would replace the
conventional library -- may it last at least as long as my children do
-- rather of a consistent interface to a whole range of online
resources, accessible in the library but also from home, the classroom,

Sorry, these are just off the top of my head and so not terribly well
thought out. But if we can stick to the topic for a while, some good
guidelines might emerge from vigorous communal thinking.

Finally, let me contribute a brief extract from a report I wrote on the
last Pacific University Consortium Conference, held a few weeks ago in
Vancouver, BC. It concerns these issues of planning.

- - - - - Beginning of extract - - - - -

In the first morning session, Robert Kavanagh, Associate Vice-
President, Office of Information Technology (Saskatchewan), spoke
on `Strategic Planning for Information Systems in Education'.
After briefly reviewing the facilities at his university, he
addressed the critically important directions and the fundamental
changes they require. He said that although computing is clearly
of strategic importance to everything we do, it is very difficult
to convince one's colleagues of this fact. What we need, he
declared, is leadership, since the problem is not simply money,
the need for more desktop computing, or a lack of consensus.
Kavanagh attacked several misconceptions by which leadership may
be crippled: that desktop computing is all we need; that for an
institution desktop computing is relatively inexpensive and is
getting more so; that mainframes are or should be dead; and that
computing is unimportant for many disciplines and activities. The
role of leadership, he said, should be as a facilitator of
process rather than as prophet or lawgiver; we need to recognize
that people have different levels of understanding and to address
them accordingly rather than to talk down to them. Thus, he
advised, resources should be allocated to demonstrate `as
intensively as possible' what can be done: `get apostolic';
`ravenously seek client input on needs and ideas'.

- - - - - end of extract - - - - -

Willard McCarty
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------36----
Date: Thu, 20 Sep 90 22:32:26 EDT
From: Frank Dane <FDANE@UGA>
Subject: Re: 4.0506 Query: Planning Academic Computing (1/33)

I hesitate to call it a "plan," but we (Liberal Arts) have adopted a
strategy of encouraging users to decide on what hardware best suits
their particular needs, with a caveat that the hardware be able to
"modem" with a VAX "big" micro. The VAX serves as a central
distribution point for inter-machine communication. This caveat
only limits people vis-a-vis communication software that enables
a VT-100 simulation, which is not onerous. IT also provides the
flexibility for the graphics-intensive types to have their Macs,
the numeric-intensives to have their IBM clones, and those who
don't know any better to have their Apples (sorry, couldn't resist).

The VAX (a 34xx series I think) is large enough for us big-time
number crunchers to play with large matrices (matrixes?), and then
download the results to a PC for manuscript preparation.

As one committee member put it, "We don't legislate whether one
should use a BIC versus a CROSS pen, why legislate computer
hardware and software." The harware support people maintain the
VAX and "well-known" types of PCs the software support people
assist with "well-known" software (WordPerfect, Lotus, SAS (
(statistical package), Noto Bene, etc. Those who use "strange"
software are on their own. It seems to work.

Frank Dane