Technology may add to, but won't replace traditional classroom

By Trigie Ealey
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 1, 1996

As the world creeps toward the next century, more information is moving online. This phenomenon does not exclude education.

It is becoming a rarity to find classes that do not ask that students have an electronic mail account, but that doesn't mean you'll be able to earn a degree while sitting at home in your underwear any time soon.

The University of Arizona is reallocating between $8 to $10 million a year for technology upgrades to assist students. While the effort does bring about more extensive classroom material online, the projects assist students in the traditional classroom as well.

"It is not just a one or the other proposition," said Martha Gilliland, UA senior vice provost of academic affairs and human resources. She said online aspects of the university would be used with traditional classrooms, not entirely in place of the classroom.

"The effort is about access and new support for better learning," Gilliland said. "The reallocation is highly integrated into the university."

The UA has been working for years toward putting more student services online and improving access to the Internet on campus, Gilliland said.

"Two years ago all the residence halls were wired so students could have access from their dorms," she said. "We are having to spend our money on making sure we can carry this technology."

While the university is not trying to put everything online, it may someday be possible for students to complete major portions of a degree online, Gilliland said.

"This does not just mean taking a class on the Internet," she said. "Sometimes that will extend to major parts of courses."

While only certain parts of courses would be online, the possibilities are expanding.

With the use of microphones and cameras on computers, video conferencing will be possible without having to meet face to face, Gilliland said.

She presented the UA's virtual university update at the Arizona Board of Regents meeting Sept. 26 and 27.

The regents have been pushing for the elimination of repetition of courses among the three state universities in an effort to save money, Regent Judy Gignac said. She said the online services would help eliminate overlap and contain expenses.

Gignac said while the use of computers are useful in filling the gaps in education, it would not soon replace the traditional campus.

"I see potential for technology, but it won't negate the on-campus experience," she said. "Years ago, there was talk that all things would be done through computers, but people are social beings."

Gignac said the virtual university is a concept she has supported from its start. She said it is best used as an alternate delivery system to fill the need for certain students and faculty.

"All faculty won't always be available for all students," she said. "(Computers) are a way for more specialized faculty to reach more people."

The virtual university update contained plans for a retreat for the deans of all three universities to increase collaboration, she said.

"All three universities may do part of an English course together."

Gilliland said a steering committee will also be set up to oversee the implementation of more virtual programs.

"This is a commitment on our part," she said. "It is an effort to collaborate with the other universities."