FRESHMEN have grown up with personal computers and have often
used them since early in their education, says Donald E. Harris,
chief information officer and vice provost for information technology
at Emory. To say they hit the ground running
is an understatement, Harris says.
addition to helping new students feel at home at Emory, technology
can help them stay in touch with the home they left behind.
Todays undergraduates are always connected to a
wide network of friends via cell phones, e-mail, instant messenger,
and other resources, Harris says. And their communication
with these friends or contacts is constant. For example, it
is not uncommon for a freshman to remain in contact with many
students from their high school who are now at other universities
across the country or around the world. I would suggest that
this has the potential to bring an added richness to the university
if she uses e-mail to communicate with her friends from home,
freshman Jain answered, Not really.
confusion, she explained: We tend to use instant messenger
a lot more. E-mail can be kind of slow.
last year with the class of 2004, students are assigned an account
in LearnLink, an on-line community created for University students
and faculty, as soon as they are accepted to Emory. LearnLink
is their key to Emorys myriad resources and, more importantly,
each other. There they can find dozens of conferences (virtual
meeting rooms) established on a vast array of topics, including
one for each academic discipline, as well as a conference set
up expressly for their entering class. At a school of Emorys
size, this allows students to connect with one another in ways
they might not otherwise be able to.
is vital. . . . People who would not normally see each other
at Emory know each other through seeing their names at various
conferences, says Janet Chan, a senior and the residential
computing consultant for Turman dormitory. Absolutely
everybody uses it.
a connection made in cyberspace sets the stage for a face-to-face
encounter. When she showed up for her first biology class, Jain
says, professor Anne Roush greeted her with: I cant
pronounce your namebut I can picture it on my screen!
serves as a calendar, message board, meeting place, and forum
for discussion. On any given day, a sampling of announcements
might include: Tango this Saturday, Want to
Help Troubled Kids?, Commencement Speakers Steering
Committee!, Tibet: Views From Both Sides of the
Border, and Sushi, Wings, and Hummus . . . Coming
it werent for e-mail, many things would pass me by and
I would not even have the chance to participate, says
Cooper, who created a LearnLink conference and social club for
science fiction fans.
virtual conferences on the academic disciplines are among the
most popular on LearnLink, and most of the posts are devoted
to discussion of faculty members teaching habits and student-to-student
strategizing to receive the best possible grade. For instance,
a plea for advice on which environmental science course to take:
Which is easier, ENVS 130 w/Hitchcock or ENVS w/Size?
Note: I am terrible at science. This is important and I want
a good grade.
topics range from racism on campus to the Roman numerals on
the clock tower, and threads can generate literally hundreds
of conversation-style postings.
are also able to use LearnLink to communicate directly with
professors on a regular basis. They frequently e-mail questions
about assignments or tests and faculty members usually issue
a timely reply, although some professors have found it necessary
to limit the volume of e-mail exchanges with students. Still,
this easy communication is a far cry from the days when professors
often seemed remote and inaccessible; most would post office
hours a couple of times a week, and otherwise, they vanished
mysteriously the minute they left the classroom. Now theyre
available almost anytime.
is, of course, the primary means of communication, and I handle
dozens of questions and other messages every week from students,
says associate professor of English James Morey. The medium
is very effective for posting assignments, answering short,
specific questions, or setting up appointments.
there is a question about an assignment, I will usually reply
to the student and also post the answer in the LearnLink conference,
adds assistant professor of economics Owen Beelders. This
allows other students to read the question and my response.
use of technology is required for virtually all Emory courses,
whether its simply accessing assignments or creating complex
Web sites for class projects. Many professors use LearnLink
and the Web to post assignments, lecture outlines, resources,
links, and other information relevant to the course; others
no longer shuffle paper at all, but require that assignments
be submitted, graded, and returned electronically. Gone are
professors old canvas tote bags bursting with coffee-stained
I never have to worry about losing submissions from students,
and I can do my grading anywhere I find a computer, says
Rusty Pritchard, assistant professor of environmental studies.
Emory classrooms are equipped with podiums that have Internet
capability built in, and a screen where students can watch the
monitor. Chan, a journalism major, recalls that in the wake
of the recent terrorist attacks, Cox Journalism Professor Catherine
Manegold used the Internet to illustrate her points about the
media coverage of these events.
were discussing the medias use of that shot of the second
plane hitting the tower, whether it was really responsible for
them to keep showing it over and over, Chan says. She
was able to download it and we could watch it right then, which
made her point about how accessible it was.
professors have embraced technology as a welcome instructional
companion and use IT to its fullest capabilities, such as incorporating
video conferencing and live chat sessions into class. I
managed to get two writers online to chat with the students
during class period, one of whom was chatting from Santiago,
Chile, and the other from Cornell University, says Spanish
professor Ricardo G. Mouat.