October 1, 2001
Student perspectives on e-communication
Donna Price is coordinator of communications for the Information Technology Division
In the last five years, the use of information technology (IT) at Emory
has moved from the periphery to the core of pedagogy.
Building a learning community through IT is an ongoing process. Improving
teaching and learning, expanding efforts to digitize resources, engineering
reliable infrastructures, and finding better and more effective technologies
to support the upsurge in use are daily challenges.
Social interchange at the University also has shifted dramatically. There
were early questions about whether using IT would isolate community members
from healthy, face-to-face social interaction. Much has been written in
this column about facultys use of technology in education at Emory,
but students offer added perspective. E-communication is an integral part
of their daily lives.
Meha Desai, who came to Emory from New York University, is a first-year
graduate student in the School of Public Health. Her first consideration
in selecting a graduate school was not its level of IT resources, but
it played a role. She relied heavily on technology for research as an
undergraduate, so easy access to information was critical for her.
At Emory, Desais professors post their notes and homework assignments
on LearnLink, the Universitys online learning environment. LearnLink
is used actively by more than 18,000 faculty, staff and students in 600
classes for academic conferencing. Online messaging, including listserv
use, processes up to 250,000 messages a day on campus.
LearnLink is a very easy way to pick up notes and handouts,
Meha said. Listserv postings keep her current on campus events and announcements.
For social interaction, she uses e-mail to keep in touch with friends
and family on and off campus.
It keeps me more connected because e-mail is so convenient, and
my friends are hard to reach sometimes, she said. It becomes
a main communication hub.
As a freshman in the business school, all of Maya Mylavarapus classes
use LearnLink conferences and Blackboard, the Web-based course-management
system. She brought her own laptop to campus and connected to the network
through ResNet, the Residence Hall Network, which provides port-per-pillow
access to all the undergraduate residence halls.
Being connected to the network was particularly helpful in keeping Mylavarapu
informed during the week of Sept. 11. Through LearnLink, President
Chace and the deans sent us letters, and even the girls on my hall sent
little comforting things to each other, she said.
As to e-mail use being a potential source of isolation, Mylavarapu sees
the opposite. I think freshmen are naturally social creatures, so
were going to get out of our dorms and meet, she said. If
anything, its just made us talk with each other even more. We talk
in person the normal amount, and then we go back to our dorms and are
still talking to each other through the computers.
A senior majoring in computer science, Ray William Lee particularly appreciates
Emorys reliable T1 connections to the Internet. He was able to quickly
download video news footage from CNN.com during the week of the terrorist
attacks, when demands for electronic resources were high. Its
good we can pass along information so efficiently in America, Lee
said. [Its] vital for getting people organized.
Kalle Uibo came to Emory from Estonia in Eastern Europe to work on an
MBA at Goizueta. He has found that Woodruff Librarys IT resources
are great timesaving tools for his research. Practically every course
requires research, Uibo said. The business library is a tremendous
resource because we have access to all the commercial databases. They
give information about market statistics, industry news, Reuters, Dow
Jones and the Global Market page.
E-mail is Uibos primary means of communication with family and friends back home. Im in touch on a daily basis with my friends in Estonia and some other parts of the country; I dont feel disconnected from the social life, he said. Watching local news shows from Estonia and reading local newspapers via the Internet keeps him informed of political and economic news, as well. Sometimes, he said with a laugh, I know more about whats happening there than they do.