Find Events Find People Find Jobs Find Sites Find Help Index


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 faculty’s 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, Desai’s professors post their notes and homework assignments on LearnLink, the University’s 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 Mylavarapu’s 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 we’re going to get out of our dorms and meet,” she said. If anything, it’s 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 Emory’s reliable T1 connections to the Internet. He was able to quickly download video news footage from during the week of the terrorist attacks, when demands for electronic resources were high. “It’s good we can pass along information so efficiently in America,” Lee said. “[It’s] 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 Library’s 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 Uibo’s primary means of communication with family and friends back home. “I’m in touch on a daily basis with my friends in Estonia and some other parts of the country; I don’t 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 what’s happening there than they do.”


Back to Emory Report October 1, 2001