Emory Report
March 30, 2009
Volume 61, Number 25



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March 30
, 2009
Campus computing in the millennial generation

Alan R. Cattier is the director of Academic Technology Services in University Technology Services.

It will soon be eight years since the Computing Center at Cox Hall was renovated; eight years since University Technology Services tore down the walls that isolated students from each other and instead, placed value in offering them the possibility to self-organize in small, self-assembling collaborative groups.

It turns out the instinct of the project team who designed that social shift for the lab — and intrinsically, for Emory’s campus computing — was well-grounded. In a world where students own a laptop and have a cellular phone, nearly all lack the equipment to produce content for the data-rich multimedia world where they live, work and play — the equipment and software they find in Cox.

Looking at statistics over the course of the last year, use of the Computing Center at Cox Hall has never been higher. Pre-renovation the lab hosted approximately 5,000 students a month, mostly undergraduates, in a facility that operated 24 hours a day. The year after it opened, the lab’s hours were cut back to 14 hours a day and yet usage increased to more than 15,000 students a month, including much broader graduate usage.

This fall saw peak usage with over 21,000 students visiting the lab, including a number of days that accommodated almost 1,500 distinct student visits — and visitors from every school at the University.
I was recently given occasion to think about the reasons for the ever-growing demand for this facility at the invitation of the newly formed Center for Faculty Development and Excellence (see related article). In the center’s inaugural roundtable, “Who Are Our Students? Millennial Learners and Net Geners, and New Learning Styles in the Classroom,” faculty from across the University spoke to each other about the challenges and the opportunities of teaching this new generation of students.

Center director Laurie Patton observed, “The issue is controversial and we have several different intellectual approaches to the question of students and technology. Some of those critical voices, such as English professor Mark Bauerlein, are here on our own campus; he will be speaking at the Center for Teaching and Curriculum on April 2.

“And we have a new digital learning initiative, also here at Emory, headed by Connie Moon Sehat, director of Digital Scholarship Initiatives for Emory Libraries.” Patton continued, “I think using technology in the service of intellectual passion is crucial, but it is very important that we engage all sides of the issue in the service of intergenerational learning.”

Later this spring, and also in a series of bi-monthly discussions coming this fall, Emory’s Center for Interactive Teaching will join with the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence for a foray into the generational and technological mind of the millennials.

Ask Kim Braxton, director of the Computing Center at Cox Hall, about the millennials and she’ll tell you “they are not that different. What is unique about them is the tools that they have at their disposal to communicate, and the ease with which they do so.”

To visit Cox Hall is to visit the millennial generation in their element. Feel free to come explore.