Harnessing Technology


The presence of computer labs in new dormitories allows students 24-hour access to e-mail, course work, and the vast resources of the Internet.
uring the 1980s, overstated claims and poorly conceived products undermined the credibility of educational technology, drawing attention away from the valuable contributions the new technology can make to the educational process. This picture has changed as faculty have gained hands-on experience with these new teaching tools, and the telecommunications and computing technology underlying them has matured.

The University continues to improve the quality of its educational programs through the aggressive introduction and integration of information technology into instruction and coursework. Three innovative faculty development programs -- the Teaching and Technology Initiative (TTI), the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, and the Academic Enhancement Program --are central to the University's effort to spread expertise in multimedia skills throughout the University's departments.

This year, TTI fellows created a new electronic textbook for a four-semester chemistry sequence and a virtual museum of African art. Faculty members in a variety of disciplines have created World Wide Web pages for their courses, allowing faculty to share syllabi, assignments, study aids, and class notes with students as well as linking their pages to other resources.

The University continues to reconfigure classrooms to allow faculty to incorporate multimedia materials in their teaching. The Classroom Improvement Project's five-year construction cycle calls for extensive renovation of at least twenty classrooms by 2001, and new facilities like the Darden School complex are designed to accommodate advanced technological equipment.

At the same time, the process of upgrading the University's high-speed data network is drawing to a close. The first phase of this five-year project was completed in 1995, resulting in a tenfold increase in network capacity. The process of wiring all University buildings to this network continues to progress on schedule and should be completed by June 1997.

These advances in computing and communications technology have already had a tremendous impact on the University, creating a "virtual" academical village that reinforces lessons learned on Grounds. The flow of information between faculty and students has accelerated many times over. More than 232,000 e-mail messages were sent each day this year. Between April and June 1996, U.Va.'s homepage was accessed 472,000 times. Students are accessing electronic archives, posting their assignments to course newsgroups where they can be shared with their classmates, and mastering the skills needed to create their own Internet documents.

The University's leadership in promoting the use of technology to enhance teaching and learning was recognized at a White House ceremony this year. The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education cited the University's Curry School of Education as a role model in the integration of technology. The Curry School has created a walk-in office to help faculty who wish to use instructional technology more effectively, assigns priority to placing student teachers and interns with teachers who use technology, and requires students to demonstrate competency in computer use, among other initiatives.



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