The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs spoke with the President”s Information Revolution Commission yesterday afternoon about the IRC”s year long investigation into the University”s future use of information technology.
The IRC will report to University President Lee Bollinger within the next two weeks on information technology infrastructure, teaching in the information age, research the University must do on information technology and distance education.
“There”s an information revolution out there that we”re trying to respond to. The revolution in my mind has altered the world and we have to figure out what to do with it,” said Engineering Dean Steven Director, the IRC”s co-chair.
Director declined to speak specifically on the recommendations before they have been made to Bollinger, but said, “We feel that in some areas we”ve gotten behind. There are going to be some specific recommendations.”
IRC co-chair John King spoke about the downside of the digitalization of some primary sources found in the University library system. He said digitalized documents lose valuable information such as century-old notes made in margins, which cannot be scanned.
“It wouldn”t be practical,” King said.
King also talked about the University”s involvement in distance learning programs such as www.fathom.com, a website that allows students to take classes via the Internet.
“There”s, in a sense, been a movement of mobilization,” King said of long-distance learning. But he emphasized that at the early stages of Internet teaching, “the University needs to stay in the state of investing and learning.”
SACUA chair and Architecture Prof. Moji Navvab expressed concern, and said he knew of “faculty that won”t even touch the keyboard.”
“You”re always going to have the people who aren”t going to want to change. This University should be a major player in these kinds of things,” King said.
SACUA member and Nursing Prof. SeonAe Yeo said in her experience at the Nursing School, technology has been difficult to incorporate into the learning process because it is hard to keep up with new technology.
“When we try to use the cutting-edge technology, we have to struggle. Some students and faculty need to spend more time learning to use the tools rather than teaching with the tools. I wonder sometimes if its worth so much time learning how to use technology,” Yeo said.
King said people will have to keep learning to keep up with technology.
“That”s going to keep happening while technology keeps getting better. You don”t have to keep learning how to drive. It”s a frozen technology,” he said.
Navvab also asked how much information and technology will be present in student life.
“So far the University has not gone down the road of requiring students to own their own computers. We”re going to have to do a lot of experiments (with respect to student living) and then we”re going to have to assess those,” Director said.
King said the information technology investigation determined students and faculty at the University want to keep advancing into the technological future.
“The University of Michigan is going to spend more money on this. This is where the faculty and students want to go,” he said.