Many advocates of technology and on-line resources argue that such technological advances will expand educational opportunities. The Internet provides students with a diverse and expansive abundance of information. The entire academic and collegiate population has gained even more access to pertinent information regarding specific disciplines.
It is not only the increased access to necessary information that is important to education. Communication advances such as on-line discussion groups and Electronic Mail have and will continue to expand classroom opportunities. These advances facilitate increased communication and exchange of ideas within the academic world.
Disciplines at UR in which Computer Technology is Part of the Curriculum:
Computers in the Classroom
Richmond Undergraduates' Points of View
The Internet/World Wide Web
Today, a journalist does much of her research on the Internet. The Internet provides expansive access to information from all over the United States and the world. The journalist can perform a search online, using a subject or general keyword.
In Mick Doherty's article, "Marshall McLuhan Meets William Gibson in 'Cyberspace,'" Marshall McLuhan wrote, " . . . it becomes obvious that information is the crucial commodity, and that solid products are merely incidental to information movement (Doherty)." In light of this comment, the Internet is especially useful for Journalists who often require the most current information on a specific topic for a story or editorial. The latest facts, figures, statistics etc. are most readily available on the Internet. The World Wide Web is the information source that lends itself to be updated the most out of any other information source. It is easier to amend a page/site on the web than publish a new book, magazine or newspaper with more current information. Many sites are updated daily as conditions and information change.
The Journalism 200 level course here at the University requires regular Internet searches so that students become acquainted with the process in which professional Journalists begin looking for sources. Professor Hank Nuwer assigns an "Internet Scavenger Hunt" to get students used for research on stories. However, Nuwer cautions his students that such searches on the Internet are a Journalist's way of gathering possible sources for further research--that scanning the Internet is only a Journalist's starting point (Nuwer).
Mr. Nuwer has also coordinated a course in which the goal will be to produce an on-line magazine for students--a magazine that appeals to Generation X'ers. Plans for the magazine in terms of graphics, subject matter and content are determined largely by the students in the class. The students will be responsible for setting up a format for the site, writing the articles, designing the graphics, and learning to "Code" for the Web. The class serves to teach students the processes involved in creating a publication, such as a "Webzine," while incorporating the technology that is taking over many areas of publishing (Nuwer). In a world where information is the most popular "commodity," and an increasing volume of people demand this "commodity" at such a rapid pace, technology is the one thing that has helped Journalists keep up with the latest news and stories.
On-line Discussion Groups/E-Mail
Appointment books are full these days and our schedules are tightly packed with important meetings and tasks. Because everyone is so busy, in-person interviews are becoming obsolete in the Journalist's profession and on-line interviewing is becoming the norm.
It is not just the hectic lifestyles we lead that make the transition from traditional on-line interviews to electronic interviews natural. The financial implications of in-person interviews make electronic interviews much more appealing and popular to cost-conscious editors. This cheaper alternative to obtaining information from necessary sources makes it easier for smaller magazines and other publications to access the same information as the larger publications do, while remaining within the parameters of their comparatively smaller budgets. Because of a wide range of locations, Mr. Nuwer says that he and his three editors work together on-line, discussing each section of the book he is currently working on and this is a common practice among professional Journalists.
Journalism students at University of Richmond and other colleges also use E-mail and on-line discussion groups to obtain information for various papers and topics. Programs and software such as Lexis Nexis, an on-line database for research, are widely-used among both professionals and students alike. There are also many special interest on-line discussion groups for Journalists in which Journalists who have specific interests on a specific topic can exchange information and gain new information from each other. Swapping what they know about the most current news, research and sources, Journalists can gain further insight and knowledge about the very subjects they are most interested in writing about (Nuwer). As Mick Doherty points out in his own article, "Marshall McLuhan Meets William Gibson in 'Cyberspace,'" such use of on-line resources is an example of "people using data to interact with other people" and how the Internet and on-line discussions "function(s) simply as a tool for people to interact with each other."
Norton Textra Connect Software
For those who have no experience with Connect, Connect is an electronic discussion software package. The instructor determines the size of each group and assigns each student to a group. Within these groups, we respond to our professor's posted question(s). To summarize, Connect supplement the traditional classroom discussion, as discussion of ideas and themes is done via computers and a network. Using Connect can also help in developing students' writing skills as all ideas and thoughts must be formulated and organized in a clear manner so that all group members can fully understand. Furthermore, Connect helps us build an academic forum in which people are presenting and exchanging ideas, and learning how to arrive at consensus. Connect also helps writers test the validity of each group member's ideas and to arrive at a consensus about which points are the most persuasive and why (Hickey).
The CONS of Electronic Discussions on Connect, according to UR students:
The PROS of Electronic Discussion on Connect, according to UR Students:
Online Resources/World Wide Web
As stated before, the World Wide Web has opened up doors to all kinds of information. Like Journalists and Journalism students, Business students also access information via the Internet.
Probably the most well-known source for information about Business, The Wall Street Journal has gone on-line. Most Business students avoid the inconvenience of going to their mailboxes daily to get their Wall Street Journal and, instead, access the Journal from the computers.
The latest information regarding stock and bond prices are easily available on the Internet as well as the most current financial data about a particular company.
Specific Software Taught
1. Excel for Windows '95--
An Excel Lab is required of all Business students enrolled in Accounting 201. Students learn the basics of setting up spreadsheets and progress to graphs, charts and financial computations involved in preparing an amortization schedule.
Later on in the Business School curriculum, students learn to use Excel as a tool to analyze data. In the Operations Management Course (Management Systems 340), students use their skills with Excel to build Quantitative Decision Models. Using Excel spreadsheets to generate graphs and perform specific calculations, students learn to make decisions regarding such issues as productivity and the quality of a product, for example. Students also learn to construct forecasting models as to what the next period will look like, using historical data and present trends (Walk).
2. Power Point for Windows '95--
In the Business Administration 391 course, "Principles of Information Systems," required of students enrolled in the Business School, students learn to "capitalize on information systems in their jobs and organizations (Walk)." Power Point is the chief software package that students are trained to use, learning presentation skills and integrating both presentation and Power Point skills. For example, students are required to do a Power Point presentation in class, simulating a real-life business presentation. Students are to "select some topic of personal or professional interest, analyzing the hardware and software requirements to implement a specific technology (Walk)." Students also learn about database systems, as the course emphasizes "database design and implementation (Walk)." Microsoft Access is the technology used in working with databases and students eventually learn to build their own databases.
The "Principles of Information Systems" course instructs Business students in various information systems and software so that, in future careers in Business, this experience and knowledge can be incorporated into daily business activities and in presentations. Having experience in various technologies and information systems, students learn to access data and analyze such data (Walk).
Technology has inevitably infiltrated the arts. With the evolution of electric guitars, keyboards and synthesizers comes a new perception of music that transcends a more traditional image of wooden violins and large grand pianos. Nowadays, computers have the capability to reproduce hundreds of sounds that, previously, could only be heard by the actual instrument. Music majors learn how to incorporate computers and technology into their music composition in Dr. Alfred Cohen's Music 213 course, appropriately entitled, "Computer Music." The course objectives are to familiarize music students with the technology that facilitates musical composition. As Dr. Cohen states in his syllabus, " . . . the real reason to compose music is to create beautiful and meaningful relationships of organized sound (Cohen)." The technology simply makes this process smoother.
At the University of Richmond, the Music Technology Lab is equipped with Macintosh computers and each workstation is hooked up to a keyboard, a MIDI Interface and the Kurzweil 2500R rack mounted synthesizer/sampler. The Interface serves as a translator between the computer and the keyboard. The Interface's purpose is to forward the MIDI signal from the keyboard to the computer and/or various synthesizers and other devices which it is connected to. During this process, the pitches played on the keyboard become computer codes--codes that the computer understands and can identify the pitches with. The Kurzweil contains pre-recorded pitches of hundreds of different instruments varying from the piano to the bass to the guitar. Students in the Music 213 course primarily work with two software packages: Studio Vision Pro and Overture. The most important feature of both these programs is that users can play back the composition, allowing them to sit back and really hear the music they have created (Cohen).
Features of Studio Vision Pro:
Features of Overture: