A University Goes Universal: University of Texas at Austin Offers UTOPIA in an Open Gateway to Its Knowledge Bank

Article excerpt

What if everyone had access--at the touch of a button--to the vast reservoir of knowledge and cultural assets at a major university? What if you could sit at your computer and gather helpful information from a university professor on how to do your income taxes? What if a teacher could go online and put together a lesson plan or gather ideas for a class field trip? What if you could view--in your own home--the memorabilia of the movie classic "Gone With the Wind"?

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Now, you can.

The University of Texas at Austin has created UTOPIA, a digital knowledge gateway into its intellectual resources and the cultural treasures of its libraries, museums, and galleries. At http://utopia.utexas.edu, this online venue is breaking down walls and changing the way a university connects to those outside the campus community.

No longer does one have to be on campus to see Renaissance paintings at the Blanton Museum of Art or to hear a lecture by a University of Texas at Austin scholar on how to take your invention to market.

"The goal is to push the university's value out to all citizens in new and imaginative ways," said Larry Faulkner, president of the university, in announcing UTOPIA last month. "What we are unveiling today is only a beginning. UTOPIA is a work in progress that promises to be an online service that will exceed anything of its kind."

UTOPIA is a sustained, systematic effort to digitize the university's resources and share them with the public. Funded mostly with private money, the site will evolve over time into a voluminous resource presented in an easy-to-use, navigable format.

A key aspect of UTOPIA will be its resources for K-12 educators. There are professional development opportunities, classroom teaching tools, and lists of on-campus field trip suggestions.

Materials will be searchable by grade level and subject and most of the lesson plans are TEKS-aligned. (TEKS, Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, is an assessment tool for learning in Texas public schools.)

UTOPIA will also provide online forums so that teachers can share ideas. …