Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Majority of HBCUs `Keeping Pace' with Technology

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Majority of HBCUs `Keeping Pace' with Technology

Article excerpt

MANY STILL FACE MAJOR DIGITAL DIVIDE ISSUES, NAFEO REPORT SAYS

WASHINGTON

The majority of Black colleges and universities are more wired than originally assumed, according to a recent study released by the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.

Despite the fact that the majority of HBCUs have networks that connect to the Internet and the World Wide Web, most HBCU students do not have ready access to the campus networks.

NAFEO's researchers found that computer networks in a majority of the colleges are concentrated in administrative buildings rather than classrooms and student dormitories. In addition, fewer than 25 percent of HBCU students bring their own computers to school, compared to nearly 50 percent of non-HBCU students.

"In other words, more than 75 percent of HBCU students, or more than 260,000 students, must rely on institutionally provided facilities to gain access to the Internet and World Wide Web," says Dr. Wilma Roscoe, vice president of NAFEO. "This is a serious Digital Divide issue for HBCUs at a time when K-12 school districts are providing children with ready access to the Internet and laptop computers."

Roscoe, together with other NAFEO representatives, U.S.

Department of Commerce officials and members of the Congressional Black Caucus, released the findings here last month. The year-long study -- known as TAS, or the Technology Assessment Study -- was conducted to assess the computing resources, networking and connectivity of 80 of the 118 HBCUs that responded to the NAFEO survey.

Officially titled Historically Black Colleges and Universities: An Assessment of Networking and Connectivity, the study was funded by a $90,000 grant from the Commerce Department.

In addition to HBCU student access to networking and computing resources, the study highlighted additional areas of concern:

* HBCU usage of higher bandwidth technologies for accessing the Internet, World Wide Web and other networks;

* Faculty utilization of Web-based resources in the classroom;

* Awareness of the importance of network security; and

* Utilization and maintenance of technology strategic plans.

The researchers say that many HBCUs will have to focus institutional resources to address several areas of weakness if they want to make a "digital leap into the 21st century," including:

* Improvement of high-speed connectivity rates;

Dramatic improvement of student to computer ownership ratios;

* Improvement of the strategic planning process; and

* Willingness to incorporate innovative technologies into campus networks. …

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