ATLANTA -- For most college students, thinking about computers
how that technology has transformed communication and information is
about as compelling as analyzing the revolutionary impact of the
Not so with Jim Herod and other professors, especially those in
middle age, whose professional lives have been altered utterly by
"It has even changed the way I prepare for class," says Herod,
a mathematics professor at Georgia Tech. "I used to write my lecture
notes at stop lights while driving to work. Depending on the number
of red lights, it took about 15 minutes. Now it takes me an hour and
a half to prepare for an hour class."
Herod now makes his lecture notes available on his Web page to his
students -- and those across the state and the world -- one and a
half hours before each class. While he is lecturing, Herod says, he
notices that many of his students already have completed the complex
calculations he has set out for them on his Web page.
Computer technology has proven invaluable in large lecture
classes, professors say, not only by adding to the quality of
discussion, but by removing the paralyzing anxiety that keeps many
shy students from participating in class.
Emory University has a system called LearnLink, on which
professors and students may communicate through a chatroom, posing
and answering questions, carrying on discussions and working on
"I think we're at a point where they are starting to have a
dramatic impact on teaching," says Robert Agnew, 43, an Emory
Sociology professor. "Every class I have now is on LearnLink and I
have a Web page."
"There was a really shy student who never spoke in class, " says
Emory University English Professor Walter Reed, who used LearnLink
a required part of his freshman Introduction to Literature class.
"She got on conference and wrote that she thought everyone would
scorn and hate her. Then she wrote this long frank and quite
intelligent entry and she went off like a small cherry bomb. She
became a kind of stimulus and others started expressing their
opinions and having discussions."
But the professors also speak of potential pitfalls inherent with
such an accelerated technology. Reed saw an alarming example of
reduced quality of thought when he assigned his students several
chapters in a recent and respected biography on Samuel Coleridge.
"Rather than do the assignment, a student went to Web pages and
came back with odd bits and pieces of information, some of it trite,
some of it repetitious, much of it wrong. …