College Campuses Break Ground for Digital Nation

By Silverman, Dwight | THE JOURNAL RECORD, March 3, 1995 | Go to article overview

College Campuses Break Ground for Digital Nation


Silverman, Dwight, THE JOURNAL RECORD


CLEVELAND _ Take a stroll through the rooms at Cutler Hall, a dormitory at Case Western Reserve University, and it quickly becomes apparent something is missing.

There are the students, and there is the expected mess in most of their rooms. The posters of rock stars, athletes and "significant others" are in abundance.

But where are the television sets? Despite the fact that cable television is free at Case Western, a university of about 10,000 students near downtown, there are not a lot of TVs.

But that doesn't mean there aren't glowing screens in the rooms. Personal computers are everywhere. In fact, Case Western may be able to lay claim to the title of "Most Wired University" in the country.

In every dorm, classroom and office at this school is a "faceplate" with connections to a high-speed, fiber-optic network. Even the fraternity houses are wired to a network that is so fast it can move the entire contents of the Library of Congress across campus in 20 seconds. CWRUNet, as it's called, has become the heart and soul of this university, serving students in both their academic and social lives.

"I do everything on my computer," said Steve Shabino, a sophomore whose room in Cutler is so small he had to raise his bed on stilts to accommodate an overstuffed chair, a refrigerator and his laser printer.

Shabino and other students here communicate with their professors via electronic mail. In some cases, they turn papers in electronically, their words never once being laid down on paper. They use e-mail to write to their parents, some of whom got accounts on an on-line service or on the Internet just to talk to their children.

"I probably wouldn't communicate with my parents half as much as I do if I didn't have e-mail," said one female student. "It's not that I don't want to talk to them. It's just that, well, you know."

Throughout the country, institutions of higher learning are linking up, if they are not already there.

In fact, it could be argued that the Digital Nation _ a worldwide community of people connected through their personal computers _ was born on the nation's college campuses, which were instrumental in the building of the Internet in the early 1980s. The Internet, the global connection of networked computers, was created by researchers _ many of them at universities _ who wanted to communicate with each other.

"One thing that has stood out is that these networks are affecting every aspect of the business of higher education," said Jane Ryland, president of CAUSE, a nonprofit association for managing and using information resources in higher education.

Administrative functions that used to take days _ such as the routing of forms from one department to another _ now take seconds. Ryland said the networks are also proving to be a great equalizer on campuses, changing the relationship between students and teachers.

"Communications between faculty and students can become more commonplace, more free and open, and there is the potential for everyone in a university to become part of a community of scholars," Ryland said. …

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