Minority schools discuss computers in education


Strengthened with information from two conferences (the first at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the latest at MIT) on how computer and communication technologies can enhance graduate and undergraduate education, a group of universities serving predominantly minority populations is planning a third session this fall on how to bring more of these technologies to their campuses. The site of the fall conference has not yet been determined.

The conferences were convened by the Quality Education for Minorities/Mathematics, Science and Engineering Network, which is headed by Dr. Shirley M. McBay, former dean for student affairs at MIT. President Charles M. Vest and Dr. Paul E. Gray, chairman of the MIT Corporation, have supported QEM since its initiation here at MIT and continue to engage MIT in QEM's activities. QEM is comprised largely of predominantly minority-populated schools. A number of predominantly majority schools seeking to improve the matriculation, retention and graduation of students from underrepresented groups also participate.

The January conference at MIT was organized by Dr. Isaac M. Colbert, senior associate dean for graduate education and President Vest's designee to the QEM Science and Engineering executive committee. Dr. Gregory A. Jackson, director of academic computing, advised on the technical program for the conference and members of his staff provided the expertise for a number of workshops.

In February 1995, the QEM/SME executive committee saw the need for a conference at which university presidents and technical staff could review the application of new technologies to higher education. MIT supported the idea and cooperated with the University of Wisconsin at Madison on a pilot conference in Madison last August. The subsequent conference at MIT was held in January. Presidents from 45 colleges and universities and members of their technical staffs registered. A heavy storm kept some from attending. The conference was supported by a grant of $28,500 from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and a $10,000 contribution from MIT.

Dr. McBay, Dr. Vest, Provost Joel Moses and Dr. Colbert all made remarks of welcome at the January conference, at which Professor James D. Bruce, vice president for information systems, was the opening keynote speaker.

Professor Bruce urged the university presidents and information technologists to think more broadly about information technology and to understand that technology projections are often off the mark when viewed from the present back to the time the projection was made. He also discussed the changing view of "place" when applied to a computer center, a library and a university. For example, he said, few members of a university community need to know where the computing center is located. That was not the case several years ago "when you had to go to the computer center in order to do computing." A decade ago a "library as a place" was very important, "but today with increasing volumes of library materials and services available online, the library as a place is becoming less important.

"The question of place in the context of teaching and learning will become less important over the coming years as more and more educational materials become available in different formats online," Professor Bruce said.

Also making presentations were several faculty members, including Professor Shigeru Miyagawa of humanities, Professors Bruce Tidor and Lawrence J. Stern of chemistry and Dean William J. Mitchell of the School of Architecture and Planning, and a number of staff members from Information Services. The conference was organized into two tracks, one designed for presidents of universities, the other for technical staff. Professor Richard C. Larson, director of the Center for Advanced Educational Studies, and Dr. Jackson also gave presentations, Professor Larson on distance learning opportunities and options and Dr. Jackson on implementing new educational technologies.


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