ERIC Identifier: ED304112
Publication Date: 1988-05-00
Author: Schamber, Linda
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Information Resources Syracuse NY.
The Wired Campus. ERIC Digest.
Imagine a campus where a student can sit down at a microcomputer anywhere, at
anytime, and go to work. He or she logs on and gets a menu screen of options.
With a few keystrokes the student can access files of any size from any kind of
magnetic or optical storage medium. Enormous databases can be accessed, and
portions downloaded for word processing and data exploration. Text, data,
graphics, video, and audio can be combined and processed in one file.
Information can be linked associatively across files. Assignments can be
received and completed, and tests taken. Educational simulations and games can
be played. Computer programs can be written and run, or electronic circuits
designed and sent to a manufacturing facility. Bulletin boards can be scanned,
messages received and sent, and conferences carried on, internationally, if
All of these capabilities are currently available on some sort of computer;
they just aren't available from a single microcomputer workstation on the
average campus. But this vision of the wired campus of the future is
surprisingly close to actualization now. This digest will outline trends in
academic information systems design, and briefly describe the policies of some
universities that are taking creative advantage of these systems as educational
Traditionally, the "wired campus" has
meant a network of terminals connected to a mainframe computer. In recent years,
however, the widespread adoption of microcomputers has led to the
decentralization of academic computing. Today the wired campus is seen as an
integrated system with resource-sharing and information-processing capabilities
that supersede those of both micros and mainframes. Van Houweling (1987)
describes the new academic architecture as "an institution-wide information
network, based on broad access to personal workstations, enhanced by a diverse
set of server facilities, and integrated through a coherent software
Technically, the system consists of microcomputer workstations with their own
hard disk storage and software. These are linked to supermicrocomputers via
wire, cable, optic fiber, or telephone line. The supermicros function as servers
for special applications; these and mainframes offer greater storage capacities
and the ability to process very large files. The information network has the
Widespread coverage: The network includes classrooms, public-access and
research computer labs, faculty and administrative offices, libraries, and
student housing. Access to the network can be extended by anyone using a modem
with a personal computer to include off-campus residences, branch campuses,
other universities, online databases/library services (Dialog, BRS, OCLC),
information utilities (The Source, Compuserve), and national and international
Wide variety of services: Supermicrocomputers act as servers to facilitate
applications such as data analysis, printing, communication, or design
implementation and production. These servers may also provide access to
databases and database indexes, optical media, video and graphics, text, and
data. Some current supermicro systems use the multi-user, multi-tasking
Distributed control: Local area subnetworks handle areas such as
administration, student records, and teaching and research labs.
Security: Most files are processed at the microcomputer workstation level and
stored in a larger computer. Personal files must be readily accessible from any
workstation, but accessible only to their creators. Administrative and
accounting files must be protected from unauthorized use.
Multimedia capability (in two senses): The network must handle information in
all forms: text, data, graphics, video, and audio. And it must be able to access
magnetic, optical and other storage media.
Integrated software: The network allows users to access and send files from
any make of microcomputer--most often IBM or Apple standards--and to process
them using familiar software. Options for network functions are presented along
with micro workstation functions in integrated menus. The system defaults to a
higher level of the network when the micro cannot handle a job such as
large-scale data analysis. The network interface should allow the user to access
different forms of information and move through the system freely without
Adaptability and expandability: Hardware and software standards must allow
for a great deal of flexibility and evolution of the system.
Reliability: Above all, the system must work! The allocation of certain
functions to different servers should help avoid the overloading that tends to
cause a system to crash.
PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTATION
The advantages of the
integrated information network concept are obvious and impressive: unlimited
storage capacity, variety and power of processing capabilities, ease of use. The
disadvantages, for an institution considering implementation, are equally
impressive. These include the hardware, software and consultation costs of
purchasing and installing a large-scale network, especially considering the
current incompatibility of many components, and rapid changes and developments
in electronic technologies. Add to this the issues of allocation priorities,
organization and management, security, maintenance, and user support, and the
vision may seem even less realizable. There is, of course, no single correct way
to develop an integrated information network. The approach of most institutions
has been to proceed in stages, gradually building the network by installing,
upgrading, and linking network components in small and then larger groups. Even
after successful pilot projects, a public-access system may deteriorate rapidly
from overuse, or simply fail to be sufficiently expandable. Early on,
administrators must make a detailed needs assessment to determine tradeoffs in
cost, service, and capabilities of an integrated network versus stand-alone
configurations and intermediate alternatives. And the involvement of faculty in
the planning process helps to enlist their support and ensure that they will use
Software is another major consideration. The design of integrated information
networks is in part an outgrowth of new theories of learning and teaching. With
a network in place, software development should not just continue, but
accelerate. Moeller and Hanna (1987), of the Stevens Institute of Technology,
discuss the responsibility of the university to encourage this effort by
providing faculty incentives such as release time, compensation, and programming
assistance. Supportive policies of this nature have led to the development of
innovative programs that are not just usable, but commercially marketable.
Examples are simulations that expose students to open-ended real-life
situations--programs that students actually end up playing for entertainment.
Some students may also need incentives in order to recognize the computer as a
partner in the educational process. Ubiquitous computer access, easy-to-use
interfaces, and informal seminars are some solutions.
Osgood (1987) describes five institutions that have made major commitments to
the concept of the information network and established far-ranging policies:
Drexel, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, and Brown Universities, and Reed College.
These wired campuses offer: o
in one cluster o
in use o o o o o o o
intelligence, etc. o
development o o o
These institutions are on their way to realizing Van Houweling's
institution-wide, microcomputer-based, resource-sharing integrated information
Chew, Robert. (1987, March). Value-added network
services for universities. CAUSE/EFFECT, 10(2), 12-17.
Frost, Renee Woodten. (1987, January). Preparing a university community for a
new telecommunications system. CAUSE/EFFECT, 9(1), 12-15
Gossett, Cathy L. & Neil, Elizabeth N. (1987, January). Central
data/decentralized processing. CAUSE/EFFECT, 9(1), 26-32. (Clemson University)
Jaffe, Lee David. (1988, January-February). Microcomputer LANs for users:
USC's outreach satellites. LIBRARY SOFTWARE REVIEW 7(1), 34-35.
Moeller, Joseph J. & Hanna, Anvernette B. (1987, October). Creating the
computer integrated campus: A vision of the future. ACADEMIC COMPUTING, 2(2),
Moran, Barbara B., et al. (1987, January). The electronic campus: The impact
of the Scholar's Workstation Project on the libraries at Brown. COLLEGE AND
RESEARCH LIBRARIES, 48(1), 5-16.
Morrison, James W. (1986, January 18). ROLE OF COLLEGES IN THE COMING DEMISE
OF THE PERSONAL COMPUTER INDUSTRY. Paper presented at a Conference of NERCOMP
(New England Regional Computer Programs), Hanover, NH, 12 pp. ED 273 257
Osgood, Donna. (1987, February). The difference in higher education. BYTE,
12(2), 165-68, 170, 172-76, 178.
Robinovitz, Stewart. (1987, January). Integrated networks. CAUSE/EFFECT,
9(1), 16-19, 25.
Rose, Phillip E. (1988, January-February). Advantages of LANs and bulletin
board systems in your library. LIBRARY SOFTWARE REVIEW 7(1), 17-19.
Senzig, Donna M. & Bright, Franklyn F. (1987). The Network Library
System: The history and description of an evolving library-developed system.
LIBRARY HI TECH, 17/5(1), 77-80.
The University of South Carolina: College and university computing
environment. (1987, March). CAUSE/EFFECT, 10(2), 20-22.
Van Houweling, Douglas E. (1987, Summer). The information network: Its
structure and role in higher education. LIBRARY HI TECH, 18/5(2), 7-17.