by MARGA SCHMIE
An expanding worldwide network of computers may offer BYU the potential to expand its influence abroad and create new opportunities at home, said officials who are experimenting with the technology.
This global network, best known as the Internet, is being accepted with enthusiasm by both students and faculty at BYU, and this leads officials to believe it can be used to deliver instruction around the world through satellite campuses or possibly to individual homes.
BYU officials involved in giving students access to the Internet said the demand for accounts was so great that the university had to call on outside sources for help in delivering services.
The development of the World Wide Web feature is one reason for the growing demand on the Internet. This gives people without much training on the computer the ability to find information easily and allows the information to be conveyed through words, motion, pictures and sound.
As the information age becomes more of the focus in today’s society, the technological advances are making possible what were only ideas in the past.
The ability to access the most up-to-date knowledge on a subject within seconds is now possible and may make the local library a thing of the past, said those who study the Internet.
Students from around the world have already had a taste of the cyberspace classroom at BYU with a complete for-credit class that was recently offered by the Independent Study program. Reactions from students taking the class on the Web were extremely positive.
“This is a godsend,” was one comment heard by David Nielson, instructional designer for BYU Independent Study.
“(The class), which was not publicized to the general public, was in a testing phase and then pulled off the Internet for review by the administration,” Nielson said. “We are getting responses from around the globe on a regular basis from those who want to take the class or are wondering what happened to it.”
A big advantage to offering a class via the Internet is that it can reach almost anywhere that has access to a phone line and provide educational content for little cost, he said.
“This is another BYU,” Nielson said. “Without any increase in hiring or building, I can serve more people with fewer staff.”
Stan Peterson, university networking services manager, said that between Fall Semester and Spring Term, “over 6,000 students took advantage of the Cougarnet accounts on campus.” At present there are more than 1,200 student and faculty dial-up accounts, or home access to the Internet, according to Cougarnet Business Manager Amy Goeckeritz.
Because of the overwhelming response of the students, the Cougarnet managers were stressed beyond their capacity, said Peterson.
“Students who want to get on the Web or set up an e-mail account on campus, can do so for approximately $3 a month. For dial-up access (at home), the average cost is approximately $10 a month,” said Cougarnet consultant Camille Jolley.
For the past 10 years, Kelly McDonald, executive director of BYU Computing Services, has been a witness to the vast technological changes that have taken place at BYU.
“Within the last few years, BYU has exploded in information access,” McDonald said.
McDonald attributes the main reason for the growing popularity of the Internet to the World Wide Web.
“The graphical Interface available on the Internet has made accessing information easier and more available to all,” McDonald said.
“Twenty years ago, if we wanted to extend the BYU experience beyond our campus, we would have to build more BYU’s. Now we can build satellite academies, with the Internet acting as the circulatory system,” McDonald said.
BYU students are using the Web more and more for personal publications, said Bill Holman, systems administrator for University Networking Services. Submitting homework, researching papers and preparing presentations are all being done via the Web.
“I couldn’t get through BYU without the Internet,” said Steevun Lemon, an advertising major. “Staying on the competitive edge of technology will give students the competitive edge.
“I was able to do a project in a short amount of time that would normally have taken much longer to do without Web technology.”
E-mail accounts may soon be mandatory for all BYU students. J.R. Rush, associate professor of communications, would like to see all communications students become familiar with the interactive multi-media tools.
News groups, the university information board, chat groups, electronic mail and personal home pages are all resources that, if used, will be valuable resources for education.
Non-traditional students will greatly benefit from the new advances in technology, providing more opportunities for those who would not normally have a chance for a college education.
Although new doors are opening in education at BYU, the support needed to follow through on the changes is being done with caution, Nielson said.