Trouble for BYU’s paperless classroom


    By Bettijo B. Hirschi

    The paperless classroom at BYU might be in jeopardy because of a paper called money.

    After an article appeared on July 17 on the front page of The Universe, David Thomas, assistant general council for BYU, was concerned about NetDocuments being used on campus because some of that company’s top executives were involved with litigation against BYU.

    NetDocuments is an online document manager that the Marriott School is using to store student assignments in paperless classes, said Owen Cherrington, director of the e-Business center at BYU and professor in the Marriott School of Management, in the July 17 report.

    Cherrington said he was unaware of the situation when he implemented the use of NetDocuments in a pilot class this term.

    Ken Duncan, chief executive officer of NetDocuments, and Alvin Tedjamulia, chief technology officer of NetDocuments, headed a company called Soft Solutions.

    In 1988, that company entered into a licensing agreement with BYU.

    In this agreement, BYU gave Soft Solutions exclusive rights to a piece of software called D-Search in exchange for royalty payments, according to the Utah Supreme Court case file.

    Disputes arose between the two parties and arbitration ensued in Feb. 1994, according to the case file.

    The case was settled by the Utah’s high court during May of this year. The final judgement awarded BYU $1.6 million which has grown with interest to a little over $3 million, Thomas said.

    Cherrington said shortly after the article ran, university administration contacted Ned Hill, dean of the Marriott School, and the two were asked to discontinue the use of NetDocuments’ services.

    Because a class is currently using the service, Cherrington and Hill decided it would be in the best interest of the students in the pilot class if NetDocuments was used until the end of summer term, Cherrington said.

    For the time being, Cherrington said he was doubtful if NetDocuments will be fully used by the Marriott School in fall, as they had previously planned.

    He said he has met with Tedjamulia and Duncan and encouraged them to get the legal issue resolved.

    Cherrington said he believes Tedjamulia and Duncan, both BYU alumni, began working with BYU through NetDocuments honestly wanting to help the students in the Marriott School.

    “We believe their intentions were good,” he said.

    Cherrington also said right now they are giving Tedjamulia and Duncan some time to work with the university and resolve the legal issue.

    “I guess I’m just hoping a resolution can come about so we can use it (NetDocuments) in the fall. But that may be an optimistic hope,” Cherrington.

    “It is going to be messy if we have to completely shut it off, but if that’s what the administration said to do that’s what we would do.”

    Duncan, speaking on behalf of NetDocuments, also recognized the benefits BYU would miss out on if it could not use NetDocuments.

    “This has been a wonderful project and we expect and hope it will continue for the benefit of BYU faculty and students,” he said.

    Duncan also said the litigation between Soft Solutions and BYU was totally separate from NetDocuments.

    “We refuse to comment on a totally unrelated business issue,” he said.

    Both Cherrington and Duncan recognized that software, like NetDocuments, could be the future of education. They hoped students would not have to be deprived of a valuable educational experience like learning in a paperless classroom.

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