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January 14, 1986 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1986-01-14

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The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, January 14, 1986 - Page 5


Leading te campus computer charge

Editors Note: Daily reporter
Jerry Markon and News Editor
Thomas Miller met with University
Vice Provost for Information
Technology Douglas Van
Houweling in December to talk
about the new computing fee and
other computing activites around
campus. The first excerpt appeared
December 10, 1985. Here is the
second, and final installment from
that discussion.
DAILY: Some members of the state
legislature have criticized the
University for passing the fee, calling
it a veiled tuition increase. Were you
and the other executive officers
aware of the state opposition when
you were pushing the fee?
you know already, we talked about the
fee entirely separate from tuition. We
already had fees in engineering and
business, and in August, we went
ahead and raised those fees to $100
and $150 dollars. And then in Septem-
ber. - with some delay for at least
some student input, as I said earlier -
we went ahead with the all-University
fee and none of us anticipated - I
didn't, but maybe some people did -
that the state would mistake that for a
tuition increase. In retrospect
perhaps I should have been more
aware of that, and maybe we could
have figured out how to communicate
with those people more effectively.
We had been asking the legislature for
funding to do something like this for
several years, and I think the
legislature by and large knew we had
some fees, so I guess we were a little
surprised that there was so much con-
cern about this. I think it's fair to say
that while I don't want to minimize
that concern, it hasn't been
a widespread concern, and we're
talking with state legislators now to
fry and get them to see that this fee is
in fact an effort on our part to save the
state and the students money, as op-
posed to trying to make things more
expensive. I think we're making
progress, but I don't think we'll ever
change everybody's mind on
D: There's a school of thought among
students that says, "Look, I'm in
engineering and over four years I pay
$1200 for computers. And if I can buy a
Zenith personal computer cheaper,
tell me why I should pay a fee?
VH: I think that's a good question and
it's a question we've gotten not only
from students but from parents. As I
told.MSA, of all the things that we're
doing, only about half of the money is
being spent on putting these big public
work stations in. The other half is
being spent on expanding the com-
munications network, getting the
library linked in, helping faculty and
students generate course material -
a whole series of things. Although
those other things wind up benefitting

V-P Douglas Van ouweling pushes ahead

a student who owns their own work
station more than it does the students
who use a shared work station
because let's face it, if you own your
own machine, you're going to use it
more than four or five hours a week,
which is about the average we can get
out of the shared work stations. So,
you'll get a lot more active use out of
that other 50% of that money. Even
though you can say that only 50% of
your money is being spent on
something that you don't already
have personally, your level of use will
get a lot more out of that investment
than most of our students. So, I didn't
think you're getting short-changed if
you get your own. I think thethings
we're doing mean that we've enhanc-
ed your investment substantially.
There's another issue here to, and
that is most students do a lot of their
work outside their home so having
work stations in libraries so that if
you're doing something at your Zenith
at your apartment several miles from
campus, during the evening or a
break between classes, you can come
on campus and work on it. That's also
very useful, so it's really finding the
right combination, and I think in fact
over the next four or five years, more
and more students will own their own.
machines. We'll spend a smaller
proportion of the total money we have
on providing shared work stations,
and more on making sure we provide
good services to students who own
their own work stations. And that's a
transition that's going to take place as
these machines become more power-
ful and less expensive, sort of at the
same time. We're really trying to
build a program that allows us to go
from the present to that future
without requiring our students at the
present to buy their own workstations.
For a lot of our students, that would be
a large financial burden. And I think
of dubious value for a large number of
our students. I don't think that a lot of
our students don't have 2 or 3 hours of
work a day to do on a personal com-
D: You've said that much of the
technology currently in place will be
obsolete in two or three years?
VH: I wouldn't say two. I would say
three. That's why we've got the fee in
a large extent. It's unlikely that the
fee will go away three years from
now. What I see happening is here at
the beginning we've got a fee that is
directed very heavily to remodeling
and/or building enough space to
provide roughly one workstation for
every fifteen students. Or to put it
another way, to provide four hours
per week per student of access. Those
numbers are best guesses of what we
really need in shared facilities. It
may be a little high or a little low, but
somewhere in the neighborhood. What
I expect will happen over the three

years is that we'll put in every year
progressively more powerful and
more advanced workstation clusters.
D: In the engineering college, despite
the college's commitment to com-
puters, there have been a lot of
student complaints that they never
use computers, that they don't have to
use them in the classroom. Is there
any administrative plan to push com-
puter usage in the classroom?
VH: A main portion of the new
program is in fact directed at
providing incentives for both faculty
and students to develop software for
course application. While this isn't all
nailed down yet, I wouldn't be sur-
prised if we had something in place by
next year. We might have a program
that gives out some kind of award to
the best 3 pieces of student-written

tools that help students discover not
just whether they've got a sentence
spelled right, but whether or not the
grammar is correct, whether they're
using the passive case too much, if
they've got too many adjectives, or if
their sentences are too long.
D: A computer editor?
VH: Yeah, really it is. We're looking
into software developed AT&T called
the Writers Workbench, and we're
going to be testing a number of things
so we're not looking at just the editing
part of writing, but at the whole
process. We already have programs
in Biology and Chemistry where com-
puters are used to help us teach cour-
sework, and the same thing is hap-
pening in a number of places in
engineering, although it's certainly
not pervasive yet. I expect to see quite

a computer, and they go off and do it
on the computer. Using the computer
in some creative way, they come backs
into the classroom and hand it in with%
some kind of beautiful display, andf
the faculty member looks at it andt
says "gee, I never thought of it thatI
way." Most importantly, the otherI
students take a look at it and say,
"gee, that looks pretty snazzy. Maybe
I'd better figure out how to use it."
What we'll find is that these machinesI
will be used as a general took by stud-
ents, and the students will become
familiar with them in ways that we
really don't anticipate yet, becausei
that's the pattern we're already1
seeing. The issue, then, is how do
students learn to use computers so
they can do those kinds of things. I
really have two answers to that
question. The first is that we have
smart students, really smart students;
here, and these machines really;
aren't that hard to figure out. Most of
our students aren't going to need
much help. The second thing is that;
we're putting in one place after
another around the University, cour-
ses to help students learn the basics.
D: There's been a lot of talk about this
expansion, particularly in targeting it
at the residence halls in the short
term. In the long term, though, are we
going to see more of these large;
clusters in other buildings than
residence halls?
VH: That's a question that goes back
to something I just talked about. That
is, if you really want to get people
started in technology, what you want
to do is catch them during their
freshmen year. About 95 percent of
our students live in residence halls so
one of the first things we must make
sure we do is get the residence halls
reasonably well-equipped and catch
that incoming cohort of students and
make them reasonable prepared as
they move on up through the system.
But obviously, since most of them
y then leave the residence halls, we've
got to make sure that we have access
other places, and the residence halls I
think will saturate quickly. There's
really not much space in the residence
halls to put this kind of equipment,
and it's really not in my view ap-
propriate to put big clusters in the
residence halls, with some excep-
tions. Most of the clusters in the
residence halls will be small clusters,
I like to think of them as clusters that
people can go to in their pajamas.
Since they're fairly close to their
rooms people can go there and work
conveniently on them when they want
to. And I hope that will make it
possible for people who don't have the
money or the incentive to buy their
own computers to have really good
access during their freshman years.
Then, for their sophomore and later

years, we're going to have to make
sure there are a lot of clusters outside
the residence halls. We're talking, for
instance, about putting a cluster down
on southycampus. Now that doesn't
make any sense in terms of where
students go to classes but in terms of
where students are living that makes
perfect sense. There's a lot of student
housing down that way. We'll try to
put some things up on North Campus
by the married student housing.
There's a number of other places
where we're going to try to make sure
we get close to the students in a lot of
places around the University, and
we'll probably have to build some new
D: You've said that you plan to
upgrade the present clusters to
provide a better study atmosphere for
students. How exactly do you plan to
do this?
VH: I mean that we don't have ,just
tables and chairs, but we have work
stations furnished with a design, with
something to break up the noise, more
square feet per work stations so at
least some are big enough for two or
three people to work there - a lot of
stuff like that.
D: When a large University like this
makes a commitment to spend that
kind of money, .obviously there are
going to be a lot of companies who
want to take advantage of it. How
closely is the University working with
these people? What kind of things
should we be looking for?
VH: Very closely. We're establishing
a new organization we're calling the
Center for Information Technology.
And what that organization is is an or-,
ganization that is going to help us
build technology that is more advan-
ced than anything we can buy off the
shelf by working together with major
companies who are anxious to see that
technology used in a large campus
environment. That's part of our plan
to have the most advanced facilities
that we can have here, but more impor-
tant than that, is something we call in-
formation technology integration,
because a lot of this stuff doesn't work
together very well. And the whole focus
of this organization is to make all of
the campus workstations work
together in a smoother way, making
them easier to use, which we think is
very important to the students. That
organization will be funded
with donations mainly from cor-
porations. The other thing is that we
have very attractive discounts from
the major manufacturers which we
work with, and donations which we
work very hard to achieve from all the
major players in the business.
Van Houweling and other Univer-
sity computer experts will be
available tonight from 7-9 p.m. at
Markley's North Pit to answer
student computing questions.

Daily Photo by SCOTT LITUCH'
Douglas Van Houweling, the University's Vice Provost for Information
Technology, says that students will find a variety of uses for computers,
besides word processing.

' instructors create

software, or a group which will sup-
port faculty in the development of ap-
plications, including experts, some
programmers, and a graduate
program so the faculty can apply to
get money to do this work, take time
off, or hire some graduate students to
help. One of the things I've discovered
in the past is that faculty won't really
start to commit their time until they
see that the institution's made a
commitment to make sure that this
technology is available to students
because the faculty have a lot of
pressure on their time and they're not
going to put their time in if they're not
sure the students are going to use it. It
may be that the most important thing
has already been done, which is to say
to the faculty that we're going to
provide access to the students so you
can now go ahead and develop things
for the students to use.
D: How will an average student, who
may know nothing about computers,
use them other than writing papers
for their classes?
VH: I could probably take the next
two hours and describe to you one use
after another for instance - this is
related to writing papers but it's not
what you would think of as writing
papers - I just came from a lunch
with Bill Ingram, who directs the in-
troductory writing program. We spent
some time talking over new computer

an explosion of that kind of use. I ac-
tually think that what's going to happen
is that rather than whole courses
being put on the computer, which I
don't think really makes a lot of sense
in most cases, what I think faculty are
going to do is look at their courses and
say 'what are the things we're really
having a hard time teaching, and is
there a way we can use a computer to
help us get those notions across -
whether it's a student being able to
get more practice and drill, whether
it's a student being able to visualize
things that are hard to visualize
without a good graphics display, or
whatever it is. In some cases the
response will be "no the computer
can't help you with that," but in other
cases, the computer will be able to
help. I see sort of one target of dif-
ficulty after another being tackled
across the curriculum. My bet is three
or four years from now the average
student during a semester will have
occasion to use a computer several
times for specific course assignmen-
ts. Now, I think it's important for me
to say that in terms of the ways stud-
ents use computers, I'll be surprised if
the most exciting things aren't things
that students themselves get to do
with computers. What we're seeing in
places where students have a lot of
access to computers is that students
see a class assignment where the
faculty member never thought to use

e ectronic
(Continued from Page 1)
* models. The same process can be ap-
plied to courses in chemistry, art
history, and even poetry.
"The Learning Tool" also can be
used in foreign language classes -
even those with non-Romanic
alphabets such as Hebrew and
Russian, Kozma said. The program
permits students to develop tests on
the notes they enter into the com-
puter, and to show relationships bet-
ween different parts of language.
"The package has a lot of tools,"
Kozma said. "To write papers, stud-
ents can cut pieces from their notes
and use them in conjunction with
more powerful word processing
THE PROGRAM also allows
students to sift through their notes

with a key word search to retrieve a
specific detail.
Kozma and Van Roekel are wonder-
ing whether or not students will take
the time to feed their notes into the
program - the one hitch to making
their learning aid eventually
marketable. They hope to put their
package of programs on sale to the
public next fall.
To test "The Learning Tool," the
men now are offering free use of it to
any interested University student in
return for his evaluation. Students
who wish to participate should contact
Laurie Atwood at 764-8420.
The program is funded through the
University's Office of Vice Provost for
Technology, in part by money collec-
ted by the $50 computer fee assessed
to every undergraduate student this

~25 PACK
--- j

in Hillel's
Registration Jan. 13 -17
Classes begin Jan. 20 (for 9 weeks)


p. ,


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