Summary of main recommendations:
Current IT resources - hardware, software, liveware.
The School of Education has invested heavily in information technology
equipment. Well over $1 million has been spent on hardware, and
probably close to that figure on software if normal ratios are
applied. This section briefly describes the sort of equipment
held, and its disposition.
In terms of financial investment in hardware, an analysis of the asset register has been done. This should be taken as a guide only, since:
Table 1 - Original cost of computing equipment, and its disposition
Table 1 shows that over $800,000 worth of processor units, scanners,
printers etc has been purchased. Overall, 56% of expenditure has
been on equipment for students, though there is a wide disparity
in this proportion between the Newnham and Hobart based Departments
of the School.
Table 2 - Number of processor units and their types
Out of this investment, the School has obtained 233 computers
and 41 other pieces of equipment, such as printers, scanners,
networking hubs and the like. 87% of the computers are Macintoshes.
10% are laptops. 73% of the Newnham stock is for student use,
whilst only 40% of the Hobart equipment is for student use.
Table 3 - Cost per item
Table 3 shows the mean cost of a processor for students is $2,708,
whilst staff presumably get better equipment (mean $3,379). Macintoshes
cost about $321 more than PCs, though it could probably be argued
that this represents similar value because PCs generally require
additional cards to obtain the same degree of functionality (for
networking, sound etc.). Desktop machines appear to cost less
than laptops, though this calculation has been done on processor
alone, and laptops include about $400 worth of screen and keyboard.
Even allowing for this, laptops cost about 16% more than desktop
Questions from this analysis emerge:
Change themes for the plan period.
Since the advent of the desktop computer at the end of the 1970's,
this technology has been increasingly adopted in many spheres
of human life. This increasing use of computers has been matched
by a rapid development of the underlying technology. In effect,
the computing power for a given cost has risen at about 150% per
annum. Current trends are still proceeding at a similar rate.
To take advantage of this, computer technology can provide powerful
ways for teaching and learning. Combined with this increase in
computing power has been increasing software sophistication. Therefore,
applications which previously required a large mainframe computer
are now run on a machine that fits into a briefcase or pocket.
Initially, personal computers were available from a multitude
of producers. IBM opened up the design of personal computers by
making the plans for its PC freely available. A host of clone
manufacturers emerged, and are still making upgraded copies of
similar machines. 80% of the computers in the world correspond
to this PC pattern. The next most popular design, from manufacturer
Apple, occupies about 10% of the market.
One trend has been for manufacturers from these different backgrounds
to differentiate their products more by the operating system software
than the physical hardware. Therefore later model PCs and Macintoshes
use the same processor (the PowerPC chip). Also, memory chips
and disk drives are increasingly interchangeable between types
of computer. However, the great preponderance of PCs has affected
the range of software that is developed. This trend is already
firmly entrenched, whilst the fusion of hardware platforms is
still a long way off.
One good trend has been the recent emergence of a range of applications
which are identical on both major platforms. Examples of these
are Word 6, PowerPoint and Excel from Microsoft, and Netscape
from Netscape Communications. Files produced on any platform with
these applications, can be read on the other major platform. This
means that the platform becomes irrelevant when the bulk of work
in an organisation uses these kinds of applications.
It would therefore make good sense for a good proportion of our
computers to be replaced by PCs. This would make no difference
to the bulk of our operations, but would make it possible for
students and staff to access a far wider range of applications.
The implications would be some training requirements for staff,
and restraint in the proliferation of sub-types would be beneficial.
This would assist staff who run off-shore courses through the
internet with interstate and overseas students.
The original desktop computers operated independently. In contrast,
mainframe computers often had connections with fleets of user
terminals, and with one another. Gradually these backgrounds have
merged, until it has become recognised that most computers are
more useful if they can exchange information with others.
The reasons that have emerged for this are many. They include
the use of computers for email (time and distance independent
exchanging of textual messages) and for accessing the world-wide-web.
Also, the transfer of files which can include new applications,
relies upon networking. Increasingly, new research ideas and data
are shared using computer networking.
Slow speed networks are suitable for short text messages. Increasingly,
students and staff have felt constrained by this limitation, and
use graphics, sounds and movies in their exchanges. Desk-top video
is another application which relies upon high speed networking.
Currently, Education computer laboratories are connected into
the University network with UTP cables. These are capable of delivering
100Mbps, but are in fact delivering much slower speeds because
of the limitations of the current hubs they are wired into. However,
many staff computers are still linked with AppleTalk cables, which
can barely provide 250kbps. There is an urgent need to upgrade
these later networking points.
As computers have become used in more aspects of human life, they
have entered the home in vast numbers. And for information workers
such as students and lecturers, this leads to a need to share
data between home and workplace computers. For small amounts of
data, this can be done using floppy disks, or on a dynamic basis
with larger files, using modem connections.
However, this division between home and work is increasingly arduous.
(Colleagues in other institutions frequently interact with others
and students from home beyond working hours). It requires additional
technical skills in both places to ensure both remain compatible.
As datafiles get bigger, it becomes harder to exchange them using
floppy disks. A fusion of the two regimes seems inevitable, as
computing becomes more personal.
There are several approaches to this personalisation of computing.
One approach being used by students is to centralise their data
on the fileserver. This means that any computer on the University
network can be connected to the fileserver, and turned into their
'own machine'. This approach requires good security on the server,
and reliable backup service.
Another approach being trialed by some staff is to carry a laptop
wherever they need computing. This means that intellectual resources
can be used at home, in the office, in the lecture theatre, or
at an interstate conference. This requires good physical security,
and the wide availability of networking sockets or wireless networking
It is of course possible for both approaches to be combined.
Flexible delivery trends.
The University is responding to the needs of students by offering
courses on a more flexible basis. Course material is distributed
electronically, and some assessments are offered automatically.
Some staff are producing sophisticated multi-media systems to
deliver learning activities. This can be effectively used to promote
independent learning for students. These require significantly
more powerful computers. RAM upgrades may help to upgrade some
of the existing stock.
Another aspect of these multi-media learning materials is the
inclusion of audio to supplement text and graphics. Current shared
laboratories and offices are not designed to cope with higher
ambient nose levels. In addition, spoken input to computers is
now reaching maturity, and is replacing the keyboard for people
who find them difficult. Desktop video will add to the level of
ambient noise in computer use.
The technology needs to be deployed where there is a strong argument
for it improving efficiency, delivery of service to clients (especially
students) or the quality of job satisfaction. Electronic enrolments
may be one such application worthy of consideration, as might
be a series of student information kiosks for timetabling and
Implications for staff and students.
Staff are exploring ways of using modern computer technology to
facilitate teaching, learning and course promotion. As a result,
some inquiries about our courses seen on the WEB have come from
interstate and overseas. Staff have already started using some
of these flexible delivery techniques. For instance they have
already in 1996:
While several staff in the faculty of education have pioneered
impressive academic activities by making full use of modern computer
technology to work in a changing world, many other staff are interested
in exploring its potential and need assistance in understanding
some technical and instructional aspects involved. For instance,
the knowledge and skills required are:
Implied changes to current facilities and practices.
As indicated in the previous section, it is obvious that modern
computer technology has started to become an important tool for
some staff in the Faculty of Education at this university. Depending
on their level of computer literacy and desire to experiment with
computers, particularly with multimedia and hypermedia, there
are implied changes for staff to engage in:
1)- Producing digital materials :
2)- Communicating with students electronically: As each
student has their own email address, interaction with students
individually or in groups can be quick, effective and even more
'personal' than the traditional notes on a noticeboard or 'waiting
for the next class'. Email contact and conferencing can be used
to supplement face-to-face teaching. It is therefore important
for staff to be aware of different functions and relative advantages
of internet-based communication for teaching and learning.
3)- Automation of assessment: Essay , test and final examination
are the traditional assessment methods. Computer technology can
provide staff facilities to maintain these methods of assessment
but make them less time-consuming and more secure in terms of
assessment and feedback. Assignments can be submitted via the
internet and feedback can be recorded accordingly. The greatest
problem with test and examination via the internet is the question
of control (or simply cheating). Students can help each other
with the test without the awareness of the examiner.
4)- Computer-based research: Apart from statistics packages
used for data analysis in research, modern computer technology
provides stimulating facilities for literature search, research
inquiry and contact, publishing, questionnaire etc. Staff should
be assisted to make full use of these facilities to enhance their
research profiles and participate in an electronically-based research
5)- Computer security: Computer security awareness should
be the first introduction to staff before a computer is made available
to them. Unfortunately, this does not happen in many institutions.
Lack of computer security can be extremely costly to users as
well as their institutions. A computer security guideline and
policy should be drawn. Staff should be introduced to aspects
of computer security which are relevant to their working context.
6)- Flexible delivery: Adoption of many of these techniques
will obviate the need for students to be tied to a specific timetable
or schedule. This can have serious implications for the way in
which the work-load for staff is spread through the year, and
can open up opportunities for students to study at times and in
places that suit them best. For example, a student may elect to
do 3 units in 3 successive weeks in May, or utilise this flexibility
in other ways.
A detailed program for IT development.
The following IT development program is suggested for implementation
in the next three years:
Minimum computing equipment recommendations by end of 1997:
|Processor||RAM||Hard Disc||Server Space||Network connection|
OR PowerPC 605
OR PowerPC 605