GRADUATE STUDENTS ENGAGE IN COMMERCE DISCOURSE ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Last fall Scott Bernard G'98 took Professor Rolf Wigand's Electronic Commerce course. He enjoyed Wigand's weekly lectures and learned much from the other students' comments during class discussions and group projects. Oh, and he took part in all of this while at sea on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Enterprise.
A Navy commander serving as the Enterprise'schief information officer, Bernard used his ship's satellite Internet connection to participate in the class, offered via the World Wide Web. "This was my first Internet-based class," says Bernard, who graduated last spring with a master's degree in information resources management (IRM) and recently took a job as information systems project officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. "I was curious as to how it would work. Writing papers about 'cybercash' while an F-18 jet warms up one deck above is not the typical classroom environment."
The class was also a first for Wigand, director of the IRM graduate program. "The World Wide Web lends itself beautifully to this learning purpose," he says. "Television and the web both combine sight and sound, but in addition, the web can be truly interactive."
The School of Information Studies began offering an Independent Study Degree Program (ISDP) within its IRM master's program two years ago. Students come to campus twice a year for intensive one-week courses, completing their remaining courses via the web. "A good number of the students are from abroad, and recognize that IRM is a unique program they cannot get any other way," Wigand says. "Then there are professionals, typically in mid-career, located in smaller cities across the country that don't have a local university offering degrees like this."
Wigand had 50 students from six countries in his class. Time differences made live web discussion impractical, so Wigand posted a weekly "lecture" each Monday morning on the class web site. By Wednesday the class was discussing the material and assigned readings through messages posted to the site. "You can't slack off," says John R. Ghidiu, a Syracuse resident who took the class while working on a project for Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. in Indiana. "As threads of the discussion develop, it's easy to see who's participating and when, and the quality of the discussion." Students also submitted papers and participated in group projects via the web.
Nothing beats a face-to-face classroom setting, but web-based courses do give quality programs like IRM a wider audience, Wigand says. "Syracuse is not like Chicago or New York-if you come to Syracuse, you definitely want to come to Syracuse. We may have found a niche to make our program available to people who would not otherwise come here."
LAW, TECHNOLOGY, AND MANAGEMENT CENTER HELPS STUDENTS MASTER TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER
The Law, Technology, and Management Center (LTM) is the only initiative of its kind in the country.
A component of the college's Applied Learning Program, LTM teaches the ins and outs of technology transfer. Each semester, teams of six second-year students are assigned to research a problem for a business. Presented with new technology, they investigate whether patents for such technology exist, what competing companies may be planning, and what promise the marketplace holds for the product. In their third year, the LTM students serve as TAs.
Last spring, students conducted research for Sonnet Software, an electromagnetics firm in Liverpool run by James Rautio '86. The firm provides software that allows businesses to analyze integrated circuits in a virtual environment, thus cutting down on research-and-development time and expensive circuit fabrication.
Going into the project, Rautio asked, "What can our high-powered competitors find out about us, what can we find out about them, and what can we learn about this industry niche?"
Todd Polanowicz G'98 worked on the Sonnet project in the last semester of his law degree and his MBA. "This particular project had a great many business aspects," said Polanowicz. "We were to come up with strategies that would position Sonnet well into the future, and our report pointed to two strategies to consider."
The project gave students "actual, living technology to consider," says Polanowicz.
"Our students provide about 1,000 hours of research, distilled into reports," says law professor Ted Hagelin, who oversees the program along with assistant professor Lisa Dulak. "We've done about 75 of these and, as with any business, you can judge your success by your repeat customers."
A significant repeat customer is Welch Allyn Inc., the Skaneateles-based technology firm. "We were looking for a second opinion on various subjects," says Richard Newman, vice president for advanced technologies in Welch Allyn's medical division. "It's turned out very well. The students are really good at the online literature searches, looking up articles, and doing the patent research."
Hagelin sells the students not as experts, but as experts of the future. "I tell the clients, 'You are helping to train the next generation of technology transfer lawyers, people who will be sensitive to the mandates of the market and the evolution of technology.'"
Patent professional Tiffany Townsend G'96 now works for IBM, but she cut her eyeteeth in the LTM program. She praises Hagelin as the kind of mentor students need. And as for the program: "It made me what I am today. I left SU feeling that there was nothing I'd encounter that they hadn't prepared me for," she says. "I worked on cutting-edge technology, and the program exposed me to levels of experience that I wouldn't have encountered on entering the field."
Students feel good about their work in the program, Hagelin says, because "it matters."
"If I had done nothing else here but LTM," Polanowicz says, "I'd have been happy."