As an avid reader, I am among the millions of people who happily shop for books online. It’s a convenient,
efficient, and often money-saving way for me to browse and purchase my reading material. My dollars are among the billions that poured into stores and businesses open for e-commerce this past holiday season. But I’m also a big fan of traditional bookstores. When I can, I wander the aisles, looking not only for bestsellers, but also for inspiration. I don’t think I’m alone in appreciating the virtues of e-commerce and of the tried and true.
The University, too, is a balance of the traditional—lectures, library research, blue book exams, laboratory testing—and the electronic world, where research has brought scholars together from the ends of the Earth, where professors and students routinely communicate, and where e-commerce has become the way to order the supplies and services that keep the facility running.
There is no question that this new century will see vast changes in the way knowledge is sought and disseminated. We’ve already made great progress in securing the University’s place on the net, wiring our residence halls to make them web ready (something our students and their successors expect), and using technology to streamline such processes as registration and purchasing.
And, like many of our colleague institutions, we are taking advantage of the Internet to expand our reach. We offer nearly 60 courses a year through distance-learning opportunities; some of these lead to master’s degrees when combined with limited residencies on campus. We haven’t, however, found a way to replace the person-to-person dynamic that characterizes a high-quality university education. The model the ancients created—a learned person surrounded by students—will continue to hold a preeminent position in higher education.
Of course, this original model has expanded into a nearly infinite variety of teaching and learning methods. Professors and students continue to communicate through e-mail and electronic listservs. Students send research papers to professors via e-mail and receive comments and suggestions. And we can expect more of the same—albeit at an accelerating pace—in the decades to come.
I’m looking forward to whatever
Kenneth A. Shaw
Chancellor and President