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CIT Upgrades for Growth
Calvin strives to keep computing issues a top priority

By Cole Ruth ’95 and Lynn Bolt Rosendale ‘85

 
 
Student writing a paper
Word processing and finals go hand-in-hand.

There is so much going on right now in Calvin’s information services department that Vice President Henry DeVries is bubbling with projects. There are programs in the works to help facilitate alumni contact and last spring students started registering for classes on-line through a program called, "Knightline." An optional service called "Resnet" provides an ethernet connection for all students living on-campus combined with dial-up access for those living off-campus (making the students of the 90s look highly antiquated with the PINE email system). And it doesn’t stop there. New ideas and developments in the area of technology are constantly in the making.

"Calvin has always been at the forefront of using technology," said DeVries. "Keeping up with it is always difficult because so many things are happening at once."

For instance in 1993, the college started replacing the old copper campus network with fiber optic cable to build the network backbone and in the fall of that year four residence halls were equipped with computer labs. The rest of the residence halls were updated with like technology in 1994.

Also in 1993, Calvin introduced Internet access on a campus-wide basis and the World Wide Web was added in 1994.

Microsoft Windows became the product of choice on campus in 1995. With the technology arena changing so rapidly, it took center stage in 1997, under the leadership of President Gaylen Byker.

A greatly increasing technology department called for some building and reorganizing which occurred in 1997.

A third floor was added to Hiemenga Hall creating a new home for the history department. The move created additional space for the fast-growing information technology department, which then took over the lower level of the library.

At the same time a new position—vice president for information services—was created. In that new role, Henry DeVries came on board in March of 1997.

"Gaylen commissioned a study on the whole issue of technology and as a result of that its position was elevated at the college," said DeVries. "It really became a top priority."

When DeVries took over several technology issues were pressing.

Student email stations
Student email stations such as this one are available all over campus.

"At that time we still had some people on 486s and we were in the process of getting everyone switched over to Pentiums," said DeVries. "We had different hardware, different processing software and no uniform package for email."

Standardizing each of these areas became a major focus of the information technology department.

In the spring of 1998 the Board of Trustees recognized the importance of increased technology by allocating 1.9 percent of tuition for this purpose.

"We had 25-year-old technology in our phone systems and we also needed the money to build the campus’ infrastructure," said DeVries.

In response, the phone system was updated in the summer of 1999 and ten hubs were established in buildings as a major point for data, voice systems and cable TV. All of the residence halls are also wired for internet connection, a feature that students have come to expect upon arrival at college.

DeVries also realizes that discretion needs to be used when determining what will ultimately benefit the college and students the most.

Last year a proposal came before the faculty affectionately nicknamed the "ubiquitous laptop" proposal, under the umbrella of TREE, "Technology-Rich Educational Environment." The proposal suggested making laptop computers available to every student beginning in the fall 2001 semester.

"This is an emerging model in higher education," said DeVries. "Schools like Northern Michigan and Michigan State University have already adopted such models. For a number of reasons—including keeping a competitive edge in terms of admissions, and ensuring that we are preparing students for the professional world—Calvin thought it important to start examining such a model."

Since such a project would require a tuition increase of somewhere between $500—1,000, a committee was assigned to investigate the current usage of computers by both faculty and students.

"We wanted to make sure that the faculty was using technology enough for the project to be cost effective, and that the benefit to students would be primarily academic rather than recreational."

In the proposal the authors discuss how computer technology facilitates connectedness, in terms of shared information, and collaborative learning. They mention the possible benefits of this kind of close contact—benefits to alumni through job networks or discussion forums, and benefits to current students through software like Blackboard.They point out the benefits of fluency, for example, the marketability of those who are familiar with the general principles of computer use.

"A survey found a readiness and widespread usage of technology among Calvin students and faculty," said DeVries. In general, faculty respondents were opposed to allowing students to have either Internet or local area network access during class, to students using computers to take exams and to students sharing materials via computer during class. Some incoming students said they already had computers, and an even larger number said they would have them before they arrived at Calvin. The majority of current students polled claimed that they either already had a computer, that they had/would acquire one while in school or that they took advantage of the public facilities.

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Responsible Use of Technology at Calvin

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