Quite the contrary. Filreis, who posts course materials on the Web, raves about the possibilities for e-mail to enhance education. Since about 1991, he has maintained e-mail lists so his students can continue discussions outside of class. He has set u p other lists so students' parents and siblings can join in heady discussions over things like the meaning of poems by Robert Frost. And two years ago he created an e-mail-based poetry course for alumni.
"All we need is the word, and e-mail is great for that," Filreis said.
According to the 1998 Campus Computing Project survey, parts of which were released this week, Filreis has a lot of company among his fellow academics. The report, which surveyed 571 technology officials at two- and four-year colleges ar ound the country, found that increasingly, professors are discovering and embracing the pedagogical possibilities of e-mail and the Web.
Respondents to the survey estimated that 44 percent of courses on their campuses use e-mail in some way. That's a big jump from last year, when the figure was 32.8 percent, and it dwarfs the 8 percent reported just four years ago.
The survey also found that 23 percent of college courses use Web pages to post class materials and other resources. Four years ago, the figure was less than 5 percent.
Other technology resources have made their way into the college classroom, too. About 16 percent of courses use computers for simulations or exercises, the survey found, while 15 percent use CD-ROMs.
Meanwhile, the Internet has become very much a part of campus life outside the classroom. More than half of the schools surveyed -- about 55 percent -- post at least some part of their college application online. That compares to 43 percent last year. And by logging on, students at about 18 percent of the surveyed campuses can read their transcripts, almost double the figure from 1997.
With the heightened use of technology for education, universities have also increasingly demanded that their students learn computer skills. About 43 percent of respondents said their institutions had a computer competency requirement for undergraduat es. In 1992, the figure was 30 percent. And increasing numbers of students own computers. This year the figure was 42 percent of students, more than double the figure five years ago. A disparity existed, however, in the rate of ownership by students atten ding private, four-year colleges -- about 66 percent -- and those attending community colleges, about 55 percent.
The survey will be published in its entirety next month. This week, highlights were posted on the Web by the project director, Kenneth C. Green, a visiting scholar at the Center for Educational Studies at The Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif. The survey has been conducted annually for nine years and is one of the more comprehensive looks at technology in higher education.
Green said that despite widespread access to computers and the Internet in colleges and universities, many issue s regarding how technology is best used remain unsettled. Survey respondents identified the chief challenge they face as assisting faculty in integrating technology into their instruction -- way ahead of financial planning and the Year 2000 problem.
Fu rthermore, only 23 percent of respondents said their institutions had formed policies to help answer the intellectual property questions surrounding faculty-created materials posted on the Web. The matter is unlikely to go away, however, Green stressed. < p>He said that professors, who have traditionally owned their intellectual output, are wondering if the Internet somehow changes things. They are asking who owns the rights to material they create that is published on a university-sponsored Web site, whic h can include anything from syllabuses to research to distance learning courses.
The stakes are likely to grow over the next few years as university officials, wary of for-profit competitors and eager to see if there is a profit to be made from the pac kaging of distance learning courses, begin selling academic content over the Internet, Green said.
"Will faculty members be willing to post on the Web in the future if their institutions may lay claim to some part of the material because it is posted on a campus site?" he asked, adding, "This has the potential for being a very contentious thing."
Fo r Mark F. Smith, associate director of government relations for the American Association of University Professors, a union of faculty members, it is hardly surprising that universities have yet to hammer out policies regarding who owns what in the digital age. The issue is still new, he said, "and we haven't thought through all the implications."
Another debate unlikely to be resolved anytime soon is whether the introduction of technology ultimately helps or harms education, both college -level and younger, Green said.
"There are people on campus, like those in K-12 education, who think technology will save us," he said. "There are others who think it will destroy us. And then there are others who on a day to day basis say, 'How do I wo rk with this in the context of how I teach students?'"
Last modified: Friday, 06-Aug-2004 10:00:05 EDT