How new media
technologies are changing the way students learn, teachers teach
and the College is run
By Shira J. Boss '93
Technology is changing Columbia so quickly that even graduates
who left campus last spring would be impressed by some of the new
gadgetry and goings-on. When the class of 2000 was in school, its
members still had to find a phone connection - or a public terminal
- to surf the Web. Now students can sit on the Low steps with
laptops and get their Internet connection out of the air, thanks to
high-frequency radio waves that will soon allow a wireless
connection in many other common areas, indoors and out.
Alumni used to have to come back to Morningside Heights to
attend lectures and seminars, take a continuing education class or
even tour the campus. Now they can tap into Columbia any time of
the day, from anywhere with an Internet connection, and see and
hear many events, both live and archived, or take a virtual tour
Even those stuck in offices and feeling nostalgic for a moment on
the steps can be transported there by a click, courtesy of a
that broadcasts a view from Butler Library or a camera at the
entrance to Low Library that lets the user zoom in on the Plaza or
pan 180 degrees (www.ccnmtl.columbia.edu/projects/research/qvtr/).
Digital culture has colonized the campus, and using the new
technologies, the University is reaching out to the general public
as far away as villages in Africa or corporate towers in Tokyo.
Thanks to Fathom (www.fathom.com), a commercial site
launched this fall, anyone with an Internet connection is able to
soak up some of Columbia's offerings without any formal or physical
connection to the campus or the school.
University is starting to venture into offering e-courses and has
started a non-profit company expressly to shepherd new media
projects to the market and bring resulting revenue back home. That
money is needed, because maintaining one of the fastest campus
networks in the country and developing cutting-edge digital
projects is costing the school tens of millions of dollars every
an investment University leaders view as essential to Columbia's
future. "We're undergoing one of the most profound revolutions in
access to knowledge," says Provost Jonathan Cole '64.
new center was opened last year to help professors take advantage
of what digital media can do for their teaching (www.ccnmtl.columbia.edu). To
accommodate the increased use of new media in the classroom, many
rooms themselves have been transformed into "smart
classrooms" that come alive at the touch of a control-panel
"We're seeing more and more that technology is very closely
tied with the curriculum," says Robert Cartolano SEAS '86, manager
of academic technologies at Academic Information Systems (AcIS),
which provides a variety of central computing services to the
entire Columbia community and manages the high-speed campus
network, as well as computer labs and terminal clusters located
throughout the campus. Courses in the Core Curriculum, as well as
many others, are not only using digital resources but are being
interconnected through them.
only thing that's not online is the gym," quipped Cartolano. "You
still have to go sweat."
University's efforts to develop new media fall into two categories:
those used for teaching and learning, and those meant for outreach
and profit. In this issue we will focus on the teaching and
learning aspects, with the next issue of CCT
highlighting some of the major commercial initiatives.
Dozens of digital media projects are blossoming in nearly every
corner of the campus, and no report could hope to cover them all.
To explore what is going on, readers may utilize the links in these
articles or browse Columbia's Web site (www.columbia.edu), the
College-specific site (www.college.columbia.edu)
or the College alumni site (www.college.columbia.edu/alumni/).