You are here



Edited by John W. McCredie
Reviewed by Harry E. Pence

Note: This article was scanned using OCR from the 1984 Winter CCCE Newsletter. Please contact us if you identify any OCR errors.

One of the many serious problems facing higher education in the current decade is the task of effectively integrating computing and the new information technologies into the academic community. Most campuses are presently in the process of attempting to meet the technological and organizational difficulties that accompany this challenge. Campus Computing Strategies is written to assist these efforts by describing the situation at several colleges and universities which are considered to be in the vanguard of these developments, so that other schools can use them as models.

This book is the result of a study performed during the 1981-82 academic year by EDUCOM, a non-profit consortium of over 500 colleges and universities founded in 1964 to promote the use of information technology in higher education. It focuses on the underlying strategies that were shaping decisions at ten institutions considered to demonstrate an innovative approach to this problem. Each school is described in a separate chapter, written by an individual from that campus who was directly involved in the planning process; John McCredie, the President of EDUCOM, provides an introduction to the topic. The emphasis throughout is not on hardware or software, but rather on identifying crucial problems and the organizational structures necessary to solve these problems.
The institutions described in the book are Hamilton, Dartmouth, Pepperdine, Carnegie-Mellon, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Stanford, Cornell, University of Iowa, University of Minnesota, and the California State University system. The schools chosen represent a broad range in terms of both size and educational mission. Although a few important categories of institutions, such as two-year colleges, are not represented, most readers at institutions of higher education will find a model for comparison. The individual authors take somewhat different approaches, but each chapter does offer a useful answer to the question of what colleges are doing, or planning to do, about these technological developments.
It is surprising to discover that, despite the widely differing types of schools represented, there are many similarities in their plans. McCredie notes a number of common strategies including a more decentralized information-processing environment, increased use of personal computers, development of local and national networks, library automation, the development of a local definition of computer literacy, and the expansion of text processing systems for both faculty and students.
In terms of the potential effects upon the educational process, probably the most important factor in common is the effort to integrate computing into the broader picture of communications technology. The various chapters discuss developments in expanded text processing, electronic mail, and networking which suggest that the dream of an electronic campus is rapidly becoming a reality.
As might be expected, there is less unanimity on the best organizational structure to accomplish these goals. Most of these institutions have designated a single office or individual to coordinate these issues related to information processing, but beyond that there is considerable diversity. For instance, the degree of faculty participation in the decision-making process varies, even though all of the campuses rely heavily on faculty opinions in order to define future needs. Some campuses have created a complex committee structure to deal expressly with the new technology, while others are depending primarily on the efforts of the individual departments.
Judging from the articles, it would appear that a very decentralized model for planning has made it difficult to develop a broad, campus-wide approach. In cases where the process is overly centralized, however, the reports indicate a lack of flexibility and a failure to identify problem areas early enough. The most successful institutions seem to have a general plan to provide overall direction, but also permit departments and other groups to have considerable flexibility within that plan.
This is not a book that will be equally useful to everyone who works with computers. It will be most valuable for those individuals who are directly involved in the development of computing plans for their campuses or departments. However, even for those who are more interested in using computers than in administrative planning, it may be interesting to compare the local campus with those considered to be the leaders in this rapidly developing field.
*Department of Chemistry
SUNY at Oneonta
Oneonta, NY 138ZO


12/26/84 to 12/28/84