Environmental Assessment


There are at least five major technological factors that will impact the future of higher education. First, a predominant trend over the last three decades has been increased use of on-line information. This automation has now taken the form of the World Wide Web, i.e., the Internet. For those in higher education, the Internet will be restructured into Internet 2, and there will continue to be even greater access to information. With these changes, will come increased costs for both the infrastructure and staffing. Second, technology is constantly changing and the pace of technological change is rapidly increasing. A greater percentage of university budgets will inevitably go to technology to cope with change. Third, the student population is more and more computer literate and as a result the university must provide staff expertise and resources to meet student demands. Fourth, more and more instruction is being integrated with technology and as such instruction grows, Media Services will need increasing support. Finally, there appears to be an increasing reliance on electronic media without a marked decrease in reliance on printed materials.

University Impact:

Brown University was in the early 1980's a leader in technology. One of the first to install a network on the campus, Brown now has a fiber optic network, fully networked dorms and classrooms, and a T-3 line to respond to growing campus demands for timely response. Brown is a partner in the Internet2 project, and overall, the university is ahead of many comparable institutions. In the late 80's Brown's Library had one of the first CD-ROM systems networked campus-wide when many campuses had electronic products only in the library.

First, as the Accreditation Report noted: "it is clear that the new information technologies are having and will continue to have a major impact on higher education, transforming instruction and library services among others." One of the major impacts is insuring that students have computers and the attendant services, and "Brown is ahead of many institutions in the extent and variety of information technology services available to students and faculty".

Second, the accreditation report expressed concern from faculty and students about "the adequacy of funding for CIS and the Library to help integrate these new technologies into normal academic operations. Budgets based on the premises of the past are not adequate to lead the way to the future. Student concerns center on equipment upgrades and replacement, while off-campus graduate students express concern about Internet access and bandwidth. "

Third, the university recognizes that staff expertise must be provided to deal with integrating technology and instruction. The accreditation report recommends that "the Library , CIS, and faculty consulting/training staffs should coordinate their efforts." There is apparently a need for discipline-oriented training and, as noted before, the report suggests a combined CIS and library effort.

Fourth, the university is very aware of the need for the use of instructional technology in the classroom and the accreditation report estimates that "only about 20 percent of the faculty 'aggressively' utilize information technologies in their instruction." A further comment notes that "this percentage is not high for a university that has enjoyed access to well-developed information services for about fifteen years."

Fifth, at the same time there are concerns about technology, there are also expressions of concern about the book and serial collections. University faculty have pointed out that funding for collections "has not increased in relation to the increasing cost of publication, many journal titles have been canceled over the past eight to ten years." There are complaints about "inadequate collections, requiring students working on honors theses to use collections at other libraries or to borrow a significant number of materials through Inter-Library Loan. Conversely there are extremely strong collections for disciplines in which the university no longer has programs."

Library Impact:

First, as technology expands in scope, so will demands for a larger percentage of the Library's resources to go towards supporting this change. There will need to be technical support within the library as well in order to deal with the increasingly sophisticated equipment and software. More staff and dollars will have to be devoted to developing supporting systems. Trends in the technological area require that the Library be flexible and make the most of its financial resources to position itself to take advantage of available opportunities and to form partnerships with other information providers on the campus and elsewhere.

Second, there will need to be consistently upgraded equipment for the public and staff in order to meet the sophisticated needs of the Library's users.

Third, there will be greater expectations from university officials, parents, employers, as well as students themselves for students to acquire higher technical skills. It will be expected that Brown students will have the knowledge of how to find and critically use information from all kinds of sources. The Library will have to find ways to complement the current curriculum which currently does not have any required library courses and to offer services such as on-site demonstrations as well as hands-on training in faculty offices, labs, classrooms, and off-campus sites. Information literacy also means training students to use their judgment to distinguish what is of value in the explosion of Internet information.

Fourth, classroom instruction will go beyond the traditional styles that are seen currently and will use a much wider array of technical tools thus requiring support from Media Services. CIS, Media Services, and librarians share responsibility for collecting and disseminating information to faculty and students. These staff, along with faculty, will need to clearly define their role so that they can work together to create a university program that supports classroom needs. The discipline oriented staff should come from the library as well as the copyright expert the Accreditation Report recommended.

Fifth, it is clear that the Library and the University will need to cooperate in obtaining the funds necessary to support both print based and on-line information. In order to support new programs, funds will have to be available for all types of media, including on-line data.

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