The Role of the Internet

##AUTHORSPLIT##<--->The Internet is making an impact on many aspects of our lives. It has changed the way we work and communicate, as well as the way we learn. It is serving as a vehicle for the exchange of information regardless of social, economic or geographical differences.

 

Nearly half of all American households are said to be connected every hour. The Internet is growing at a rate greater than 100% a year, according to Vint Cerf, its founder. He estimates that by 2006 there will be 900 million computers and other devices such as Web TVs and home appliances on the Net.

 

It has been noted that one out of every four visitors to Internet sites is either a student or an educator seeking curriculum ideas, research tools, information on publications, or opportunities for professional development. More than half of U.S. classrooms are connected to the Internet, compared to less than 3% in 1993.

 

The Snow-Rockefeller Amendment to the 1996 Telecommunications Act states that $4 billion is to be spent on installing the Internet in every classroom by the beginning of 2001. In other words, the Internet will be in every classroom. It's just a matter of time.

 

A number of observations can be safely made. For example:

 

  • Teachers are becoming freed from the physical boundaries of classrooms and the time restrictions of schedules. Students are working at their own pace using network-based materials and diagnostic tools. A variety of software helps develop and create rich, interactive courseware. Tools, such as chat rooms and instant messaging, attempt to compensate in some way for the important element of traditional teaching -- human contact. 
  • The virtual university is challenging the existing paradigm of higher education by providing online courses and degrees. It is claimed, at this time, approximately 1,700 courses are offered on the Internet. An online company, Edupoint.com, intends to create an Internet marketplace for online learning. It seems education providers are happy to pay 6-12% commission of the course fee without having to do any of the marketing, at the same time obtaining access to thousands of potential users. 
  • Better tools are emerging that permit students, faculty and administrators to have 24-hour access to financial records, student transcripts, class lectures, assignments, etc. over the Internet. Students and faculty see applications or resources used at other institutions and want that capability at their institution. 
  • A more efficient network is becoming available to support a rich variety of communication devices and an increasing number of interactions. Accordingly, the development of Internet 2 (I2) promises vast improvements in bandwidth and performance. 
  • Web-based courses for college credit are increasingly being offered to high school seniors. For example, Lehigh University, Pennsylvania, plans to "develop and offer Web-based freshman courses to high school students and to assess the effect of the courses on students and faculty." Freshman mathematics and economics will be offered in the spring and summer 2001 semesters.
  •  Advertising over the Internet continues to grow. The University of Memphis, Tennessee, University of Idaho, Villanova University, Pennsylvania, and over 500 other universities are receiving advertisements on their Web pages. The amount of advertising seems unlimited. Although a possible source of revenue for schools, the implications of schools offering advertising to students must be considered.

 

It is clear that networking is considered of utmost importance in forming goals and priorities for the future planning of educational institutions. However, let us not become overwhelmed with "Internet fever." The role of the Internet is still emerging, and issues such as open access, cost of services, ease in locating resources, and the amount of advertising need to be addressed.

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.

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