Page 20 - American_Higher_Education_V4

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“The campus itself
becomes a laboratory,”
said Jack Crocker, dean
of the College of Arts
and Sciences.
Crocker is a
strong supporter of
the interdisciplinary
approach. All Arts and
Sciences graduates
earn the same degree—
Bachelor of Arts in
Liberal Studies, with
a “concentration” in
history or computer
science or any one of a
dozen other subjects.
All must complete
a 21-hour core of
interdisciplinary
courses—one-third of
their upper-division
work—organized
around such themes
as “Issues in Culture
and Society” and
“Issues in Science and
Technology.”
“We want students
to think on their own
and relate one thing to
another, not just sit in lecture classes,” Crocker said. “We
got some resistance in the beginning. Students arrive with
the mindset that they have to ‘major’ in something, but
now I think there’s a lot of acceptance.” However, some
undergraduates still worry that their “liberal studies” degrees
might not get them into top-flight graduate or professional
schools. It is too soon to know if their fears are well founded.
The campus is heavily into “distance education.” Many of
the 2,900 students (average age 33) have jobs and find that
courses taught over the Internet or by two-way video are
easier to fit into their schedules than classroom appearances.
More than 90 distance education courses have been
developed. This spring 62 courses were offered and more
than 20 percent of Florida Gulf Coast (FGCU) students took
at least one.
The lecture halls have podiums and overhead projectors
but no blackboards (or “whiteboards”) on which professors
can scrawl. “We wanted this to be a different kind of place,”
President McTarnaghan said.
The Florida Board of Regents hopes that lessons learned
at FGCU can be applied at the state’s other universities.
Like California, Texas and other “Sun Belt” states, Florida
faces an explosion of postsecondary enrollments over the
next decade. There won’t be room for all these students in
traditional campus settings, and the likelihood of building
many new campuses is slim, so the hope is that distance
education can relieve the pressure. That is one reason
McTarnaghan, a technology enthusiast, was picked to run
Florida Gulf Coast.
But McTarnaghan has announced he will leave at
the end of this semester, and many on campus wonder
if his successor, who will be named soon, will be equally
enthusiastic about educational technology.
Peg Gray-Vickrey, associate professor of nursing in the
College of Professional Studies, has taught several courses
through distance education (or “distributive learning,” as she
prefers to call it). “Many students are hesitant to speak up in
class, and the Internet makes it easier for them to reflect and
write,” she said.
But Maria Roca, who teaches communications, thinks
this approach “is good
for highly motivated
students but not for many
others,” who require
face-to-face contact with
faculty members and other
students.
“I’m very cautious
about the uses of electronic
communication,” Roca
said. “We’re supposed
to be advancing student
learning, and I wonder
sometimes if we are so enamored of all these toys that we
forget what this is all about.”
Many faculty members are finding that teaching online
takes far more time and effort than traditional instruction—
time to develop and test courses (one Public Administration
professor said he spent more than 600 hours developing a
single Internet course), time to communicate with students
through e-mail.
Some love it. Roy Boggs, an associate professor of
computer information systems in the business school,
spends three or four hours a day answering e-mail queries
from students, in addition to teaching classes and serving on
university committees.
“I couldn’t believe, at the end of my career, that I’d have
this opportunity,” said the 60-year-old Boggs. “Right now,
this is a way of life for me—seven days a week, day and night.
The kids are gone, the dog is dead and this is what I do. It’s
been a kick. Of course, sometimes my wife wonders if I still
live there.”
But Boggs’ feelings of jubilation are not shared by all.
“I don’t have the sense of being a mentor or an expert
that I used to have,” one professor said during a videotaped
discussion of distance learning. “Now I’m a manager trying
to figure out what ‘downlinks’ I need. Instead of reading
scholarly journals, I read Microsoft documents. What good
will that do me when it comes to promotion?”
“They’re burning people out here,” said Edwin J. George,
a 32-year-old assistant professor of educational technology.
“I can’t remember ever working as hard as I did last year. I
stressed myself out three or four times. But I think that’s what
happens at a new place. It’s been a little better this year.”
George left a tenure-track position at the Cortland
campus of the State University of New York, because “they
couldn’t support me and my technology needs,” but he did
It took more than
500,000 tons of
landfill to provide
a foundation for
the first group of
campus buildings.
The semi-tropical climate at Florida Gulf Coast
University provides a suitable environment for a required
undergraduate course on “A Sustainable Future.”