USC Gets a Technological Upgrade, No Strings (or Cables) Attached

August 30, 2002

USC’s faculty, students and staff will set foot on a technologically upgraded campus when the university’s fall semester begins.

Through the collaboration of USC’s Information Services Division and Office of Academic Records and Registrar, a new state-of-the-art wireless network has been implemented on campus. The upgrade offers multimedia technologies in classrooms and auditoria, and the means to surf the Internet and access email on the University Park and Health Sciences campuses without cables.

The effort was made possible in part by Enterasys Networks, which donated $450,000 in services and technology,

“We’ve made this technology available to enable our faculty, staff and students to increase their potential and enhance their productivity,” said Michael Pearce, USC’s deputy chief information officer and director of the Information Services Division.

“Having technology for the sake of technology is of little value. It’s when you align technology with the needs of those using it that it becomes important,” he said.

In the works for a year, USC’s upgrade project equips seven auditoria with new podiums, video projectors, screens, video and DVD players, computers, Internet connections and a standardized central control touch panel, which allows lecturers to alternate from one medium to another with the tap of a finger.

Most outdoor common areas, libraries and eateries have also been configured for the new wireless technology, with additional locations still to follow.

The enhancements to USC’s technological infrastructure also bring improvements to the university’s virtual classroom services.

Through Trojan Online Teaching and Learning Environment (TOTALe), the university’s Web-based learning portal, and its Blackboard software, USC’s faculty may post their course materials and conduct many traditional teaching functions online, including giving quizzes and exams.

With Blackboard, students can participate in online discussions, view their grades, submit homework assignments in a digital drop box, read course announcements and calendar information and review course tasks, all of which can be done by clicking on a computer screen at any hour of the day or night.

In 1999, when TOTALe was first introduced to USC by ISD’s Center for Scholarly Technology, it supported only six courses. In the three years since, it now supports more than 3,500.

“From the perspective of where technology is headed, these days it’s really about anytime, anywhere, ubiquitous connectivity,” said Pearce.

He points out, though, that wireless networks have yet to surpass the speed of those with wires. “Wireless technology is still in its infancy,” said Pearce. “The university’s upgrade is more of an enhancement than a replacement.”

Currently, desktop computers have wired feeds of about 100 megabits of information per second, while computers on wireless networks share 11 megabits of information per second.

Two more phases of USC’s upgrade project remain. By the summer of 2003, nearly 12 auditoria and 140 classrooms will be capable of supporting the latest multimedia teaching technology.

“Technology will continue to evolve,” said Pearce. “We see this as an opportunity to continue to steadily move USC forward, in and out of the classroom.”


Gia Scafidi

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