Advances in information technology (IT) alone will not make a university great, but the absence of technology can cripple one. Southwest Missouri State University defines itself through its ability to contribute to new comprehension, understanding, thinking, and productivity. Providing these capabilities to an increasingly broader community is the central challenge of higher education in the 1990s and beyond.
The responsibility of higher education to the community is defined by the technology as well as by the challenges and the complexity of the 21st Century. The very nature of community is, in fact, shaped by these forces.
As an example, consider the similarities between SMSU and its metropolitan sister institutions in St. Louis and Kansas City. Drawing upon its public affairs expertise, the university can credibly participate in discussing, understanding, and contributing toward solutions to metropolitan challenges in Missouri and beyond. Such participation and contributions are feasible only when communications between universities and other public institutions and concerned groups are as open and as full as possible. Contemporary information technology will provide the backbone upon which these discussions can be played out.
SMSU expects both on- and off-campus instruction will be directly affected by increased efficient use of information technology, as will student services, library access, distance learning, and the administration of the university. Clearly, the roles of both the university and its information technology are simultaneously changing. Enhancing information technology will help to define what is taught and learned, as well as how people communicate, to whom, and with what effect.
As an information technology by-product, the "community" will gain substantially from a metropolitan university in southwest Missouri willing to participate and actively contribute toward helping develop solutions to the public affairs challenges confronting the statewide community.
The university has created a unique organization to manage its information technology effort. Chart L depicts that organization.
The university's first objective in this area will be to complete the infrastructure for information technology which it established from 1991-94. Initially, this will require the completion of the hardware network infrastructure to all campus facilities across the three campuses. Within campuses, connectivity must be brought to all buildings, offices, residence halls, and classrooms. At the same time, the classrooms will be modernized to take advantage of emerging instructional technologies.
The campus infrastructure must be integrated with network resources in the metropolitan service area, including the commercial initiatives by TeleCable of Springfield and City Utilities of Springfield. The software network infrastructure to all campus facilities also must be completed.
A second infrastructure area requiring development is the distribution of electronic media. Again, the first priority must be to on-campus users. Media available for electronic distributing will include: 1) on-campus generated televised events (both live and recorded); 2) off-campus generated and satellite transmission of televised events; 3) video, audio, graphic, and text media archived at Meyer Library and other on-campus libraries; 4) computer-generated presentations; and 5) faculty/student research and creative works.
Other links between SMSU's three campuses and the broader communities they serve will include the electronic distribution of media to off-campus sites. This will begin with distribution to other branch campuses, as well as other educational institutions, governmental entities (including libraries), and business/commercial interests within the metropolitan service area.
Finally, the university will firmly establish the foundations for integrating information technology into the educational mission. Technology will be used increasingly as a tool for students' academic development, as well as to further support faculty research. Necessary steps will include the provision of technology-rich laboratories to support the generation of faculty and student multimedia projects, the development of technology to distribute and publish faculty and student creative works, and the investment in technology-enabled classrooms capable of receiving and delivering multimedia-enhanced education.
The university's printing services and bookstore operations will be able to offer university users efficient access to course materials as electronic publishing and document delivery systems are enhanced. The university, by acquiring a high-quality, high-volume production publishing system will provide faculty the capability to produce customized academic course packets/syllabi for distribution to students through the university bookstore at a markedly reduced price. The system will allow information to be stored electronically; therefore, documents can be retrieved, updated with current information, and reproduced with a variety of finishing capabilities from semester to semester.
The delivery of student services will be enhanced tremendously through information technology. The limitations to access placed on both information and service delivery will give way most quickly as new technologies are implemented. Enrollment management, registration, financial aid, banking transactions, and even Internet access all can be made more convenient and efficient through information technology.
New on-line interactive processes will be developed to allow students to register, change schedules, update demographic data, engage in financial transactions, and even explore career opportunities. These services will be accessible from any location on the campus information network.
The ability to serve students quickly and efficiently also is a high priority. Financial aid, traditionally a labor-intensive, paper-driven process, will be enhanced through the electronic processing of applications and the direct deposit of credit balances. Electronic transcripts will improve student service and satisfaction as national standards for the exchange of transcripts between institutions are developed.
By providing access to information through avenues such as the Internet, information kiosks, televised events, and electronic library services, regular and timely communication about the goals, programs, resources, and activities of the university will be offered. Enhanced delivery of alumni services through advances in information technology is a natural progression from enhancements in student services.
The SMSU Libraries, through the use of electronic technologies, will provide both ownership of a comprehensive collection of materials and access to literally a worldwide collection of resources. The library will furnish a full array of electronic support services including both on-line and CD-ROM-based searching services, full-text resources, retrieval and formatting of bibliographic information, electronic document delivery, computerized instruction, and Internet access.
Library faculty and staff, as information providers, will utilize enhanced technological capabilities in providing access to information, in determining the usefulness of the vast amount of information available on the information highways, and in creating new information sources and new ways of accessing information. Educational media will assist in the development and delivery of multimedia presentations that are capable of running on a variety of platforms and formats, and being distributed remotely to both on- and off-campus sites.
Finally, all library resources in the SMSU system, including materials such as data files, digitized text and images, and locally developed software will be included in one union bibliographic database, giving not only SMSU students, faculty and staff complete access, but also making these resources available to the state, nation, and indeed, the world through the Internet. By the turn of the century, an electronic union catalog of the state's academic institutions will be available for sharing all types of materials, either in hard copy or electronically.
The function of distance learning technologies is to increase access to the university's academic, administrative, and informational programs. Distance learning depends upon the development, management, and maintenance of physical networks capable of passing both analog and digital voice, data, audio, and video. These networks may encompass both wired and wireless telecommunications delivery systems.
Distance learning technologies may be applied to a wide range of university activities which will benefit from the removal of time, space, and location barriers. The university's public radio network will disseminate general educational and cultural programs, public affairs programming, and targeted public service programs in a cost-effective manner through its multiple transmission sites in southwest Missouri. University informational programs, such as those in the area of public affairs, can be efficiently distributed to users throughout the state. Asynchronous computer conferencing will provide cost-effective, computer-based instruction to both rural and metropolitan locations from virtually any telephone outlet in the state, or even the nation.
Distance learning methodologies affect the entire academic and administrative structure of the university because they create a parallel "virtual university," that is, a portion of the university which is without walls or physical boundaries. The integration of distance learning technologies will require considerable adaptation throughout the university, affecting such areas as admissions, registration, the library, television and radio technical services, and the classroom, as the university creates systems to handle remote access to its resources.
While distance learning technologies provide improved access to SMSU resources, it is equally important to recognize that these same technologies allow the reception of knowledge from distant and diverse communities. At regional, statewide, national and international levels, it is incumbent upon the university to participate in this exchange of expertise. Additionally, SMSU must facilitate the interpretation and implementation of this "new" knowledge within its own geographical community. Thus, the university must manage and balance the advantages of distance learning technologies with other educational delivery methods. SMSU is obligated to ensure all of these benefits are accessible to the citizens living in its 24-county service area.
Administrative computing provides current, accurate university-related information to the institution's students, faculty and staff. This information allows the university to operate efficiently and effectively toward its mission.
Optical storage of text and images will be utilized for archiving university data. Image scanning devices and direct electronic transfer will be used as the data sources. Technologies such as "Write Once Read Many" (WORM) are proven entities and widely used throughout the business sector. Archiving university data in this manner will speed the access of historical data documents and reduce the university's future requirements for the physical storage of documents. Administrative units will utilize teleconferencing systems to conduct meetings with personnel at state government agencies and officials at other universities, saving both travel time and funds.
A natural progression into "Electronic Document Management" will eliminate the need to produce many paper documents. The installation of a campus-wide electronic document management system will enable the campus community (administrative and academic) to create, process, review, and route electronic "documents." Although electronic document management systems are still in their infancy, it is already possible to perform most of the functions necessary to provide a "paperless office." The payoff to the university goes beyond the cost savings of not printing paper forms. Increased efficiency of staff, tighter information controls, and more expedient routing of information between entities will provide a competitive advantage to the university.
Given the proper network infrastructure (hardware and software), enterprise-wide application systems can be developed for the university community. Decision support systems (DSS) and executive information systems (EIS) will be available to assist administrators in decision-making by providing summary data in a variety of easy-to-read formats. These systems will incorporate graphical user interfaces (GUI), graphics, and/or video.
Projects such as the implementation of optical storage, a campus-wide electronic document management system, graphical decision support system, and executive information system requires additional resources above and beyond those needed to maintain existing systems. Additional technical staffing and training will be required to accomplish these goals.
Advancement of digital technology and an adherence to open architecture standards will dramatically impact the capabilities in the university's printing and postal operations. New high-speed digital equipment connected to the fiber optic backbone will allow transmission of documents and graphics to the print shop from anywhere on SMSU's three campus system. The capability of archiving library resources and storing jobs electronically eliminates the need to recreate originals and allows customized documents to be printed on demand.
Technological enhancements will allow integration of multi-colors, thus eliminating/reducing the need for printing plates and offset chemicals. The quality of the finished product will be superior while realizing a savings in labor, supplies, and time. In mail and distribution services tremendous payoffs can be achieved from advances in information technology. New software advancements, plus the ability to interface hardware with the fiber backbone, will allow the university to "clean" address files, realize quicker delivery, reduce undeliverable mail, and take advantage of USPS discounts by placing delivery point bar codes on mailings. End users on the network can download address files on demand to the individual campus mail room or to networked printers throughout the SMSU three campus system.
Services for those who use technology must be readily available. Computer laboratories will become support centers that provide information services, consulting services, and training services. New systems required by the university must be designed, developed and maintained.
Organization for management of information technology