There is a growing trend on college campuses across America toward increased spending on technology according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. While this type of spending had declined in previous years, it is back up, and is expected to reach record heights.
A recent study by Market Data Retrieval states that colleges will spend an estimated $6.94 billion on technology expenses this year, up 35 percent from last year.
St. John’s has repeatedly shown that it is among the leaders in this trend.
“I think St. John’s has made some really great decisions in technology, and this goes back to before [my time],” said Joseph Tufano, the chief information officer for information technology. “The University really has been a leader in this field.”
Tufano said that some of the most obvious and important ways in which St. John’s has used technology is in its relations with students.
“You register online, you pay your bills online, you get your grades online,” he said. “And we continue to look at what we should do for the University on a technological basis both academically and administratively.”
The emphasis that St. John’s puts on technology can be seen not only in the technological improvements that have been made on campus, but also in the recognition that the school has received for its efforts. The most famous of these was Intel’s decision to name St. John’s one of the top 10 most “un-wired” colleges in the nation two years in a row, referring to the University’s on-campus wireless network, which allows students to access the internet wirelessly with their laptops.
However, the University has also been cited by other groups for its technological advances. One of these is the EDUCAUSE group, which promotes the use of technology by colleges. Bernadette Lavin, the director of finance for IT, said that the University scored well by the standards of EDUCAUSE’s “Core Data Survey,” which is taken annually by over 900 colleges and universities.
“Of the 24 respondents to the 2004 EDUCAUSE Core Data Service who were classified the same as St. John’s, we rank in the top 5 for total dollars funded to Information Technology as well as in the top 5 of total dollars funded to IT on a per student basis,” Lavin said.
Another department at St. John’s that has been affected by the boost in technology spending is Student Affairs.
“It’s affected us positively and negatively,” said Cindy Grossman, the special assistant to the vice president in Student Affairs.
Grossman said that one of the best changes is that every student is on a “level playing field” as far as technology goes, including the laptop program, wireless network, and the ability to print wirelessly.
Grossman also said that the technology has facilitated better networking among students and administrators.
“In the old days- we would get to know a very small number of students,” she said. “[Now] I have some sort of a relationship, because of technology, with many more students.
“I also have the ability to invite vast numbers of peoples to events. I can get in contact with thousands of people instantaneously,” she continued.
Tufano said that there are more programs on the way through St. John’s Central and the UIS program. One of these, which became active on March 1, allows students to view courses that are required for their chosen degree, as well as how much progress they have made. It can be accessed through “Student Services” on the UIS Web site.
Another new feature that is planned is the ability to “manage your Stormcard” online. This will let students view the balance of their Stormcards and see where they spent their money, much like a credit card statement.
“I think the students are going to love this,” said Maura Woods, Director of Applications for IT.
Overall, students already seem more than pleased by the technological advances the University has made. One of the most popular is the new computer labs, which include Power Mac G5 computers. Onika Blue, a graduate student, tries to use the lab as much as possible.
“I’m on an internship, so I don’t use them as much as I did before,” she said, “but I used to use them every day.”
She said that they are much faster than other computers, and are very good for doing graphics, which she uses in her job as an elementary school teacher.
The only question seems to be, what is the downside to all this technology? Grossman said that it may be the lower emphasis put on real-life relationships in favor of communicating online.
“We’re in a technological world where it’s very easy to have all of your relationships online,” she said. “People seem less comfortable face to face.”