An occasional report of news from cyberspace
Faculty survey shows 'wired profs'
A computer for every professor and Internet connectivity for every professor's computer. Those are among the goals outlined in Framework for the Future, a campuswide planning document drafted by a team of UI faculty and staff members and endorsed by Chancellor Michael Aiken in 1995.
And judging from recently compiled results of a faculty survey on access to computing resources both on- and off-campus most UI faculty members are well-positioned for teaching, conducting research and communicating in today's electronic age. Carolyn White, program coordinator of the Computing and Communications Services Office's Office of Computing and Communications for the Social Sciences, designed and administered the survey and provided some of the initial data summaries.
Among 1,600 faculty members who responded to the Framework for the Future Computer Access Survey (2,052 were polled), 88 percent reported having a computer designated primarily for their use in their campus office, lab or studio. And among those with computers, 96 percent have access to the Internet from their campus workplace.
A snapshot of those with access to workplace computers shows:
· A preference for PCs over Macs (53 percent vs. 38 percent), with an additional 11 percent of faculty reporting access to workstations.
· A majority (58 percent) with machines that are less than two years old.
· About half of the machines were purchased, at least partially, with college or departmental funds while grants helped pay for 43 percent.
Among the survey's more revealing findings was that faculty members are fairly well-connected at home as well. Eighty percent have home computers and 64 percent use a modem to connect to campus.
"In general, the trends, by college, reflect those seen with office computers, but the percentages having home computers are a little lower," said Joan Alster, a staff member in the Computing and Communications Services Offices who assisted with analysis of survey data. An interesting twist, she said, was that in the College of Fine and Applied Arts "more faculty have home computers than office computers."
Another survey result of interest to Alster and CCSO colleagues responsible for delivering computing services: Among those who used dial-up access from home, 47 percent indicated that they would be willing to pay up to $30 per month for a high-speed campus network connection to their home, if it were available.
"Not surprisingly, those using their modems more are more willing to pay for a high-speed connection," Alster said. Among those who log on six to 15 hours per week, 45 percent said they'd pay for a faster connection; among heavier dial-up users those reporting 15 or more hours of use 58 percent would support the service.
While those findings may have been somewhat predictable, others were not.
"The number of people who had multiple computers was a little surprising," said George Badger, associate vice chancellor for computing and communications. Badger said he also was intrigued by a trend unfolding with "the beginnings of the movement toward portable computer use": Stationary home computers were often shared with other family members, while laptop machines tended to be reserved for personal use.
These and other findings from the survey are intended to assist Badger and other campus administrators involved in planning and budgeting for campus computing needs, he said.
"There was the assumption that the faculty is going to use computers for teaching, research and corresponding with other people and university business practices are going to depend on it," Badger said. "We wanted to make sure people had the basic machines to do e-mail and word-processing."
The survey was conducted, he said, because "we wanted to find out exactly where the faculty were as far as having equipment. We wanted an estimate on who didn't have anything. As a secondary issue, we wanted to know how old was the equipment out there and what people had at home."
Badger noted that some of the "have-nots" already have become "haves" as a result of the survey. "Through programs with vendors and the Provost's Office, we've given away or sold cheaply a number of machines to faculty who didn't have anything at all."
According to Associate Provost David Liu, 100 Apple computers and 170 IBM personal computers were distributed as part of the program. Apple provided a grant for 20 of its machines, and IBM provided a grant for three RISC/6000 network servers. The remaining new machines were purchased by colleges and departments through a matching-fund arrangement offered by the Provost's Office; that office covered two thirds of the cost of the equipment, with units providing the remaining third.
In addition to functioning as a guide for resource allocation and budget planning, the survey proved to be a useful tool for tracking emerging "work styles," Badger said. For instance, if more people are working at home and communicating around the clock with students via e-mail and other electronic means, that translates to greater strains on CCSO's modem pool.
Nonetheless, Badger said, the bottom line is that the campus is committed to providing faculty members with the basic computing tools required to conduct university business.
"The campus is trying to make sure that everybody who needs a computer to do their work is going to have one," he said.