IBM has launched Global Campus, a slate of existing products and services designed to help colleges and universities incorporate technology and the Internet into traditional learning and teaching.
The announcement is part of IBM's network computing strategy, officials say. "The focus of the company is to use the network to create ubiquitous access to information," says Diana Oblinger, academic programs manager at IBM North America.
The Global Campus consists of IBM network computing hardware and software and consulting services available in a number of packages which the customer chooses, officials say.
Some of the options are:
* Online catalogue, due next year, which will let students browse and search college and university catalogues online in one place;
* IBM Internet Connection, which provides connection to the Internet;
* Lotus LearningSpace, which uses IBM Interconnect for Lotus Notes to host collaborative learning and teaching;
* Digital Library, which transforms multimedia into digital form for distribution over the Internet.
According to IBM officials, educational institutions can pick and pay for only the options which interest them. So far, 32 colleges and universities around the world have subscribed to one or more of the Global Campus services, including: Acadia University and Athabasca University in Canada; Boston College in Massachusetts; Monterrey Institute of Technology in Monterrey, Mexico; Kent State University in Ohio; Pontificia Universidade Catolica de Campinas in Brazil; Universidad Pedagogica Experimental Libertador in Venezuela; and the University of North Carolina.
To participate, IBM consults with an institution's representative team, which usually consists of administrators and faculty, and sometimes students, officials say. The consultation takes between three months and one year, depending on the customisation required, they say. Implementation is carried out by an IBM team of experts in the customised areas, including server systems, PCs, Lotus Notes, the Internet, networking and education methods, officials say.
IBM plans to add services to the Global Campus on an on-going basis, including an admissions service to streamline and reduce the cost of the admissions process for colleges and universities, according to Sean Rush, general manager of higher education at IBM.
Currently, it costs colleges and universities US$125 for every completed application they receive, Rush says. This amount includes the cost of printing and paper, mailing and clerical time, Rush says. In addition, the admissions process is time-consuming and potentially costly for the student, who must co-ordinate and file copies of test scores, recommendations and school transcripts, according to Rush.
The Global Campus would provide an application template, charging a fee per transaction, which would reduce the time and cost for both student and admissions staff, according to Rush. The student can fill out one application for multiple schools and schools can use the application to automatically screen out some applicants based on responses or could automatically screen in others, officials say.