Overview - University of Wollongong Teaching & Learning Journal


In the past couple of years there has been an explosion of interest in the phenomenon of networking within Australian and U.S. universities. The Internet grew out of a United States Department of Defense network founded in 1969, was converted by the USA National Science Foundation to a research network in the 1970s, was extended to global academic use in the 1980s, and, now, is becoming a major tool for businesses worldwide. The Australian Academic Research Network (AARN et), an Internet gateway, has provided an opportunity for educators and students to be instantly interconnected with colleagues at other universities in Australia and overseas as well as with vast amounts of electronic information. Initial academic enthusiasm for networking technologies focused on research applications but teaching applications are equally important. One network application, electronic mail, (e-mail) is proving to be very popular in universities and also in the commercial world. The ability to work with electronic mail is now becoming one of the essential skills for working in an office. Electronic mail provides students with a way to collaborate on course projects with colleagues and experts spread around the world. When these students leave the university, they will bring these international collaborative skills to their work places, making it possible for small as well as large businesses to easily market and distribute their products abroad. Providing communications costs can be kept down, the application of electronic mail to teaching is very likely to gain further popularity. However, like all new communications technologies, the medium can alter the way we communicate. Educators need to be aware of this if the technology is to be put to good effect.