MILWAUKEE JOURNAL/MILWAUKEE SENTINEL 05/21/96 Professor connects with students via computer: UW-Stout teacher's approach is part of growing trend

Milwaukee Journal/Milwaukee Sentinel By Lee Bergquist Copyright 1996

Instead of a blackboard and a lectern, college professor Joseph Holland has been experimenting with Lotus Notes and a modem.

Holland, who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie, has used the popular software program and an on-line connection to teach a class about law and the hospitality industry over the past three semesters.

He's taught students on campus. He's taught others who were away from Stout for a semester. And a group of students from the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama also have taken the class.

Holland's assessment?

Students were well prepared because they dialed in for class work when they were ready. Also, because they used e-mail that is built into the software, students felt they had more access to him than, say, traditional office hours would permit.

"And the quality of the students' writing has been better because what they write is going to remain there for the whole semester," Holland said, explaining that all of the students' work is filed in the computer system.

Holland is one of a small but growing band of academics who are using the Internet and collaborative software like Lotus Notes to reach outside of their classrooms.

They are targeting not only traditional students, but also people in the work force who want to do everything from earn a degree to brush up on a few skills for the job they have. Partnership Begins

Last week, the University of Wisconsin Extension announced a partnership with an arm of Lotus Development Corp. to develop new ways to get knowledge out of the classroom to both traditional students and people in the business world.

Using an enhanced version of Lotus Notes, faculty in the University of Wisconsin System will begin experimenting with course work that students can access remotely. Lotus will provide the software and personnel to help faculty members build classes and course work using the software.

It's the first time that the Lotus Institute, a research unit of Lotus, has worked with a college to develop "content," or course work that can be used with the software, according to Lotus spokeswoman Carrie Snyder.

With several corporations now using special Lotus software for training, Snyder said that Lotus expects other schools to get on board as "more and more universities start educating people outside of their borders."

Lotus Notes is a multifaceted software program that lets users at different locations share information on anything they want from e-mail to required reading to databases.

Lotus has added new software, called the Learning Network, to complement traditional Notes. It has added items like a scheduling application, a repository to access class articles and an electronic gathering place where students and faculty share information and work on projects together.

"The user interface will be much more friendly and it will be easier for students to move around," said Holland, who had used a traditional copy of Notes independently for his class. Now he and others at Stout will be the first to dispense education using education-oriented Notes.

Here's How

It works this way:

People who enroll in a class receive a copy of the Lotus software, which they install in their computers. The software lets users download course work from a server and to communicate with other students and the teacher via e-mail. Connections can be made either through the Internet or by calling a specific telephone number.

The students dial in whenever they wish. There are no set class times.

"My personal feeling is that this really moves the focus of power away from the faculty, and it is shared more by everyone in the class," said Erica McIntire, state director of the Small Business Development Center, a program that offers classes to small-business people at 10 state campuses.

The center plans to be a major user of the Lotus arrangement.

By January, for example, Stout will start offering five undergraduate and graduate classes using the Lotus software, all focusing on the food service and lodging industries.

In addition, it will offer two certificate programs geared specifically to people now in the work force: food service sanitation and a course that examines liability and workplace issues in the hospitality industry.

Other universities are looking at ways to capitalize on the Lotus relationship, though nothing yet has been made public, McIntire said.

"Like business and industry, campuses can't afford to ignore technology and better ways to disseminate learning," she said.

Lee Bergquist and the Journal Sentinel business news staff can be reached at


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Last modified: Monday, 24-Jun-1996 22:11:50 EDT