What do public school teachers, UBC graduate and undergraduate students, professors, special needs children, farmers and university administrative staff have in common? They represent just a few of the groups on and off campus that stand to benefit as UBC moves toward becoming a technologically "connected" campus.
Prof. Perry Leslie, head of Educational Psychology and Special Education, says the Campus Connectivity Project (CCP) -- a major initiative to provide high-speed connectivity linking every desktop in UBC offices, classrooms, residences and labs to each other as well as to the outside world and the Internet -- will benefit groups and individuals on and off campus.
Connectivity across campus will allow faculty in his department to offer special programs and courses, such as one for public school teachers on the inclusion of special needs students in regular classroom situations.
"With direct access to information technology, we'll be able to build courses and make them available throughout the province and beyond," says Leslie.
"Many faculty members in my department are really enthused about multimedia work and the opportunity to use technology to support teaching and research. The ability to access this technology from our workplace will be a tremendous asset."
The Campus Connectivity Project was initiated in 1996 to attend to the clear need to provide complete high-speed network connectivity throughout the campus. A new, technologically superior network will enhance teaching and research capabilities, allow greater use of technologies such as video conferencing and multimedia, and greatly improve high-speed, paperless communication within faculty and administrative domains and across campus.
Elaine Borthwick, admissions adviser in the Faculty of Law, says the project will allow her to greatly improve efficiency in her area and, in so doing, provide better service to the students, faculty and staff who rely on quick and convenient access to information.
"Connectivity is crucial for the Faculty of Law," she says. "For example, all of the admissions information we collect in the faculty has to be re-entered into the Registrar's files. Our inability to connect directly with some administrative systems leads to an unnecessary duplication of work and creates hassles for students.
"With connectivity we will be able to download admissions information directly to the Registrar's system and retrieve information with much greater ease."
"The scope of the project is immense," says Prof. Richard Tees, chair of the CCP Steering Committee. "For one thing, there are 450 buildings spread over the 400-hectare campus. Of these buildings only 100 are currently interconnected with optical fibre cable to the existing UBC network. Off-campus, UBC-related sites, particularly in our teaching hospitals, don't have appropriate connectivity to campus."
By the time the new high-speed network is completed, an additional 20,000 ports will have been installed and the legacy of copper wire in many currently "connected" buildings replaced, Tees says. A 1995 survey revealed that fewer than 46 per cent of UBC's faculty and 65 per cent of its desk staff had connections to the current network.
"If UBC is to remain a major teaching and research university and we are to improve our teaching, research and administrative functionality, we need to put this network infrastructure in place," Tees says. "UBC's most important resource is its people. We have to provide the infrastructure, the tools, to allow the members of the campus community to make effective use of their energy and talent."
As part of the first phase, work to connect the Curtis law complex to the network is already underway and the design and planning for Buchanan, Chemistry, the Forward building, Hebb, Hennings and Wesbrook are at an advanced stage.
The project is guided by a management team, headed by Ted Dodds, associate vice-president, Information Technology, and the steering committee composed of student, staff and faculty representatives selected based on their special concerns and expertise in areas such as classroom, student and library access, network security, and local area network operations. A network of project partners from each faculty and vice-presidency has been created so that as each building, and each space is connected, its users will have helped plan and sign-off on the work.
Questions or comments on the project can be addressed to Susan Mair at 822-3938 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) and to Steering Committee Chair Richard Tees at email@example.com. Complete information is available on the project's Web page at http://www.ccp.acit.ubc.ca/