UT Technology Fee Sparks Improvement In First Year (1150)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Dollars from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s technology fee have stretched further than expected, the campus vice chancellor for information infrastructure said Thursday.

 Dr. Susan Mettlen said more than 1,000 computers have been purchased since the fee was implemented last fall. The amount of fee-funded equipment, software and projects has been boosted by unexpected discounts and grants from computer manufacturers and other companies, she said.

 “We’ve been able to buy more computers than we planned because we have contracted with vendors and gotten lower prices,” Mettlen said. “We also have gotten grants from various software vendors and donated software. It has worked out very well.”

 Mettlen said six new computer labs were initially planned the first year, but 26 were created because of lower prices and help from vendors.

 “For example, computers for the Vivace learning system in the music department were discounted 50 percent, so we really were able to stretch our dollars,” Mettlen said.

 The $100 per semester fee, which began in January of 1997, raises about $5 million annually for networking infrastructure, technology upgrades, hardware and support for students, Mettlen said.

 Colleges, departments and programs across campus reported that the fee has had a successful impact.

 — Susan Metros, UT-Knoxville director of innovative technologies, said the Smart Classroon Initiatives program funded by the technology fee allowed new projectors and presentation equipment, digital audio equipment, computers and Internet connectivity for McClung Museum, University Center Auditorium, the Geology and Geography Building and the Art and Architecture Building.

 Metros said the fee is creating training programs that help faculty learn to use new technologies. The training programs include informative websites, printed manuals, and more than 150 training sessions on 34 different courses.

 The sessions include lectures, on-line courses, and special programs, she said.

 “The training is going better than scheduled because faculty are so interested. We have had more than 1,100 contacts, mostly from faculty who want to talk to us about putting their classes on-line, technology components, and learning what is available in terms of equipment, websites and other services.”

 — Joe Gipson, Director of Telecommunications and Network services, said the fee resulted in on-line connections in student dorms and created dial-up services for off-campus students.

 Gipson said connections have been made to about 3,300 dorm rooms in 13 campus residence halls serving about 7,000 students. About 2,000 on-campus students are already on-line and that number is expected to exceed 3,000 by next year, he said.

 “The dorm connection service has gone very well, better than anyone could have hoped,” Gipson said. “The students using it have been very pleased.”

 The fee also enables UT to provide Internet connection through the telephone for about 5,000 off-campus UT-Knoxville students and employees, he said.

 Students pay $38 per semester for the service and employees pay $55 per semester. The charges defray the university’s costs for using telephone lines and are lower than most commercial Internet provider charges, Gipson said.

“We are forced to charge for off-campus service to pay the monthly telephone bill,” Gipson said, “but we’ve been able to leverage our technology fee to provide one of the best dial-up services available at one of the most reasonable rates anywhere.”

 — Dewitt Latimer, director of computing and academic services, said about 40 percent of the new computer stations on campus are replacements of old computers, and the rest are new stations where no computers existed before.

 The technology fee also helped pay for the Aconda Court Service Center, which provides a single place for students and staff to get computer help, including software, installations, Internet connections, new accounts, training and one-on-one consultations, he said.

 These services formerly were spread between Stokely Management, Dunford Hall and Aconda Court, Latimer said. “Students used to wander around searching for the right building for their particular problems, but the technology fee has made it possible for them to go to one spot,” Latimer said.

 — Rob Power, UT-Knoxville senior from Brentwood and head of the student technology services committee, said students on campus are pleased with the first-year progress of the technology services.

 “Technology upgrades that were promised are on track,” Power said. “No one who wanted their personal computer hooked up (in residence halls) waited more than 48 hours.

 “Our job now is to let students know what’s available.”

 — The College of Engineering has received about 150 new or updated computer stations, mostly for freshman engineering laboratories, said Dr. Fred Tompkins, professor and associate dean.

 “We are a technology-intensive program. Finding resources to keep equipment contemporary is a substantial challenge,” Tompkins said. “The technology fee gives our students the opportunity to work with technology, equipment and software that is contemporary and consistent with what is being used in the industry.”

 — The College of Communications has acquired 47 machines to replace outdated computers in three labs, and equipment enabling students and faculty work on digital production in photojournalism, audio, video and multimedia designs.

 “In the College of Communications, it is critical to update computer, graphic, audio and video equipment so we can compete with other universities, and our students can compete in the industry,” Communications Dean Dwight Teeter said. “I am really impressed by the way the Division of Information Infrastructure at UT-Knoxville has been able to get all these labs in place so rapidly.

 “The technology fee is responsible for not only helping this college, but in a few years will have this entire campus on a level competitive with any college in the nation.”

 — In the College of Human Ecology, 60 new computers will be split between three computer labs, said Mark Van Patten, the college’s computer systems manager.

 One lab is a classroom that is being used to teach seven sections of a required course in microcomputer applications. Another has been created to help students work on multimedia, Internet and web page development, and allow faculty to develop on-line courses.

 The college also has created a training lab specifically designed to teach students to work in high schools for vocational education.

 “Before the technology fee, we experienced a lot of frustration in not being able to meet the needs of the students,” Van Patten said. “The reaction from students and faculty to the updated equipment is fantastic. The students love it. The labs have made a dramatic difference.”

 — Dolly Davis, acting head of the music department, said the technology fee provided $84,000 for 26 computers for a new music education tool known as the Vivace Personal Accompanist System.

 Davis said UT-Knoxville is one of two universities chosen by Coda Music Technology of Eden Prairie, Minn., to use the new system as part of a test program.

 The computerized system’s sensitive, interactive music accompaniment creates a “world-class music laboratory for student rehearsals,” she said.

 “This technology is a major step forward in music instruction,” Davis said. “It would not have been possible here without support of UT-Knoxville’s Division of Information Infrastructure and the monetary contribution of the new UT student technology fee.”

 Contact: Dr. Susan Mettlen (423-974-3730) Dewitt Latimer (423-974-9265) Joe Gipson (423-974-6616) Susan Metros (423-974-7925) Mark VanPatten (423-974-2443) Dr. Dwight Teeter (423-974-3031) Dr. Fred Tompkins (423-974-3608) Dolly Davis (423-974-3241) Rob Power (423-595-6415)