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Hudson Valley Community College to Launch Wireless Computing Pilot Program This Fall

CONTACT: Sarah Boggess or Eric Bryant (518) 629-8071
FOR RELEASE: Immediate, Monday, July 24, 2000

Wireless computing is the hot topic in technology circles these days, so it makes sense that one of country's most innovative community colleges is getting on the bandwagon.

A pilot program beginning this fall at Hudson Valley Community College will put laptop computers in the hands of 40 students in the college's Computer Information Systems department and introduce wireless computing to these students and about a dozen members of the college faculty.

The laptop initiative is just part of a large-scale project to enhance the computing environment at Hudson Valley, including expanded computer labs, e-mail accounts for all students, and implementation of a web-based system that will allow students to pay tuition, schedule classes, and complete many other transaction with college offices on-line.

"I am very excited about this project," said Mary Kay Hart, who will be teaching the Systems Development course in the laptop pilot program. "Students learn best by doing. Now when a student asks what would happen if we change this or that, each student can now make the change and observe what happens. Just as businesses use teams to solve their problems, in the classroom the students can work in teams with guidance from their instructor."

A wireless computer lab has been set up in the college's Bulmer Telecommunications Center, and wireless Ethernet transmitters will be placed in this lab and in the college's campus center and library. Students in proximity to the transmitters may access the Internet via a secure wireless Ethernet connection.

"This program will help us understand how technology can benefit instruction," said President John Buono. "Making the computing environment mobile can have a far-reaching impact on how our faculty can deliver instruction and how our students can learn."

The college also will be exploring ways for teachers to enhance instruction through the laptop pilot program. Faculty members in the Computer Information Systems, Engineering Science, Chemistry, Physics and Chemical Dependency Counseling departments will use laptop computers during the fall semester. The faculty members will be exploring ways to introduce mobile computing and wireless connectivity into their courses.

An example: One of the packages purchased to go along with the laptops is an addiction treatment planning software program, which will be used by Hudson Valley instructors in the classroom. "A student visiting a client could bring their laptop with them and use this program," said Bryan Eaton, Director of Computer Services at the college. "This project is exploring the whole idea of mobile and wireless computing environments as they relate to education."

Because of their laptop's mobility, faculty members may find it easier to bring more complex computerized lesson plans into the classroom, Eaton said. Students may find that the mobility of laptops make collaboration and group study easier.

In addition to the Ethernet wireless transmitters in the campus center and the library, two chemistry and physics labs will be outfitted with the devices. This will create fully mobile computers able to move around to different laboratory stations. Previously they were stationary, forcing students to return to them to do data analysis.

"As people are already discovering in business, there are many applications for the wireless environment," President Buono said. "We want to stay ahead of the curve, so that our students are well-prepared for the workplace of the 21st century."

Funding for the laptop computers came from a $92,000 grant from the Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act (VATEA) program. An additional VATEA grant of $12,500 allowed the college to upgrade the computer lab in the Bulmer building to accommodate the computers.

The college also is expanding its overall student computing capabilities. Beginning this fall, all registered students will be given a computer and e-mail account, allowing them to access the growing number of computers on campus. The college currently offers 340 classroom computers and 160 open-access computers for student use. The number of open-access computers on campus will rise to 250 with the opening of the 24-hour Computer Café in the college's Siek Campus Center next year. The café is expected to be a popular gathering spot, where students can enjoy a snack or beverage while accessing an extensive computer lab. All of these enhanced services will be covered by the student computer fee, which is set at $20 per month for full-time students and slightly more than $6 per month for part-time students.

Computer learning centers on campus are currently available in the Bulmer building, the campus center and on two floors of the library. They provide students with unlimited access to computer systems, which include software for word processing, electronic mail, Internet browsing and a variety of specialized educational tools. Students also have access to services such as help desk assistance and training workshops.

Hudson Valley Community College offers more than 50 degree and certification programs in four academic divisions: Liberal Arts and Sciences; Engineering and Industrial Technologies; Health Sciences; and Business; as well as programs run through the Educational Opportunity Center offering certification programs in workforce and academic preparation. One of 30 community colleges in the State University of New York system, it has an enrollment of more than 9,000 students each year, and is known as a leader in distance learning initiatives and worker retraining