Letters

Interaction, Please

I read Judith Boettcher’s article [“Designing for the Virtual Interactive Classroom,” May 2005] and wanted to clarify a couple of things, particularly regarding the passage about the “interactive classroom” category of software.

I wanted to let you know that [contrary to the implications in the article] Horizon Wimba’s Live Classroom, Elluminate Live, and Centra Symposium (www.horizonwimba.com) are all “interactive classrooms”—online classrooms intended for interactive, synchronous learning among groups ideally no larger than 25 to 35 people. These software products all have remarkably similar features and functionality that reflect the face-to-face classroom. Therefore, like in real life, it is easier to have more interaction in a face-to-face classroom with a small number of students, just as it’s easier to have more interaction in an online classroom with a small number of students. (Just as a face-to-face, 200-person lecture will have less interactivity.)

The reason I mention this is because her assertion that “the expectation is that the faculty or presenter is in the ‘lecture’ knowledge-transmission mode, with limited expectation of students asking questions or dialoging with the presenter” is not accurate. Most faculty who use Horizon Wimba’s Live Classroom and Centra typically have classes of fewer than 15 students, therefore making it very easy to interact and collaborate. Although both Horizon Wimba’s Live Classroom and Centra are certainly capable of doing large-scale “broadcast” transmissions, such large-scale transmissions are atypical of their regular use (such as when we recorded Ms. Boettcher’s keynote at the 2001 League for Innovation Conference on Information Technology: league.horizonwimba.com/launcher.cgi?channel=league015_2001_1114_1237_45)
Matt Wasowski
Director, Marketing Communications
Horizon Wimba

Portal Plans

[To Columnist John Savarese:] Here’s an e-mail from someone in your distant past, when we were at Sweet Briar. I’ve read and enjoyed a number of your articles in Campus Technology and [formerly] in University Business. Just finished the article on library portals [May 2005]. Our university is working to install an institutional portal (Unicon Academus; www.unicon.net), and I’m wondering to what extent our own plans to create a library portal (with Sirsi) will mesh with it.
Thanks,
Christopher A. Bean
Director of Libraries and
Faculty Senate President
Shenandoah University

New DeviceWall for iPod Security Threat

I read [Linda Briggs’] asset management article [May 2005]. You really hit it on the head; well done. But here is a fact: Apple sold more than five million iPod digital music players in the first three months of 2005, and 6GB of data can be transferred in two minutes using an iPod and a FireWire port. Universities have a new network security problem, and it’s no longer at the edge of the network. Removable media devices such as iPods, PDAs, and flash memory sticks pose a dangerous security risk. With 2GB memory sticks now available under $100 (and iPods around $400), it’s never been easier—or more affordable—to download information from a computer in minutes. In the wrong hands, this spells disaster. Imagine a student downloading a department’s testing information, or taking financial data. With the average word processing file between 25KB and 30KB, a student with a 20GB iPod could download more than 750,000 documents.

Deliberate or accidental, the damage caused by the misuse of removable media devices can be disastrous. Students can seriously endanger a university by taking sensitive information off site, introducing viruses, or simply creating a buildup of unwanted files on the network. Eliminating or controlling the use of these devices on campus is a key issue for IT managers looking to maintain an effective security strategy. [I’d like to tell your readers that] products like Centennial’s DeviceWall (just launched last month and new to the market) give IT managers the ability to control the usage of removable media devices on a network. DeviceWall’s ability to protect a network from unauthorized activity—while still allowing legitimate users to go about their business—maintains network integrity.
Thanks for your time.
Justin Hall
Senior Account Executive
Sterling Communications
(for Centennial Software)

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