Policy Recommendations VI
Virginia Tech Cyberschool
"Providing Internet Services to Alumni"
Hatfield and Timothy W.
September 15, 1997
In May 1997, Virginia Tech graduated its
first class of graduates that had been in residence on the Virginia
Tech campus from the time of the first Faculty Development Initiative
(FDI) during Summer 1993. Of course, not every 1997 graduate
necessarily took a class that either was electronically enhanced or
had been put entirely on-line by faculty from the FDI project.
Nonetheless, an entire cohort of students that had enjoyed
high-speed, broad bandwidth connectivity while enrolled at VPI&SU
entered the "real world" in May 1997 where Internet connectivity is
often much slower and bandwidth far narrower-if there even is any
adequate access at all.
Cyberschool faculty frequently hear this
complaint from recent Tech graduates: Internet access is difficult to
arrange and sometimes inadequate. Consequently, we want to propose
that the University investigate establishing a new service for its
graduates: a high-speed, broad bandwidth, low-cost Internet service.
Whether it is folded into NET.WORK.VIRGINIA or serviced by a new
telecommunications contract, this service would greatly enhance the
service of the University to the Commonwealth by providing an easy,
comparatively cheap, and closely held Internet service to its 145,000
living alumni. Many universities around the nation are beginning to
hear this complaint from their graduates, and this sort of new
service would do much to boost positive feelings among alumni for the
university. Indeed, it could provide the basis for building a new
type of virtual community between VT alumni and the University's
faculty, administrative, and staff personnel.
Developing a VT Alumni ISP, then, could
prove to be a very useful enterprise that would bring several other
important benefits, including,
1) A Virtual
Extended Campus: When they
contemplate additional higher education, many Virginia Tech alumni
consider the options afforded to them by Virginia Tech's Extended
Campus. A VT Alumni ISP could bring them all of the course offerings
and on-line degree programs available through Virginia Tech On-Line.
In addition, not-for-credit courses or professional training classes
from Continuing Education could easily be provided at this venue.
Inside the Commonwealth's borders alone, there are now nearly 69,000
alumni who might be approached as potential clients for this
2) A Large
Internet Services Market: Signing up
a significant percentage of the 145,000 living Virginia Tech alumni
with a VT Alumni ISP would create a considerable market whose
monthly/yearly cash flow could help fund VT Alumni Association,
Communication Network Services, or other Virginia Tech activities. In
addition, the University could offer other in-house or out-sourced
on-line content over these connections for those alumni who might
wish to purchase them. Part of this project could have a public
outreach component by providing low-cost rates to recent grads,
retired graduates, or those in the military and public service. As
each graduate's income rises, then so too would the cost of
3) A Large
On-Line Support Group: Keeping
145,000 VT alumni informed about the activities of Virginia Tech
through an in-house ISP service would give the university
administration and its constituent colleges and departments quick
access to its most reliable support groups in fundraising campaigns,
public information activities, or future planning initiatives. With
web casting technologies, a diverse mix of general and focused
information could quickly be disseminated throughout the Commonwealth
to 69,000 supporters whose collective backing and individual input
could be quite vital.
Life-Long Learning Attitude: By
presenting alumni with easy to use, comparatively inexpensive, and
high value Internet service, the University could reinforce the idea
of life-long learning on its virtual and physical extended campuses.
VT alumni might leave Blacksburg, but they need not necessarily lose
access to Tech's many educational services. In providing an easy set
of links to research tools, library resources, faculty expertise, and
fellow alumni, a VT Alumni ISP would allow the university to continue
adding new value to its degrees and capture a large number of loyal
supporters, customers, learners, or clients irrespective of where
they physically reside. Creating this sort of service, then, could
prove useful for a number of University units, ranging from the
Alumni Association, Continuing Education, and Public Affairs to the
Graduate School, Communication Network Services, and VT Services.
Consequently, the Cyberschool faculty want to encourage the Alumni Association, CNS, and any other interested units to begin considering this new initiative. Each passing year brings more and more alumni with real Internet skills out into society, and we would like to see these "Cyber-alumni" have the opportunity to stay in touch with the University and each other through this sort of innovative new university service.