Computer labs are great, but notall students know how to use them

At Temple University, a commuter school in Philadelphia, there are lots of places students can access computers: Samuel Paley Library, Wachman and Gladfelter Halls, and the Fox School of Business.

For those of us who attended excellent suburban high schools, computers, the Internet, and e-mail are tools we've become accustomed to. But for many local students, Temple is where they get their first real hands-on experience with the digital world.

Some students feel intimidated by computers and because they fear rejection or humiliation, may be afraid to ask for help.

That's where Temple could do a better job of promoting computer awareness among students.

All freshmen and transfer students are invited to an orientation at the beginning of the term. The university offers the opportunity to tour the campus, ask questions, and gain information and access to student computer accounts and the Internet. But there is not sufficient time at orientation for those people who have had no exposure to computers to find out what they need to know to get by. Students often leave the computer presentation with more questions than answers.

I left wanting to know about the availability and efficiency of campus computer labs. Others had questions like "How do I get on the Web?" "How do I print out information from the Internet?" and "How do I use e-mail?"

The university could do a number of things to better promote computer literacy on campus.

For one, professors could devote more class time to showing students about the Internet in courses where it is required.

I had a course in macroeconomics this semester where the professor asked us to download The Wall Street Journal from the Web and come to class prepared to hold a discussion on the material. Someone not familiar with the Internet might have found that assignment challenging.

Another approach would be to better publicize computer-use tutorial sessions. Such sessions give students the opportunity to field questions they might be ashamed of asking in front of their classmates. They also prepare them for writing-intensive courses, where basic knowledge of word-processing is needed to complete term papers.

Implementing more online courses is another alternative for improving computer knowledge. These are courses where students receive lectures and learn the necessary material -as well as interact with each other and their instructors - at a Web site.

The university already offers online coursesin "Intellectual Heritage," African-American studies, and a few journalism electives.

I had an online journalism history course in the fall of 1997 and found it convenient because I could work from my home computer and successfully juggle my other courses.

Students submit homework, study, and take exams through this system. It's good because it promotes computer literacy by forcing students to learn the system.

Temple University is moving in the right direction with its computer labs and orientation sessions. But more needs to be done to ensure that all students are on equal footing when it comes to electronic resources.

Tony E. Aburime Jr. is a senior majoring in journalism at Temple University in Philadelphia.

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