Communications technology in the land grant university setting: a focus on computer-based innovations for information dissemination to external audiences

Whiting, Larry
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Various kinds of computer-based communications systems are being implemented on the campuses of land grant universities to assist in the task of communicating with external audiences. Systems within the information and publications office primarily involve computerized news transmission, typesetting, office management functions, and text processing and editing. Another type of system is the "information utility," which provides a variety of services such as problem-solving and educational programs, general news information, electronic mail services, and computational assistance to end users, such as farmers or agri-businessmen. Twelve computer-based communications systems operating at eight land grant universities are analyzed in terms of five general areas of concern: standards and quality, technological limitations, man-machine interface, financial and economic considerations, and information proprietorship considerations;The findings reveal no serious problems in any of the areas but do point out some cautions that should be carefully monitored as these systems develop and operate. No great cost savings can be accrued with computerized news systems although they do save some keystroke operations within the communications office. These systems are justified more on the basis that they increase the likelihood of news release use by newspapers. In the cases examined, newspapers sought more news from the information office because electronic processing saved the newspaper considerable time compared to processing the traditional printed news release forms. A surprising discovery was that only in one instance was there capability in the information office to process text and edit electronically from the initial writing to the final product, thereby completely eliminating pencil and hard copy. Yet, this type of integrated operation is where considerable time and cost efficiencies could be achieved;With regard to the information utilities, there is concern about the quality of the software (programs) that are produced for such systems. Surprisingly, little peer review is practiced in the selection of such programs with final selection sometimes the responsibility of computer technicians rather than subject matter specialists or educators.

Professional studies in education, Education