UVM News in Brief

Business Tablet PC Requirement an Early Success

It looks like an ordinary contemporary college class, with laptops on every desk – except that a third of the students have the computers closed and appear to be scrawling on their lids. Welcome to “Information Technology and Management,” a course in the School of Business Administration, where administrators and faculty have placed themselves at the forefront of a national higher education trend by requiring entering first-year students to own convertible “tablet” PCs.

The convertible tablet functions both as an ordinary laptop and, if the screen is swiveled and closed on the keyboard, as a kind of souped-up digital notepad, with the lid becoming an illuminated writing screen. Students file their tablet-mode notes in folders, either in handwritten form or converted to text, where they have all the advantages of searchable digital files. The tablet will even record a lecture, synchronizing the audio to the notes. If a section of notes is incomplete or unintelligible, a student taps the text in question and the professor’s words boom forth.

About 180 first year business school students are using the new technology. Erin Schumacher, a first year student from Harvard, Ill., said she learned about the business school’s new policy through a letter she received over the summer. Open to new experiences, she figured that the tablet PC was just “one other new thing that college would entail.”

The tablet, which also provides a wireless Internet connection, has far exceeded her expectations. “It can do everything you need,” she says, from functioning as an infinitely expanding notepad to displaying a professor’s Powerpoint presentation, which she can write on. She can also do research online in class or look at her online texts, can record lectures for later reference, and can organize a searchable database of her notes. hat panoply of functions – all in support of enhanced learning – is just what the School of Business Administration leaders envisioned.

While it’s too early to assess definitive results, the experiment looks promising. Faculty report good anecdotal feedback and see more students taking more notes in class. And, of course, the tablet PC is affecting not just students but faculty who use the tool. “It’s had a bigger impact on how I teach than anything else,” says Jim Kraushaar, an associate professor and a specialist in the use of computers in business who has had a 35-year career.

Kraushaar makes notes on his Powerpoint presentation during class discussion, then posts the annotated file almost immediately on the class Web site. For the first time, he can also complete the digital loop with student assignments, emailing back papers adorned with digital comments, edits, and grades. Dean Rocki-Lee DeWitt, who was attracted to UVM three years ago partly because of the business school’s commitment to keeping up with information technology that supports student learning, says students will benefit from their experience with the tablet PCs as they begin their careers.

“When you walk around different organizations, you see tablets,” she says. “Healthcare centers are using them for data entry. Warehouse environments are using them to do comparisons of inventory with what’s actually on the shelf. We don’t want our students to be surprised the first time they walk into an organization and see this.”

Cost was an issue as the tablet plan was being developed. But through tough negotiating with Gateway, the tablet provider, the business school managed to keep prices within a couple hundred dollars of standard laptops. And because the tablets are required, students are eligible for financial aid.

Brennan to Retire as Basketball Coach

The dean of America East men’s basketball coaches heading into his 19th season at the University of Vermont, Tom Brennan will retire following the 2004-05 campaign. Brennan and UVM Director of Athletics Dr. Robert Corran made the announcement on November 5th.

“Tom has left a mark of distinction on our athletic program, the university, the community and on the student-athletes who have played for him. We are blessed to have worked with him and to call him a friend,” said Corran. “He has been, first and foremost, an educator who has used the game of basketball to teach the essential values of life. As a result, he has earned the utmost respect of his players, his colleagues, and the entire basketball community. We are grateful for his lifelong contribution, and we wish him the very best in his retirement.” “I congratulate Tom Brennan on an outstanding career at UVM,” commented University of Vermont president Dr. Daniel Mark Fogel.

“A career that has beautifully reflected Tom’s strong personal values and UVM’s educational mission: caring for the wellbeing of our students, balancing athletic success with academic achievement, and always displaying compassion, commitment, and creativity in teaching them skills that will last a lifetime. We thank Tom for all he has done for UVM and I personally wish him the very best in his future pursuits. We will miss him greatly, but he will always be a cherished member of the University community.”

His tenure is the second longest as a Vermont head coach and the longest of any America East mentor in the league’s 25-year history. He is the career leader in games coached at Vermont and is second all-time in coaching victories with 239 behind John ‘Fuzzy’ Evans, who won 261 games from 1940 to 1965. His 18-year record at Vermont is 239-269 (.470) and he heads into his 24th year as a collegiate head coach nine wins shy of 300 victories in his career (291-343, .459). Of the 56 head coaches who began with their school in the 1986-87 season, only three, Brennan, Jim Calhoun of UConn and Fang Mitchell of Coppin State remain at the same program.

Brennan heads into this year as one of just 14 current coaches to serve at the same school in Division I for 18 or more seasons. He also ranks 54th in victories among the 321 active Division I coaches. Brennan, 55, feels it is important to step away following this season.