Within the next few years our approach to providing a university telephone system on campus may very well change. Soon stand-alone telephones that connect to the on-campus computer network through a jack on a desktop computer will be available. (For more detail about the status of the current telephone system, see Appendix 10: Current University Telephone System.)
Many-to-many communications environments need study and testing for use at SCSU. Technically desktop video conferencing is possible now, but programming needs have not developed to a significant degree. Other synchronous communications technologies, including text-based virtual-reality environments (e.g., MOOs/MUDs, chatware), which may have a large role to play in distance education, need to be assessed regularly for their appropriateness and usefulness in instruction and communication. Other asynchronous communications software, extensions largely, right now, of Web-based products, also offer possibilities for instruction, training and outreach.
Wireless communications systems are looming on the horizon. These systems show promise of great flexibility in providing access points to telecommunications networks. Currently wireless technology cannot provide the bandwidth necessary to run established applications. However, this is a technology that needs to be watched.
Asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) may be the technology of choice for telecommunications services in the future. The current high cost of this equipment is delaying our use of ATM services.
SCSU will maintain an ongoing interest in and understanding of the progress of MnVU, Minnesota Virtual University, looking for opportunities for members of our university community in instruction, training and professional development.
MnSCU is in the process of installing a digital satellite transmission system. This technology will allow for the transmission of programs simultaneously to a large number of sites. Interaction by the participants will be achieved through audio and/or data links. It will be important to understand the nature of this system-wide resource and to use it when appropriate. Along with this technology, attention should be given to another MnSCU initiative, e.g., the Minnesota Virtual University. Programming developed by MnSCU campuses for this project is expected to be available for transmission by June 1998.
Video servers are on the market and can deliver motion pictures, graphics and other visuals on demand. The only deterrent to using this technology is the fact that copyright clearance for such materials is difficult and under current conditions renders this approach cost prohibitive.