College students key into future of education

April 15, 1997


Staff Writer, Waynesboro

MONT ALTO, Pa. - Taking a Project Vision class at Penn State Mont Alto is like a dream come true to college students.

They can hand in their assignments, talk to their professor and attend classes without ever walking out their front door.

It's all done with computers.

"This is the direction that education is going," said Project Vision instructor Susan Johnston Graf.

The 20 students registered in the writing class are each assigned a laptop computer with modems and CD drives.

They learn through the Internet, e-mail, group project software, multi-campus video conferences and the World Wide Web.

They also have access to a studio on campus where they can meet face-to-face to work on projects, help each other solve technical problems or just plug into the Internet and do their homework.


"In any field you're going to have to use computers," said Rachael Giambrone, 20, a second-year Vision student who's majoring in hotel/restaurant management.

"I didn't really know how to use a computer until I took this class," she said.

Graf and her students have been known to conduct classes for hours some evenings when they'll talk about assignments, discuss books they've read or explore other topics via their computers.

Graf also encourages her students to contact her with questions through e-mail.

"That's a special thing. The students have greater access to the professor," Graf said.

Penn State Mont Alto was one of the first three campuses in the Commonwealth Education System to become involved in the program introduced a year ago.

"The schedule is loose. There's no attendance policy. These guys know they're responsible for keeping in touch," Graf said, nodding to the five students who showed up Tuesday morning to work on creating a Project Vision Web Page.

Students who didn't attend the work session, including one woman who has another class scheduled at the same time, will catch up online.

"These students are experiencing education in a way that their parents couldn't have dreamed of doing," Graf said.

Though the class is geared almost entirely to writing on computers, there are some occasions when there's just no substitute for hard copy, which Graf can easily mark with her red pen.

Like most classes, the students are graded based on what they produce from their assignments. There are no exams.

The second-year Vision class is geared to professional writing, including resumes, business letters and critical analysis.

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