State of the art technology at work at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service

A remarkable special format class at New York University is connecting a classroom of twelve graduate students in New York to a classroom of more than twenty students in Brussels. Digital televideo conferencing technology backed up by e-mail links and the Internet is enabling this transatlantic course, which connects NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service to the Institute for European Studies of the Free University of Brussels.

Discussions are led, alternatively, by two professors based in New York, Dennis C. Smith of the Wagner School and Ian Holliday, a Fulbright Scholar from the University of Manchester; and by two Brussels-based professors, André Sapir, president of the Institute of European Studies, and Professor Eric Remacle. The professors, working from different ends of the globe, created a curriculum for the course (entitled “European Union/American Union: A Transatlantic Exploration of Institutional and Policy Development”) that compares patterns of institutional development and approaches to public policy in the European Union and in the United States.

What makes the course, so unique, according to NYU’s Professor Smith, is its many dimensions of connectivity. “This project is about more than simply enabling NYU students to see and speak with their colleagues in Brussels,” said Smith. “We have used today’s technology to create an infrastructure that encourages a constant dialogue between the two classrooms. Web pages and e-mail addresses are resulting in high-tech pen pals; even the course syllabus and assigned readings were compiled from resources in the United States and abroad, identified by professors on both sides of the ocean.”

This project grew out of conferences in Florence and Mexico City led by NYU President L. Jay Oliva and attended by university leaders from Bonn, Paris, Warsaw, Mexico, New Delhi, Dublin and Florence who are members of the International Rectors Group. Preliminary discussions focused on the ways in which the business of great research universities is being influenced by technological change and how member institutions might strengthen their cooperation through new media technologies. Subsequent meetings, which were attended by communications experts from several international institutions; NYU’s Vice President for Enrollment Services David Finney; José Sarukhén, rector of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM); and the head of information services at UNAM, explored concrete proposals to strengthen the ties among member universities.

Robert Berne, dean of the Wagner School and vice president for academic development at NYU, believes that the subject matter is a natural match for such a transcontinental course; its location — at NYU in the heart of New York City — is also entirely fitting. “The issues explored in this course — from policies on immigration, defense, and telecommunications to patterns and problems of expanding the European and American Unions — are prompting informed debate in all parts of the world. The Wagner School, with the resources and support of the University, is proud to host such discussion among international scholars and educators.”

The class will continue to meet through the end of the fall semester, with the last session on December 12. A follow-up televideo conference, with several guest speakers, will serve as a postscript to the course on January 23, 1997.

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