Electronic Communication and the Future of Educational Advising (Hopkins)

New Technologies and International Exchange:
Electronic Communication and the Future of Educational Advising

John D. Hopkins
OSEAS-Europe 1991 Biennial Conference Keynote Address
30 November - 04 December 1991
Montpellier, France

Distinguished Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am honored to have been asked to speak on this opening day of the Third OSEAS-Europe Conference, and would like to thank Deborah Herrin for her kind introduction. I would also like to congratulate Deborah on her appointment as your new OSEAS Domestic Computer Liaison. It was a pleasure for MicroSIG to unanimously nominate Deborah for the post last Spring. There are few people as qualified as she to serve as your Computer Liaison for the next two years.

Deborah referred in her introduction to MicroSIG's role in providing the Inter-L electronic mail network for the membership of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, and to the "Layered Training" program MicroSIG is developing to help NAFSAns better incorporate computerization into the work of International Education Offices. I will return to these activities later in my talk, and as your programs indicate they will also be covered in detail in other conference sessions.

I am encouraged that you have chosen "New Technologies in International Exchange" as a key theme of this conference. Employing new technologies will be crucial for OSEAS in the near future. Indeed, in addressing "Electronic Communications and the Future of Educational Advising" today, I would like to make one point clear above all: new technologies will determine the future of OSEAS advising. Electronic mail and telematic resources are no longer just an intriguing new option for OSEAS advisers -- they are rapidly becoming essential for advising work, and for the survival of the OSEAS advising structure.

The future information sources for all of international education will soon rely on Electronic Communications. The future of OSEAS as a viable structure for professional advising abroad on study and research in the United States will depend on our ability to incorporate electronic technologies into our advising work. OSEAS is at a critical point in its short history. The time has come to either embrace and exploit the potential of electronic communications, or be bypassed and rendered irrelevant.

The time has come for OSEAS to recognize and adjust to the changing ways in which information is being conveyed in the world around us. We are already living in an Information Society. In the United States alone, there are now more than 50 million personal computers -- one for every fifth man, woman, and child. Nearly 80% of the labor force already processes information with computers, and the direction in which we are quickly moving is to link all these separate personal computers into a unified global telecommunications network.

The Information Society is especially noticeable in the knowledge and education industries. Library catalogs are already more likely to be electronic than on card files or microfiche. There is perhaps no better model of the electronic library than here in France, where the "tres grande bibliotheque de France" (TGB) envisioned by Francois Mitterand plans to have at least 3% (some 300,000 volumes) of the entire National Library holdings available through telematic access by 1995.

How information is accessed, processed, and distributed is vital to OSEAS advisers. Our work depends on our ability to obtain and relay to our clients highly changeable data — new visa regulations, taxation rulings, academic credentials equivalences, admissions and study requirements, testing policies, the availability of grants — data for which an exacting interpretation and modification to local national conditions is essential. We depend on timely, reliable access to original data sources, and we often also depend on our ability to consult with trusted colleagues on how to interpret this data. We depend, in short, on our ability to communicate.

I will thus limit my discussion of new technologies to communications — to how we access and distribute information. But there are also many other new technologies of potential use to advisers. The massive cheap storage and extraordinary indexing and searching potential of CD-ROM would be a boon to any advising office that could obtain our Minimum Reference Bookshelf on CD-ROM rather than the current dozens of expensive, cumbersome and sometimes seldom-used volumes. Hypercard technology holds fascinating potential for inexpensive, easily-produceable and quickly-updateable visual presentations, complete with scanned photographs, voice editing, and live film and video inserts.

Computerized voice mail and computerized direct faxing capability both have significant advantages over their standalone versions, and video-conferencing might also have a role in group advising. But foremost among the new technologies is the simplest and most powerful — electronic mail and E-mail networking. I would like to share with you three examples of how electronic networking has been described in the media during just the past few months.

Media Coverage — Scientific American

In September, the journal "Scientific American" devoted an entire Special Issue to "Communications, Computers and Networks: How to Work, Play and Thrive in Cyberspace." "The transformation of civilization through the fusion of com¬puting and communications technologies has been predicted for at least 50 years," began the introduction, [but] "now the revolution has truly begun."
"The information age we are now creating will be based on computers and the networks that interconnect them ... by [combining] computing and communications technologies, we [are creating] an infrastructure that will profoundly reshape our economy and society ... a world in which hundreds of millions of computers, servants to their users ... accept, store, process, present, and move information ... [and allow us to] easily plug into .. a global [network of] information ..."

The "servants to their users" was perhaps a reminder that, all too often, today's computers can still be as much frustration as help — it is sometimes difficult to remember that we are the masters, and the computers our tools. But there is hope.

The "most profound technologies are those that disappear," says Scientific American. So-called "ubiquitous computers" are already appearing in our cars, homes, offices, and schools, and will be as integral to our new "literacy technology" and as natural and instinctive to our use and thinking as the pencils and paper we are using today.

Leonardo and Interactive Telecommunications

"Leonardo," Journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology, also devoted a special issue (Vol. 24, #2) to "Connectivity: Art and Interactive Telecommunications." "Leonardo" describes new uses of computers by artists worldwide, how personal computers are enabling new dimensions in creativity through real-time collaboration with digitalized art. Painters, designers, sculptors and musicians in different countries can now work simultaneously on joint creative images, regardless of geographic separation, through computerized linkage of themselves and their art. There is a new "virtual reality" for the world of art; a new dimension of the phenomenon which is sometimes termed "telepresence," or as Leonardo puts it, the ability of the artist to be "both here and there."

The power of telepresence to extend our professional influence is revolutionary. For artists, Leonardo described the creative excitement of telepresence as a "virtual eroticism." And while I am hesitant about the "eroticism," I was reminded in a modest way of the significance of "telepresence" in my own work.

A year ago, at a meeting in Washington, we were discussing communications among a new committee. I had been suggested as chair of this committee. One person questioned whether this would work, wondering how, living rather far away in Finland as I did, I could communicate with the others. He was thinking, of course, of the high cost of telephone bills, and the problematics of telephoning over the 10 time zones that separated us.

I pointed out that all the committee members were on E-mail and we had no need to use the telephone at all. This other person did not use E-mail, and still looked skeptical. But at this point one of the committee members with whom I had been in regular E-mail contact looked at him and said "This is not a problem. I feel as close to John through E-mail as with any of my other colleagues anywhere."

I must confess I wondered for a moment whether the fact that my supporter came from Bozeman, Montana had significance in this comment, as neither Finland nor Montana are usually thought of as "close to" anywhere else. But "telepresence" IS a significant benefit of E-mail. Separation by distance is no longer relevant, nor is the cost of former modes of commmunication. The high speed, low cost, ease of access and "usability" of E-mail messages creates new modes of cooperation that were unthinkable with previous communications technologies.

My own involvement in International Education would hardly be possible if I had to rely on phone, fax and airmail. With E-mail I am only seconds away, instead of thousands of miles. And if I am not quite "both here and there," I am at least as close as anyone else on the planet who is also on E-mail, and in a sense even "closer" to some than their colleagues across the street in the same town who are NOT on E-mail.

E-Mail Cost-Effectiveness for OSEAS?

Would such instant, low-cost communications access be useful for OSEAS, as we discuss strategies for integration in the midst of shrinking budgets? I think of one Monday morning last October, in preparation for this conference. On the fax machine was an Organizing Committee letter to IIE-Budapest, asking about our Eastern European grants. The machine tried from seven in the morning until one in the afternoon to send this fax to Budapest.

At one o'clock our office person brought the letter back, along with a stack of error messages the fax machine had produced. It had connected to Budapest eleven times, with an average 4 minutes per connection, but had failed to transmit the letter. My Tampere phone book says it costs about $1.00 per minute to call Budapest. The budget thus paid over $40.00 to NOT get that faxed letter to Hungary — a "failure of faxability" that occurred several times to other countries as well, as some of you know.

That same morning I received an E-mail note from Ildiko Ficzko of Szeged, down the road from Budapest. She had just returned from England and wanted to know if there was still time to apply for a grant. I replied by E-mail, "Yes, if you can get it to me today by E-mail." An hour later I had it. Reading the application I noticed that the cost of travel from Szeged to Montpellier was missing. I E-mailed back this question, and by one o'clock had her response and thus a complete application.

During the same time I had spent $40 failing to send a fax to Budapest, I had exchanged three different sets of E-mail messages to Szeged at no cost. I had a readable application (unlike many of those I received by fax) in a digital form which could be forwarded to the other committee members for approval, forwarded in part to Ted Riedinger, whose session Tuesday Dr. Ficzko will chair, and modified for the Speaker Profiles in our Conference Program — all without my having to re-type it.

This is only a simple example of the speed, economy, and efficiency of E-mail. And it raises a question. As our office budgets continuously shrink, can we any longer afford such primitive, wasteful technologies as fax, phone, and postage as the mainstays of advising communications?

I suggest that the ability of E-mail to help us obtain needed information quickly and inexpensively, whether from other advisers or from computerized archives of advising resources, modify this information with our local expertise, and then equally quickly and inexpensively distribute it to our colleagues and clients is precisely what we need. It is what we desperately need to continue being able to do our jobs, within the limits of human tolerance, as we face increasing demand for educational advising at the same time as the financial support for both advising staff and services continues to decline.

Department of Education OCLC Grant

My third media example ties into what Professor Riedinger will cover next in "Library and Information Profession Skills and Overseas Advising." The United States Department of Education recently awarded a grant to OCLC, an organization linking more than 11,000 libraries in 41 countries, for "Assessing Information on the Internet: Providing Library Services for Computer-Mediated Communication."

The grant publication stated:

"Computers and high-speed communication networks are changing the ways in which knowledge is created, stored, distributed, and used, and ... require a rethinking of traditional library services ... how we locate, acquire, catalog, index, store, retrieve, access and disseminate information and how we provide reference services."

That could have been spoken directly to OSEAS advisers. These are exactly the things we do. What does the OCLC project mean for us? True library services and other structured information sources will soon be available, quickly and inexpensively, on the Internet — that high-speed global "network of networks" which many universities and private international education offices already use — but from which Fulbright, USIS, and most government advising offices are conspicuously absent.

Can traditional OSEAS advising continue to exist if both our clients and our "competitors" will be able to access and distribute more and better information, more rapidly and efficiently, while our own advising centers cannot?

What Might We Conclude From These Three Examples?

What might we conclude from these three media examples? It seems evident that The Electronic Age is here. OSEAS advisers, and those organizations which finance, regulate or administer OSEAS advising services, must recognize that the means by which the world around us obtains, processes and distributes information has changed and will continue to change.

As John Deupree of the College Board International Office, who many of you know from his years of dedication to OSEAS, observed during one of our MicroSIG sessions at NAFSA's Boston Conference last May, "We are surrounded by a Culture of Technology. We are not offered the choice of participating in this Culture. We are required to do so. Change is inevitable. We can only hope to control this inevitable change, and perhaps turn it to our favor, through planning."

What type of planning? How can new technologies be employed toward the theme of this conference, "Integrating European Educational Advising Services"? How do they address our conference subthemes, to integrate Western and Eastern advising resources, integrate traditional OSEAS advising services with new university-based services, and integrate OSEAS expertise in U.S. advising within the larger context of the new European mobility? More importantly, how can we integrate OSEAS advising itself into a telecommunications structure that will enable us to meet these other objectives?

To help answer these questions, we might first consider what has occurred since the last time OSEAS-Europe convened, and what some of these events might suggest for our future.

Events in Dubrovnik Since May 1989

The 30 months since May 1989, when we met at the Inter-University Center in Dubrovnik, have witnessed much change. Two weeks ago I read in the Washington Post that the hotel in which I stayed in Dubrovnik had been bombed and burned to the ground. Since then I have heard that the Inter-University Center itself has been shelled and gutted by fire. Two years ago how many of us would have imagined that "suffering" and "ruin," tragedy in both human and cultural terms, would be the words by which Dubrovnik is described today?

Other change has been more positive. In May 1989 the Wall still stood; today our participants from the former DDR join us as representatives of a united Germany. Present today are two advisers from an independent Estonia, and one from an independent Lithuania. Two years ago, not many of us would have predicted these events. Further East, the situation is perhaps not yet resolved, though the pattern seems clear of centralized control dissolving into local self-determination.

Much has been written about the influence of electronic communications on the failed coup attempt in Moscow last August. One lesson seems clear. One can no longer stop the flow of information. Those adept at communicating with the new technologies were able to force the flow of events; those who were not adept at communicating were unable to maintain control. Ironically for this end of Soviet Marxism, it was the "people" who prevailed in August, helped by the information they distributed, and the support they obtained, through their Internet connections.

And while I would not draw the parallel too closely, our own "people," the students and scholars in the universities around us, are also increasingly adept with the new technologies, while the USIS and Fulbright offices who should serve them are not. Already, as I have written elsewhere, our clients are demanding services on the Internet that OSEAS is unable to provide. Are they also beginning to force the flow of events?

In Dubrovnik, we heard that a new "European NAFSA" might be formed at a small December meeting in Amsterdam. As we know, over 500 appeared to found the European Association For International Education, the third conference of which will begin here on Thursday.

In Dubrovnik we heard that 1988 ERASMUS mobility had reached a new record of 4000 exchanges. More than 45,000 students have now been exchanged within Europe alone with the help of ERASMUS grants, and there is a new commitment to expand ERASMUS linkage to the United States.

The Creation of a New Echelon of University-Based Advisers

A new echelon of university-based exchange advisers has been hastily created to administer these programs and counsel students on their new study options. Most of these new advisers are very new — of the seven other Finnish participants here today, for example, not one had her present job in May of 1989.

Life is not easy for new university advisers. Being new, and thus often lacking experience, resources, or even the time to acquire these, for the enormously different range of countries and study options on which they may be expected to advise, the new university advisers may face what seems like a hopeless task. They need our help.

One reason EAIE was formed, and continues to attract increasing membership, was to provide a forum for new advisers to establish contacts and share their knowledge on how to administer European exchanges. This need for new forums and more information is also reflected in our conference attendance today, where the largest registration ever for an OSEAS conference includes 48% of us from universities and 22% from private agencies, as opposed to 19% for Fulbright advisers and 6% USIS advisers.

Conferences are a useful and pleasurable way of establishing contacts and learning new information. Nothing can replace the warmth and vitality of direct human contact. But: would an electronic networking of advisers and advising resources, which enabled an adviser or international coordinator to instantly retrieve up-to-date data on a particular exchange program or another country's educational credentials and university offerings; which enabled the adviser to quickly ask through an on-line network of advising colleagues any questions about the application of this material; which enabled the adviser then to quickly print customized brochures for his or her own clients, or relay the information on-line to the clients directly — would such an electronic advising network be useful in addition to our personal meetings at annual or biennial conferences?

Such a network already exists. The Inter-L electronic forum which MicroSIG runs for NAFSA has been working for over three years and has over a thousand subscribers from universities and private educational organizations on four continents. The TRACE database here in Montpellier is fully operative via E-mail, and NAFSA's "ANSWER" knowledgebase is already collecting data. The EAIE headquarters in Amsterdam will begin E-mail operations in January. But how many OSEAS advisers are able to use these? Where is the OSEAS electronic presence?

When I spoke on E-mail in Dubrovnik, only 2 of 84 participants were E-mail users. Of the 143 advisers registered here, 37 (27% overall) are E-mail users. Now 37 may appear to be a small number, except by comparison with 2. But let us take another perspective on this number. Over 70% of the E-mail users at this conference are from universities, and the university category is nearly half our total registration. A further 27% of our E-mail users are from private organizations. But there is not a single Fulbright or USIS adviser with E-mail access to the Internet.

What Do the Events Since Dubrovnik Suggest?

What do these changes since Dubrovnik suggest for international education in Europe? The patterns suggest that increasingly more European students will become interested in exchanges. More information will be demanded to support these exchanges. More personnel might be added to university and government advising centers to help provide the information (though budget reductions may discourage adding new personnel), but it is certain that more productivity will be expected in future from those who are there now. Reliable reference sources must be developed for all programs, and cooperation with colleagues increased.

The need for training of both new and older personnel will continue to be critical. EAIE membership and attendance at annual EAIE conferences should continue to increase, and I would also expect the emergence of EAIE regional and sectional conferences. EAIE members will also look for help in joint ventures from their colleagues in NAFSA and OSEAS.

Common to all of these is the need for efficient communications networking such as E-mail can provide. European university personnel already have the prerequisites for such a network. Virtually every university is connected to the Internet. There is already considerable E-mail contact among university advisers. All that is needed to establish an EAIE-net, similar to NAFSA's Inter-L, as a forum for European mobility concerns is to provide a hub into which the existing spokes can be connected.

Intra-European mobility is mainly outside the OSEAS domain, and will expand of its own momentum. Yet European developments are also potentially very receptive to what OSEAS could provide.

Demand for European exchanges to the U.S. should increase, and with this demand for the specialized resources and expertise in U.S. exchange advising which only OSEAS currently possesses. The theme of the EAIE conference in Berlin next November, "The Atlantic Link," adjoining the annual CIEE meeting, will guarantee additional interest on which OSEAS-Europe could build.

The demand for OSEAS advising expertise is clear and growing as we become more widely known. But how can we supply this demand? Where is the telematic framework through which we can accommodate and exploit this interest — through which we can communicate to our clients in the medium that they are increasingly using?

I emphasize the telematic framework. It is certain that the use of E-mail will expand. In 1989 the Internet comprised some 800 individual networks, of which BITNET/EARN is only one. Today it comprises over 3000 networks and 9 million individual users in the U.S. alone. In 1994 it is expected to comprise more than 10,000 networks, and 25 million users, exchanging more than 15 billion messages annually, in the U.S. alone.

With such numbers, the "critical mass" defining a telematic information society is beyond question. The expectations of this new information society must be noted carefully. Those who are accustomed to acquiring information via telematics will not be content with more primitive alternatives when searching for the answers they want, even if they could afford to be. It is a truism that if information is not available in the form in which the client expects to get it, he will look for it elsewhere.

Two years from now, telematic access via the Internet may already be the only viable source of truly up-to-date advising information. The choice OSEAS advising faces today is either to become an active electronic provider, or to gradually become irrelevant and extinct.

It is ironic that the established Fulbright and USIS offices of Western Europe are the ones most threatened. Eastern Europe is turning to electronic technologies more rapidly than the West. I mentioned that 27% of us here today use E-mail. 29% of those from Eastern Europe are E-mail users, all but two from U.S.-sponsored advising centers. This contrasts with 25% for Western Europe, and zero USIS or Fulbright advising centers.

I am tempted to ask, with our East-West cooperation theme, who will be helping whom with what? Once new Eastern advisers learn how to interpret and apply the information E-mail can bring them, how much more will they need from the West? For U.S. exchange questions, E-mail can connect them more easily to Washington or New York, or indeed to any U.S. campus, than the phone or fax would connect them to Paris, London or Berlin — just as European universities can already connect directly to their colleagues in North America, and elsewhere on the globe.

The Ability for OSEAS-Europe to Connect

But let me conclude on a positive theme. Opportunity is still ours. It is perfectly possible for OSEAS-Europe to integrate itself electronically, and lead the rest of the OSEAS world in so doing. Europe is the only OSEAS region where every country is firmly established on the Internet. The variety of means to connect to the Internet within each country is growing almost daily. Most of the equipment we would need to connect has been in our offices for years. There are no major expenses nor technological barriers confronting us. The only barrier is our willingness, and the willingness and support of those who set our management policies, to use the technology available to us.

Training in the use of this technology is on the way from NAFSA. MicroSIG has undertaken the development of a "Layered-Training Program" to help the NAFSA membership use TRACE, to use NAFSA's own ANSWER Knowledgebase, and to use other electronic resources both currently existing and to come on the Internet. The first materials for this Program should be available at NAFSA's Annual Conference in Chicago next May.

This Training Program ("layered" for beginning, intermediate, and advanced-level users) will help us prepare for the time when most of our data will be received electronically. It will show how we can get information with electronic mail, and how we then can use this information with our own word-processors, databases, or desktop publishing software. It will show how easily we can exchange information with colleages in our own countries, in other parts of Europe, and throughout the world. It will show how your computer can do much of your routine work more efficiently, freeing your own expertise, which no computer can replace, to be employed more productively. You will hear more about this program as the conference progresses.

New technologies are producing rapid and dramatic change in the ways we live and work. The pace of change is sometimes frightening, but understanding the change can help us control it, and controlling it will enable the technology to help us.

Electronic communications could be a powerful resource for OSEAS in Europe, connecting us to each other, and to the larger world around us. We have in the European OSEAS advisers gathered in this room a tremendous wealth of knowledge and expertise, which is urgently in demand. We need a better means to share what we have with each other, with the rest of Europe, and with our colleagues throughout the world. New communications technologies can help us do this. These new communications technologies will determine our future.

Thank you.

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