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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Technically speaking at college

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URI professor podcasts, students YouTube

KINGSTON, R.I. -- August 29, 2007 -- Ah, college days of pen and paper seem destined for the museum. Today, more and more students and their professors are “talking” to each other in increasingly technical ways.

Take Vince Petronio, assistant professor of communication studies at the University of Rhode Island and a technology veteran.

The professor records and podcasts all of his lectures so that students can review what was done in class and online students can listen to lectures if they want to supplement their work. Petronio also gives students his instant messaging account so they can contact him whenever he’s online.

Students use YouTube in some of his classes to show video clips in their presentations. They find the material on YouTube and link it to their PowerPoint presentations or they simply upload their own video clips to YouTube and link to them. This way they don’t have to worry about bringing video tapes or DVDs to class.

Petronio has taught online courses to an army of students every semester for the past 11 years. Yet online courses almost seem passé in the rapidly evolving world of communications.

And online classes are not for everyone, the professor notes. Students need to be highly motivated, according to the professor. Some students need standardized meetings and face to face, to do well academically.

Petronio includes web-based assignments in his face-to-face classes to supplement class work. Students in his upper division classes make extensive use of presentation technologies such as PowerPoint, embedded audio files, embedded video files, DVDs and YouTube.

“Five years ago podcasting was rare, YouTube, Facebook, or MySpace didn't exist, but today students are coming to URI with a working knowledge of these technologies.

“My own 14 year-old daughter Olivia who just became a high school freshman has a MySpace page AND a Facebook page. She often carries on multiple online chats simultaneously. She has an iPod and a sidekick 3 phone that enables her to be constantly online via AIM as well as be able to check out web sites such as her Facebook page. She has already made PowerPoint presentations, as well as many word documents with embedded graphics. She is, of course, an 'old' pro at using email.

“Imagine the technology that will be in use when she enters college in four years,” the professor says.