Monday, February 13, 2017

COPLAC, Technology, and Love

Continuing the celebration of forty years of Special Collections, the first stop on February’s drift through the historical backwaters is 1994, and an important event in the history of the university.
That year, UNC Asheville and eight other institutions, created the Council of Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) to, as the Blue Banner reported on February 24, "improve options for undergraduates at state funded universities" [by combining] "the traditional advantages of outstanding liberal arts colleges with the special mission and responsibilities  of public campuses".
Another import event in the relationship between  UNC Asheville and COPLAC occurred in February 2009. 
On February 19, of that year, the Blue Banner reported that UNC Asheville was now host to the national headquarters for COPLAC, and that UNC Asheville history professor, Bill Spellman, would be the first full-time director.
Spellman, who had been at UNC Asheville since 1998,  outlined his belief that "the liberal arts experience should not be limited to the private sector", and saw his role as "developing new learning opportunities for students and faculty at the 25 COPLAC institutions".
Under Spellman's direction,  COPLAC (which now has 30 member institutions) has, among other things, hosted summer faculty institutes, launched an undergraduate research journal, and instigated a number of digital liberal arts projects to provide multi-campus, team-taught, distance seminars in digital scholarship.
Online courses such as those promoted by COPLAC, and the use of technology in classrooms, are "now the norm for students" as the Blue Banner reported in February 2012, with online assignments, testing and grading, and the use of "smart classrooms" on campus all being utilized. And all this has happened since 1991, when "the physics department was among the first UNCA offices to hit the Web".
Changes, such as those ushered in by technology, are never without problems and disagreements. The February 26, 1998 lead story in the Banner described a UNC Chapel Hill decision to require freshmen in the year 2000 to own a laptop, and that laptops had been a requirement at Wake Forest since 1995, and Western Carolina since 1997.  While there were mixed feelings about the Chapel Hill decision, UNC Asheville saw things differently, with Thomas Cochran, UNCA associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, feeling that use "will be mandatory in the sense that all students are going to feel like they must have more computing becomes integrated into instruction and labs".

Some of us who were around in the distant early days of computing (Hello, the 1980s!), can remember being told how computers would herald the paperless office.

Well, we know how that turned out.

And who pays for the paper?

Until 1999, the answer seems to have been the university. "UNCA is one of the last branches of the university system that continues to offer free copying to its students", Robert Bland, the associate university librarian for technical services, told the Banner in February, 1999. But that was to soon change, as the library and computer labs began charging students to print. Mike Honeycutt from the computer center told the Banner, charging was necessary due to, the "increasing amount of wasted paper", and "the substantial increase in volume of copying from internet sources".

We can't leave February, without a mention of Valentine's and love, and even here, the impact of technology has been felt.

In February 2014, the Blue Banner told of a new Facebook page that had "exploded in popularity", and how "everyone on campus was talking about" 'UNCA crushes', a forum for students to "publicize their love, lust or appreciation".  One student was quoted as saying the page is "going to go on, because it fills a certain need".

We're not sure about the Facebook page, but the 'UNCA crushes' Twitter account was last updated in 2013.

Love, like technology, can be so fleeting.