Academe Today's DAILY REPORT
for subscribers of The Chronicle of Higher Education
Friday, November 14, 1997
Official Leaves U. of North Carolina to Promote Computer-Enhanced Teaching
By JEFFREY R. YOUNG
A well-known information-technology administrator has left the University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for the business world and has taken 12 of
his staff members with him. He says he hopes to use his new position to
sell his vision of computer-enhanced teaching to colleges and universities.
William H. Graves, who was the university's interim chief information
officer and director of its Institute for Academic Technology, is taking a
leave of absence from the university to serve as a senior vice-president of
COLLEGIS, a consulting company that provides information-technology
services and staff members to colleges. Dr. Graves will also lead a new
non-profit organization called the Learning Technology Research Institute,
which will serve as a research-and-development wing of COLLEGIS. He hired
away a dozen members of the staff at the university's academic-technology
institute to join his new venture.
Dr. Graves says that technology will never be routinely used in the
classroom until businesses get involved in it, much as publishers now
produce textbooks. "I don't think instructional technology will ever work
unless there's a market," he says.
Some professors, however, disagree, saying that they are better off
developing their own educational materials without the intervention of
Dr. Graves says he plans to continue the research he led at the university.
That work focused on developing tools and techniques for using computers in
He says he left the university so that he could bring his ideas to more
campuses. "We were being called upon by lots of universities for help," he
says. "We'd have to say, 'No, we can't. We're not set up to come to the
campus.'" The main roadblock, he says, was financial. "The minute you start
talking about implementation," he notes, "you're talking real costs, and
somebody's going to have to pay for this."
By contrast, COLLEGIS specializes in going to college campuses and offering
training workshops and technical support -- for a fee. The company hopes to
use Dr. Graves's ideas and expertise to offer services to professors who
want to learn to create World-Wide Web pages and other multimedia tools for
"This looked to us like the perfect opportunity to turn from the non-profit
side to the profit side," says Dr. Graves.
Dr. Graves's move comes just months after the university filled the
position of chief information officer by hiring Marian G. Moore, formerly a
manager at SAS Institute, a major software company based in North Carolina.
Dr. Graves has been an outspoken advocate of teaching with technology for
years. He serves on the Board of Directors of CAUSE, a leading organization
in the effort to promote the use of technology in higher education. He sits
on the steering committee of the Coalition for Networked Information, a
related group. And he has been a leader of EDUCOM's National Learning
Infrastructure Initiative, which is working to create a market for
multimedia "courseware." EDUCOM is a group similar to CAUSE.
Such connections will serve him well in his new job, and could even make
him a rich man if the company succeeds, he acknowledges. But he says he is
not simply cashing in on research he performed at the university. "We're
not taking anyone's intellectual property," he says. "It's the integration
of the technology that we think we're good at."
Malcolm Brown, director of academic computing at Dartmouth College, says
Dr. Graves and COLLEGIS have their work cut out for them. "Most professors
are very particular about teaching and what they use to teach with," he
says. "They'll really have to hit the mark to make a profit."
The future of the university's academic-technology institute is also
unclear. Elson S. Floyd, executive vice-chancellor at North Carolina, says
the university will probably reduce the institute's staff and its scope.
"We do have a good cadre of individuals who will be continuing the
pioneering efforts that have been made," he says.