August 1997

Root Page of Article: Enhancing Cross Cultural Education Through the Internet, by Jon Franklin Ramsoomair

Enter the Internet

I had been an Internet user for three years, and found that the range of data, utilities and facilities had exploded in volume and depth during the time.

From a relatively obscure collection and connection of computers randomly situated, the Internet has become a vast repository and disseminator of a spectrum of information in addition to being a major communications instrument. Corrddry (1994) estimates that over 30 million users populate the Internet. As of April 1994, there were 14,726 commercial enterprises, 6,958 gopher servers, 15 trillion bytes of information transmitted and 2.3 million Internet hosts. Given the reach, as well as, the potential of the Internet, it is surprising that universities have not been more active users. The trend in institutions of higher learning has been to provide information as opposed to utilizing and interacting with it. Dowlin (1995) suggests that such institutions need to adapt or fall by the wayside. Greater presence by universities will even enhance the viability and reputation of the Internet (Klassen, 1991). The literature suggests the greater participation of universities would be a powerful force for quality improvement (Frazier, 1995; Lucas, 1995; Foster and Jolly, 1994). Barboni's' (1995) study for the National Association for the Management of Information in Higher Education reports that 81% of university administration officers had a campus strategic plan and 47% an information technology plan but that there was a little effort to integrate the two. Additionally, these institutions were less likely to be connected to the Internet.

Talk and the IRC

That the Internet represents exponential growth in the exchange of information and communication in general is a statement that would be difficult to challenge. Yet, the general perspective on this communication tool tends to be, in the minds of many people, an amorphous blob in which specifics are difficult to define. The Internet has general benefits such as rapid electronic mail exchange but there is far more to it that this isolated feature.

One of the burgeoning aspects is the Internet Relay Chat (IRC), often referred to as the citizens band radio of the Internet. It is an adaptation (Gilster, 1994) of the UNIX talk program which allows a two-way, real time conversation to be carried out between computers. The IRC extends this notion to allow multi-user capabilities. The IRC however, is subject to numerous breakdowns, system crashes and the ubiquitous netsplits, in which connectivity is completely lost. The sheer volume of people who participate causes the system to collapse under the load demand.

An individual from New Zealand could log in and have a real-time, interactive conversation with someone from Canada, or can join a main channel to exchange entire files, or discuss various points of interest with any number of people from different part of the world, with the number being limited only by the robustness of the software. There have been efforts however, to come up with IRC type software that is less cumbersome than the traditional. Such software would require ease of handling, stability, dependability and reliability. --

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