Internet and Education: Some Sites To Explore

Internet and Education: Some Sites To Explore

By John Makulowich

As politicians, policy-makers and parents clamor to improve education, and fascination continues with the Internet and World Wide Web as delivery options, initiatives for schools across the nation abound. Five Web sites that are off the beaten path include Activeworlds, Blackboard, JOBTRAK, netLibrary and LittleBrother.


Activeworlds.com Inc.

(www.activeworlds.com)
The company recently launched the EduVerse and claims it is the Internet's first online 3-D community serving the early childhood through higher education markets.

The site, which already has signed on 500 schools, offers an online, virtual 3-D chat and interactive venue that allows students to use virtual reality tools to build real-time virtual cities by manipulating graphics and designing worlds.

Two schools that have adopted virtual-reality-based courses as part of their curriculum are the University of Colorado and the University of California at Santa Cruz. The former is teaching an introduction to computers course inside an Internet-based virtual computer. The latter launched a virtual campus where prospective students can schedule a tour with a representative from the admissions office.

The goal of EduVerse, according to Activeworlds.com, is to encourage educators to explore new concepts, learning theories, creative curriculum design and new paradigms in social learning.

As part of the EduVerse package, the company offers qualified participants a number of components, such as free Active Worlds Servers (hosted free by Activeworlds.com), free starter package of 20 Citizenships, a subscription to the EduVerse Virtual Learning Discussion ListServ, a discount on additional server expansions and citizenships and access to a selection of 3-D object paths and avatars.

Educators interested in participating in the Active Worlds EduVerse should send e-mail to edu@activeworlds.com.


Blackboard Inc.

(www.blackboard.com)
The company offers this free Web site as a place where teachers can post content, give online quizzes, issue assignments, conduct real-time chats and send e-mail. The company also makes software for colleges and universities that lets educators host their own online courses on their own servers.

The company claims that more than 300,000 people use Blackboard, and that more than 1,000 leading colleges, universities and K-12 schools nationwide are customers in all 50 states and in 60 countries.

Blackboard.com opened its site in March and already has more than 10,000 teachers and course sites.

It is adding about 40 new institutions each month. It offers a total package for institutions and educators who want to host a range of services, from single course Web sites to an entire online campus.

Beyond the Web site, the company supplies a range of value-added services, including systems integration and customization, education and training, project management, hosting services, course production and migration.

Evidence of the firm's appeal comes through the $16 million it has received in venture funding from companies such as Novak-Biddle Venture Partners, Carlyle Venture Partners LP and Merrill Lynch Kecalp LP.


JOBTRAK.COM

(www.jobtrak.com)
This is among the largest job listing and resume database services that target college students and alumni. It is free to students and alumni; employers pay a fee to post their positions.

In addition to the job listing and resume database, the system includes Career Forums, where students can post questions to college counselors and employers; the Career Contact Network, which allows students to find mentors in several career fields; and the Job Search Guide, which has tips, for example, on how to write a resume or negotiate a salary.

The company boasts relationships with 900 campus career centers, alumni associations, MBA programs and 400,000 employers. Its index, based on actual job postings in national colleges and universities, is a key resource for tracking job trends for college graduates and indicating economic developments.

Created in 1987, the company caters to employers who use the service to identify candidates for internships and full- and part-time employment. In 1998, more than 440,000 job openings were posted on the site. According to the company, more than 35,000 job-seeking students, graduates and professionals with experience access the Web site daily.

One of the newest additions to its career center is the George Washington University School of Business and Management. JOBTRAK.COM has a password-protected database that can only be accessed by students and alumni of partner schools. The security feature lets employers target recruitment efforts to specific schools.


netLibrary

(www.netlibrary.com)
This is an Internet-based electronic library and a leading provider of e-books online with more than 4,500 titles. It has agreements with several major library consortia and universities throughout the United States.

With fully searchable texts and access to books 24 hours a day, seven days a week, netLibrary offers libraries a way to broaden their services and lets users access its own virtual library. The site offers both free and fee-based services. The company combines the traditional library system with electronic publishing and offers a retrieval system to get the full text of scholarly, reference and professional books. The goal of the company is to be the world's largest distributor of electronic books.


LittleBrother

(www.littlebrother.com)
, A division of JSB Software Technologies plc, Scotts Valley, Calif., LittleBrother offers free Internet access, monitoring and filtering software to schools. More than 150 school districts have signed up for the program.

First introduced in 1996, LittleBrother monitors Internet usage over a local area network, blocks access to selected Web sites and summarizes usage with several reports.

The software can track Web, FTP and newsgroup usage by user, site, protocol, bytes transferred and time spent online. For schools interested in taking the software up a notch, the company offers a number of product upgrades, including the professional version of LittleBrother, adding database support to the free product or 12 months of software support.

Among the features in the professional version is the ability to block student access to specific Internet sites through a database of more than 750,000 categorized sites. There are also 12 months of updates.

Corporations also use the company's product, considered an Internet/network productivity solution, to manage and measure Internet and network resource usage. The software alerts the network administrator of excessive use of given sites and allows blocking of Web sites, games and chat rooms.

Among the company's strategic partners are Hewlett-Packard, IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp. and NCR Corp.

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