THE FUTURE IS NOW
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communication technologies can link up teachers and students in
any location, at any time of day. This leads us to some obvious
questions: Do we need classrooms at all? Why go to a campus when
you can study online? The pros and cons of distance learning will
be debated for many years to come. But this approach, at least for
now, is best suited to nontraditional students - those who already
are employed, who reside a great distance from a campus or who need
very specific kinds of instruction. And no matter how sophisticated
the technology becomes, residential research universities - academic
communities engaged in teaching, research and public service - will
continue to serve essential functions. They will, however, do some
things quite differently than in the past.
with teaching, those things include scholarship and research. Universities
perform much of the basic research that enables development of new
digital technologies. Computer scientists, electrical engineers
and other scholars at UCLA have contributed to some of the most
important discoveries in this field.
addition to creating information technologies, universities have
an obligation to help interpret their significance for our society.
A major step in that direction has been taken by the UCLA Center
for Communication Policy, which recently released The UCLA Internet
Report: Surveying the Digital Future.
amount of human knowledge is growing at an amazing rate, and the
rapid advance of IT is a major factor in the unprecedented expansion
of information and data. As the knowledge base grows, so does the
complexity of the problems that challenge our society, with the
result that the traditional categories of knowledge are becoming
less useful. At universities, scholars from different fields who
rarely, if ever, talked to each other in the past now often work
together to find the best possible approach to a problem. This multidisciplinary
crossover is accompanied by a proliferation of specialized fields
and subfields. For instance, dozens of UCLA scholars are engaged
in the emerging field of nanoscience, which involves the study,
engineering and manufacture of very small things, on the scale of
a billionth of a meter (see "Small Science," page 26). Nanoscience
builds upon the vital and strategic role of IT in managing and using
data in astounding new ways.