Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Faculty and staff members in the Fairmont State University College of Science and Technology routinely field 20 to 100 work-related e-mails per day. In this environment, the ability to manage and sort information is crucial, and this year has seen a big focus on streamlined, centralized communication with the college. For example, faculty and staff are experimenting with the use of an electronic forum for storing forms, archiving information, voting, calendaring and discussions.

Dr. Erica Harvey, Chemistry professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Biology, Chemistry and Geoscience, believes strongly in maximizing productive use of the technology that is currently available on campus. That interest prompted her to develop two forums in WebCT Vista to provide faculty and students an avenue to communicate and access campus information more conveniently and effectively.

Weary of the lack of organization created by the cluttered e-mail inbox and overstuffed filing cabinets, Harvey and her fellow administrators in the College of Science and Technology created the SciTech Faculty Forum, a communications tool that has been up and running since fall 2005. Harvey said the forum has eased communication within the College of Science and Technology and reduced the chance of important pieces of information being lost in the midst of the mounds of e-mail generated within the college.

The forum has become a clearinghouse for purchase orders and department and grant budget information as well as a vehicle for tracking curriculum proposals and providing places to post faculty accomplishments and awards.

"It is a versatile communications tool," Harvey said. "It has allowed us to cut through the e-mail jumble. What we have tried to do is to create an electronic office."

Harvey has also created a Science-Technology Student Forum, which provides students with helpful information such as how to find a tutor, how to prepare for an advising appointment, and opportunities for internships and scholarships.

Once a potential user has signed up, both of the forums can be accessed via the Fairmont State homepage "Quick Links." Click on "WebCT Vista" and then "Learning Technology Center." Students who are taking courses offered by the College of Science and Technology sign up for the Student Forum by filling out an electronic form that can be found in a Group Announcement at the end of their list of courses in Vista. Faculty and staff are added to the Faculty Forum by Harvey upon request.