CULLOWHEE – For the second consecutive year, Western Carolina University has been named one of the 100 “most wired” colleges in the nation by Yahoo! Internet Life magazine, a national publication and guide to the World Wide Web.
Western moved up three places in the rankings, to No. 65, from last year’s position at No. 68. WCU scored higher than such major universities as Maryland, Texas, Yale, Syracuse, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Michigan State. Other North Carolina universities ranked in the top 100 are Wake Forest (ranked No. 20), N.C. State (21), University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (56), Duke University (63), Elon (79) and East Carolina (95).
The rankings are part of the fifth annual “most wired colleges” survey results, published in the October edition of Yahoo! Internet Life magazine.
Western received especially high marks in the categories of Web site, electronic learning and technical support, and was commended for a pilot program studying the use of handheld computers, also called personal digital assistants, in the teaching and learning process.
“WCU is experimenting with wireless handheld devices in the classroom,” Yahoo! said in a chart listing its “Hot 100 Wired Colleges.” “Students and faculty use PDAs for word-processing, taking notes, and conducting on-the-spot library research.”
In addition to its consecutive rankings among the “most wired” universities in the nation, Western also was recognized by Yahoo! magazine in 1998. In a story listing the 50 most wired small towns in America, the publication bestowed the title of “most wired small town” in North Carolina on WCU’s home community of Cullowhee.
Western embarked more than six years ago on an ambitious effort to increase the use of computer-based technology in the classroom — and beyond. That venture included a massive rewiring project, completed in the summer of 1996, linking all WCU residence halls to the campus computer network and the World Wide Web. Each residence hall room is equipped with two computer connections, providing a “port by every pillow.” Western was the first campus in The University of North Carolina system to have in-room computer connections for every student in every residence hall.
With the arrival of the freshman class in August of 1998, Western also became the first UNC system campus to mandate that entering students report to campus with networkable computers. WCU was among the first 12 public universities and the first 40, public or private, in the nation to make student computer ownership part of the admissions process.
During their freshman year at WCU, students learn how to develop personal homepages on the World Wide Web, use the Internet to search for information, and utilize appropriate software programs for English composition, word-processing and oral presentations.
Apple Computer Inc. selected Western in 1999 to be part of a national customer profile series designed to show other colleges and universities how to incorporate the tools of high technology into higher education. The company named Western a “customer success story” despite the fact that WCU does not require students to bring Apple computers to campus; instead, the university’s “open-platform standard” simply requires that a student’s computer, regardless of brand, meet standards for accessing information via the Internet.