A teacher's style is his trademark. So when John DeAngelo, associate dean of IT at Temple University's Fox School of Business in Philadelphia, introduced the idea of electronic teaching in late 1998, he had to bring teachers along slowly to this new way of communicating with students.
Following academic protocols, DeAngelo, 58, attended committee and faculty meetings to discuss their needs and then later to show the faculty how e-learning tools would enhance, not change, their individual styles.
"We had an award winning teacher in legal studies who was particularly sceptical that a student laptop program would improve the nature of her type of learning," DeAngelo says. "So we showed her how you can use these laptops to share learning, get immediate feedback and even improve student writing."
"That once sceptical professor has become the de facto spokesperson for the new e-learning program," said Mike Leeds, associate professor of economics at the 30,000-student university. "Students love the program just as much."
"They don't want to give up their laptops even for needed maintenance," said Munir Mandviwalla, chairman of the MIS unit at Temple.
Mandviwalla led the classroom preparedness program and is now launching wireless student networking in one of Temple's schools of business. "This is all John's vision," Mandviwalla says. "Students are more productive because they can instantly share information between themselves and instructors, conduct Web searches and hold live chat classroom discussions."
As the new department has swelled to 700 students, DeAngelo recently acted on a new idea: offer students the chance to work on real computer servers and workstations for internship and thesis projects.
Critical to his effectiveness is a grounding in the mindsets of faculty and students he serves, DeAngelo explains, adding, "everything we do is part of the education process".