Green and All Wired Up

by Janice Pelayo, Editorial Assistant
The Web Philippines
August 1, 2002

Imagine walking into a classroom that has projection screens instead of blackboards. Instead of bare tables, there are computers, headphones, Web cams and mics as studying tools. Imagine professors who can check your homework by just opening a file on your computer. Sounds deliciously high-tech, doesn't it? Well, at the De La Salle University, such a scenario is already a reality.

De La Salle has always been known for its pioneering efforts in information technology. With the aim of making technology more accessible, the Information Technology Services Office (ITS) of DLSU was established to bring information technology to its students and faculty alike. Starting off with a grant from the Ford Foundation back in 1971, the University was able to build up its resources to create what is now known as the ITS.

In 1975, PDP 8/I Time-sharing system with 16 terminals. To think that’s how Bill Gates got his first exposure to computers. As early as 1987, it has developed a computerized registration system for the Graduate School of Business and Economics (GSBE). It was early in the use of networks, with the VAX 8350 linking computers in campus through the Ethernet backbone.

It’s one of the first schools to have full Internet connection, when the Philippines got wired directly to the Internet in 1994. It’s probably also the first school to have a Web site. In 1996, the University gave its graduate and undergraduate students Internet accounts. In 1999, it posted the results of the freshman entrance exams on the Web. An online broadcast system was also created on the Web to announce the suspension or cancellation of classes during typhoons and emergencies. In the same year, it piloted web-based enrollment for the Graduate School of Business. It also installed Oracle Financials/Payroll as its Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.

By 2000, they have established an operational satellite dish to boost their Internet access. The dish enables the University to access the USA side of the Internet directly. With an E1 (2.048 Mbps) leased line, the University now has 4.8 Mbps more, totaling their Internet bandwidth to 6.8 Mbps. These initiatives have made La Salle students and faculty members alike tech-savvy, or at least familiar with IT, early on.

As Samuel P. Mallare, Director of the ITS, expounds, the Center provides students and faculty with Net access, dial-up access (which means they can have their own Internet account with other ISPs), e-mail access, their very own portal called My.Lasalle to learn more about the University's facilities and history in general, wireless LAN cards which can be borrowed from the library, PC cameras, access to computer labs, high-tech learning in e-classrooms that offer video-conferencing, and of course, online enrollment. A look at their Web site at www.dlsu.edu.ph/offices/its/ will show numerous other services meant to make school procedures easier. As the site says, "the ITS is responsible for the supervision of computing facilities, development and monitoring of administrative computerized systems, generation of information systems reports and for rendering other system services with the end view that such services provide effective and efficient support to the requirements of the University."

"Funding comes mostly from the University as well as from students; it's a mix," explains Mallare on how the school was able to finance such an endeavor. Obviously, both the school administration and the students want these to work, and are willing to shell out a few bucks to maintain these perks in their school life. Certainly, the online enrollment alone saves a lot of time and energy as opposed to having to stand in line for hours just to sign up for a subject, for example.

In addition to these, the facilities are generally up-to-date. As Mallare elaborates, "We more or less have the latest tools, but we don't want to deploy Windows XP just yet, because we want to make sure that we don't have security concerns, because it's more powerful than Windows 98 or 2000. But we do have licenses for them; we have a Microsoft School Agreement, which is effective for two years. It's a lease-type license program that allows you to either discontinue or renew the contract to purchase the licenses. It covers Windows 98/NT/2000, BackOffice Client Access License, Office Professional, Work Standard, Encarta Reference Suite, and Encarta.

"We like to make sure that everything is checked before installing or using something new so as not to have any problems. We have all the Microsoft programs; we have Microsoft Office, Windows Studio, MS Project, Auto CAD, video-editing programs, animation, Microsoft Exchange...the list goes on. All of them are taught and made accessible so that teachers and students alike will understand the nature of the technology and make them more comfortable with it."