July 24, 2001
Smaller PDAs get bigger for MBAs
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. It's likely that today's students like digital fortunetellers can see the future in the palms of their hands.
Take Ryan Chan arriving at school for his 9 a.m. MBA finance class at 8:54 a.m. No time to check e-mail? But, wait, he can do it with his personal digital assistant in the halls of Purdue University's Krannert School of Management.
Newly installed software and wireless access points let students "sync up" their PDAs with the university computer network and the Internet.
"The technology replaces many of the functionalities of a laptop," Chan says. "With a wireless card attached to the PDA, you can not only read and respond to your e-mail, but also check for new appointments, as well as access and transfer online data to and from personal computers."
Chan says that if he needs to print out a document from his PDA, he can do so on an infrared-access equipped printer.
All this is not just another silicon brick in the digital wall, says G. Logan Jordan, the Krannert School's assistant dean who is responsible for the schools information technology organization.
"One of the imperatives of leading schools of business today is to replicate our students' work environment after graduation," he says. "Wireless networking through PDAs will become ubiquitous in the increasingly digital business world."
In the interim, Chan might find a challenging message on his PDA from a professor, giving new meaning to the old pop quiz.
The access points located throughout the Krannert Building replace the PDA's "cradle," the device that enables users to upload and download information from a PDA to a desktop computer or server.
The advantage of the Krannert School's implementation is that it allows PDA and PC connections via the wireless local-area network, infrared and cell phone dial-up. Another key point is the implementation's platform independence, allowing support for all major makes of handheld devices with both Palm and Windows CE operating systems and EPOC, the European standard.
The wireless infrared access technology is starting to show up at airports and other public places, Chan says.
"Also, PDAs are easier to set up," he says. "One of our professors who was teaching in Germany downloaded the software necessary to sync up his PDA in less than two minutes and access his data from campus."
The San Francisco Chronicle this month reported that PDA maker Palm has joined with third-party developers to create infrared beaming kiosks to allow users to access the Internet to communicate, shop and play online games in public places. Bay area baseball fans can even get up-to-date statistics on their PDAs while in the stands at Pac Bell Park, home of the San Francisco Giants.
Wireless PDA access is the latest installment of the two-year wireless connectivity effort at the Krannert School. The school began offering its students wireless laptop computer access throughout the building a year and a half ago.
Jordan says the wireless effort has been a valuable transitional technology as Krannert expands by adding the new Jerry S. Rawls Building. Groundbreaking for the 128,000-square-foot building will take place in October.
"We couldn't wait for the completely wired new building to come online," Jordan says. "We needed to introduce the new technology as a retrofit in our old building as a way to give our professors the opportunity to bring dynamic, new online resources into the classroom.
"We're experiencing a sea change in how business education is conducted using new technologies, and we can't wait until we're comfortable in our new facility."
The initial installation and beta testing of wireless technology in the old building convinced the school that it also had a place in the Rawls building.
"When we saw how much the students used wireless in completing their team assignments in the drawing room of our current building, we decided to incorporate the technology into the new facility's public areas," Jordan says.
In the last few years, many top MBA programs have debated whether or not to require students to purchase a laptop. While some have, others have taken a wait-and-see attitude.
Jordan says the question is moot. "Students and faculty will be bringing new tools to the classroom to get their work done. We must provide the environment that allows them to use their digital tool of choice."
Sources: Ryan Chan, (765) 496-3397, firstname.lastname@example.org
G. Logan Jordan, (765) 494-4370, email@example.com
Writer: J. Michael Lillich, (765) 494-2077, firstname.lastname@example.org
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; email@example.com