Drawn to The Web

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

Use of the World Wide Web has exploded around the globe in recent months, according to a study released earlier this month, and the trend has been paralleled at Boston College, where a growing number of departments are utilizing this powerful communication medium.

The Web, as it is commonly called, enables users to view documents stored at computer sites around the world and has quickly become one of the Internet's most popular features. It allows users to see photographic and other images, and hear audio segments, while providing "links" the user can click on to gain access to information related to the "page" being viewed.

Boston College attracts thousands of Web users from within and outside the University every day. They are using the Web to find information on a growing number of departments, offices and programs almost instantly, and other departments are quickly seeing the potential a Web page holds.

The Career Center's World Wide Web home page, for example, enables Boston College students to evaluate how competitive a prospective law school program is, or get advice on what to include in their resume and cover letters, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

While the electronic frontier may be unfamiliar, even intimidating, to some, administrators say the University is encouraging its community to look at the Web.

"You should view the Web as another means of communication, but beyond the traditional methods of mass mailings, form letters and the like," said Director of Institutional Information James O'Neill, one of the key architects of Boston College's Web site. "It is one of the least expensive methods, it can provide more detailed information and can be updated quickly and easily."

But perhaps the most compelling reason for Boston College and other institutions to be part of the Web, O'Neill said, "is so many students come to campus well-versed in computer technology. They are experiencing this kind of environment at an increasingly earlier age and they expect to be able to communicate this way."

Various University offices and departments have been developing Web pages since the spring of 1994. These can be accessed directly or through links from the main Boston College home page (http://www.bc.edu). In recent weeks, O'Neill noted, users have been accessing the main home page an average of 18,000 to 20,000 times a day.

Among the most consistently popular pages on BC's "InfoEagle" are those for the Agora Project, the Boston College Viewbook, the Carroll School of Management, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and University Libraries.

As other offices come on-line, O'Neill and members of the Information Technology staff are constantly refining and reorganizing the home page and its links so users will have an easier task of finding what they want. One of the best ways to browse the University's Web offerings, O'Neill says, is to open the InfoEagle resources folder marked "Hierarchical Order." Almost every administrative or academic office on campus is represented.

The Biology Department - first in the University to establish a home page - not only offers faculty profiles and descriptions of its research facilities, but contains results from a survey of students about its computer laboratory. The University Libraries home page provides almost all the functions available at a circulation desk and the Chaplaincy's Web page includes schedules for liturgies and service opportunities.

"Through our Web page," said Office of International Programs Director Marian St. Onge, "a student who might want to study in Dresden next year can call up the home page for that institution and get all kinds of information - even the weekly menus. Meanwhile, all these colleges and universities abroad have a link to Boston College on their home pages, so we are really out there in the world."

Members of the University community interested in establishing a Web page can easily find help, O'Neill said. Information Technology offers Web classes and on-line tutorials are available through InfoEagle.

"But one of the best ways to learn is simply to take a look at what's out there," O'Neill said. "Look at other Web pages which deal in your particular discipline or field; see what they offer and how they present it. A Web page doesn't have to be splashy or complicated, just make it do what you want."

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