Summer 2004 - Volume 7 Number 3
A Tour of Virtual Tech
Students and teachers! Oh, and you too, administrators. Where are you sitting right now? In your dorm room, at home, in your office, the student union, Manny's Bar, Denny's, Starbucksoh well, you get the point.
Still, I wouldn't stay there for long because according to the futurists, those infallible seers into the expanding vistas of tomorrow, the bricks and mortar holding together the hallowed halls and ivied walls of academia will soon be a thing of the past; in fact, they may come crashing down right around your ears while you're preparing for that Calculus test or that English Lit final or working on that departmental budget or while you're on your last Boilermaker down there at Manny's. Take heed. Have you ever known one of these modern day Nostradamuses to drop their crystal balls?
Not to worry. We have a secure future mapped out for you. But you must start by saying goodbye to bricks and mortar (henceforth BM) and giving a big country "howdy" to the Virtual Techniversity. You say, "Yes, Yes! I've heard about the magic of the Phoenix model. I've heard all about the Barnes and Noble venture to create a cyber university. Well, I'm here to tell you that what Barnes and Noble dreams about for tomorrow is a reality today right on-line and right for you. Oh, you say, rescue me now from BM and deliver me into cyber-ed.
And that's just what I'm going to do. You are about to undertake a virtual tour of Virtual Technot to be confused with that other bastion of on-line ed, Cyber Polytechnic U (yes, that's CPU). Aha, I can already see a question crossing your minds! Sure, you say, I'm game to take the tour, but what if I want to enrol? What am I getting into? Is the place accredited? As to that first question: no problem, registration is a breeze and can be done upon completion of the tour. As to the second: you'll have to ponder that as you wend your way through the cyber-ivied halls of Virtual Tech. As to the last: silly question. Of course, Virtual Tech is accredited; they sent their one page self-study off to North Central and it came back with a big smiley face. We're good to go.
Now, are you ready? OK!
First, just get on any old server and let your mouse do the work. Use one of the standard searches or just type virtual tech in that open box thing under all the symbols at the top of the screen (I just did that so you can see that you don't have to be computer wizard to "attend" VT). Click and in the space provided, type in www.virtualTechedu/tour. Done? OK!
There's the snazzy state-of-the-art homepage for Virtual Tech. Very user friendly. Click on the icon that contains Tour. Bingo!
There you are, magically transported outside the main gate to Virtual Tech. As you can see it is a stately brick arch in the Roman style with the University's motto inscribed in state-of-the art sans serif letters:
Hell is Other People.
Jean Paul Sartre
Truer words have never been uttered and no more solid a foundation ever supported an institution than those words do this venerable academy. And here is a special feature that you will find to be de rigueur at Virtual Tech: it is all about you. So, if you don't like that font, just click on the motto and you will get a menu allowing you to choose a more personalized and sexy font. Try it! Ah, there's "Old English Text"; that'll give the ole motto a nice fascistic look.
Hell is Other People.
Once through the gate you see the august administration building to the right and the Hall of Computing immediately behind it. To the left is the Brittany Spears Arts Complex, complete with a virtual gallery (wait till you see our Old Masters), a virtual theatre, cinema complex, and virtual recital hall and music auditorium. Looking straight ahead is the spacious and verdant quad with concrete paths that meander to the left and right with intersecting lines connecting both walkways. Unlike old BMU., the sidewalks are laid out to accommodate actual student walking patterns. The paths are lined with lush trees and vegetation from all corners of the globe, so you will always feel right at home and one with your native natural surroundings. The trees slightly block our view of the remainder of the campus, but that's OK! All the more fun to keep exploring. You will find this tour not unlike a good game of Super Mario or Zelda. In fact, if you like, go up to Options and click on tour guide; there you will see that Mario, one of the X-Men, Lara Croft, and the entire array of Ninja Weapons from Ninja Revenge: The Tokyo Nightmare, Kathy Lee Gifford and Elle McPherson are available as tour guides (thanks to that stinker, filmmaker Michael Moore, the Gun from Doom had to be removed from the list). Click now if you would like to change your tour guide. In addition to the game and celebrity figures, we have some of our own cyber students ready to take you on the tour. Traditional students often will opt for Ben Bimoc, the most popular guy on campus, or Ashley Ashworth, the most popular woman on campus. They are both perky, cool, and, being who they are, the best informed sources about all things virtual, except of course their own lives, which are also virtual, but that will get us into a whole existentialist thing here and we have places to go.
As we make our way along the winding path leading to the center quad (otherwise known as the virtual heart of Virtual Tech) we see Professor Bob over there talking to a student. Let's go over and introduce ourselves, and maybe eavesdrop a little. It's always good to sample the flavor of teacher-student dialogue when one visits a campus. Just click on Professor Bob and, first, you will see a little colored balloon emanating from his head that tells you about Professor Bob, his major, where his degrees are from, what he teaches and his virtual publications. Then, once the box disappears, click on him again and you can hear him talking to his student:
"Well, you know, Ken, I think what you had to say about Limp Bizkit and the decline of postmodernism was right on target. But you also might like to consider how Rage Against the Machine's social commentary can be traced all the way back to Juvenal."
"I'll check that out, Professor Bob. That could form the basis for an interesting paper for the class. And…"
"Heck, Ken, don't think small! You're looking at a future dissertation topicthat is, unless I feed it to some other worthy student. You are thinking about grad school, aren't you, Ken?"
"Well, gee Professor Bob, it seems so far off."
"Nonsense, my boy. You have to be thinking of grad school from the day you enter Virtual Tech. It only makes sense. Where else can you find both undergrad and graduate education so convenient and easy?"
"You've got a point there, Professor Bob. Oh, look, here comes Barbie. I guess we'll have to be pushing off."
(Into the frame comes Barbie Baines, Ken's girlfriend and fellow English Major.)
"Hi, Professor Bob."
"Say, how's the paper on Sleater-Kinney and Sylvia Plath coming."
"Pretty good, Professor Bob. Hey Ken, we'd better get going. I have something to show you back in my dorm room."
"OK, Barbie. See ya, Professor Bob."
"Bye, you two."
I know just what you're thinking right now: Is Professor Bob cool or what. Or maybe you're thinking, I wonder what Barbie is going to show Ken back in her dorm room. Maybe we can flip the digi-cam on later to satisfy your prurient curiosity.
Anyway, back to Professor Bob. How hip do you have to be to understand the significance of Limp Bizkitand it just doesn't stop there with Professor Bob; he can go on for hours about almost anything. The great feature about Professor Bob is that he is programmable (as is everything at Virtual Tech) to meet your individual needs. For instance, look at the menu bar above and click on Personnel. Now go down to faculty and click on that. OK. There are the names of some of our featured profs on the tour. There's Professor Bob. Now click on his name. You will see a screen with a number of different disciplines listed. If, for instance, you click on Anthropology, you will get an entirely different Professor Bob. He looks the same, but his dress will be different and he will be talking about how the music of Limp Bizkit serves a similar function in our society to that of the music of the peoples in the virtual culture that he is observing as part of his virtual fieldwork. Same hip Bob, just a different look and disciplinary background.
Well, let's work our way over to the athletic complex, always a focal point of any campus visit. After all, where would any school be without … What's this? It looks like it could be the President. What a stroke of good fortune. At most schools you'd be damned luckyexcuse my French, but I am excited about this even to have the President address you in some sort of general assembly. But here he is and it looks like he is talking to the Chair of our Board of Trustees, Miles Babbitt. (We are really staring at a double coup here!) Let's click on the President and see what he has to say to us.
OK, he's turning toward us and …
That's odd he just glanced at us and walked by. And look at that: he literally scowled at Professor Bob. Something seems to be amiss here. And look, it appears Professor Bob is making some kind of gesture … Oops, better not go there.
Go to the Personnel menu bar. Scroll down to administration. Click on President. Maybe we can find out what's going on here. OK. Oho! Now I see. Oh, the programmer's will have their little jokes won't they. You will notice that among the President selections, the name President Overall is checked. Click his/her name. There is a profile of Overall and you will notice s/he is an ADI (Autocratic Dysfunctional Introvert). The reason I said this is a programmer's little joke is because President Overall is not usually selected for undergrad tours. S/He is reserved for role play involving faculty and administration and for the specific exercise devoted to what is called "guerrilla administration," the insidious practice of co-opting the power and destroying the morale of the faculty and staff in the university.
Well, for the remainder of the tour, let's change our option. How about President Gladhand. Click and you will notice that s/he is an SE (Shallow Extrovert). Or you could select President Sam/Sarah Johnson, an IA (Integrated Academic). Both would be much more friendly. You like Gladhand! OK! Click and get us back to campus.
Let's keep wandering down this right hand path. To your right you will see the Enron , er Tyco, (soon to be renamed) School of Business with their motto above the door: "Greed is Good." Let's go in and observe a class. Click on the door and you will be inside. OK. Once in you will notice that the menu bar has changed and you will see Chunks; this is a list that shows the chunks you can observe. (Right, I have to stop here. You must be saying, "Chunks?" What are "chunks"? Well, in keeping with state-of-the-art jargon in on-line ed, we refer to our classes as "chunks." At Virtual Tech, it is not uncommon to hear a student say, "Boy, was I relieved when I passed that chunk." Or, "Man, I took Professor Ray for Digital Gaming and I really blew that chunk." Or, "I'll never graduate unless I pass that chunk!") Anyway, back to the tour.
You can see that the school of business is really state-of-the-art. It is lean and mean, downsized, re-engineered and leveraged in order to make the curriculum as simple as possible. Freshman year majors are thrown right into their main chunks. There are only two that they take: "How to Make Money I and II." Sophomore year consists of two semesters of "How to Make More Money I and II." Junior year you will branch out and take two semesters of "Profits, Portfolios and Penury." Senior year is the capstone experience with the first semester devoted to "Investments" and the second devoted to "Retirement: It's Never Too Soon." You say business is not your bag. OK let's exit and get back on the path and make our way to that athletic complex.
Virtual Tech is completely unique in its approach to athletics. First, unlike most cyber U's and most polytechs, we actually have an athletic department. Second, everyone can compete in some sport. Our exclusive contract with VSA (Virtual Sports Arts) enables us to access all available electronic sports games. They have also tailored special teams to our school. Let's face it, it doesn't take talent, girth, or connections to play our version of Madden N.C.U.A.A. (National Cyber University Athletic Association) football (that's not John Madden, that's Ralph Madden a programmer from Beaver Creek, Nebraska) or in our basketball, baseball, or golf leagues. All it takes is a little time and a little hand-eye co-ordination and the will to win. And, in keeping with the great Greek traditions of higher ed, we believe in the balance of healthy mind and body and so everyone is encouraged to pick a sport. But enough of that, let's check out the complex.
I would suggest at this point that you go up into the menu and click on the campus map. I suggest that because we like to get people to get a bird's eye view of the athletic complex. That way you can see how extensive it isin fact, it forms a sort of virtual world unto itself (not unlike the real world of sports!). You will see that the main building (called Ty Cobb Hall) faces into the quad; the main building contains classrooms, exercise rooms, and houses the administrative offices of the renowned Virtual Tech School of Mascotology, the only program of its kind in the world (more on that later, because I know that I have piqued your curiosity). Immediately to the rear, forming a separate quad are, on the right, our magnificent state-of-the-art football stadium, which seats … well, you! On the left are the tennis courts lining the fences of the baseball field (remember, you don't have to worry about getting bonked with a home run if you're playing tennisit's only a game!!); and closing off the quad is the Old Horny Toad Brewing Company Athletic complex, containing the field house and gymnasium. The beauty of the entire athletic program at Virtual Tech is that we do not distinguish between pro and amateur: everyone is a pro at Virtual Tech. Although in keeping with hallowed college traditions, our teams only play other college teams (except in the case of baseball and golf, where VSA hasn't gotten around to tapping the amateur ranks and so, for instance, our golfers are usually going up against Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III and some old-timers like Jack Nicklaus and the like, and, I should add, beating them in the processhow many other college golfers can make that claim!). Anyway, sports are only part of the picture of athletics at Virtual Tech; like other great schools, academics are equally important. So let's click on Ty Cobb Hall and see what the department has to offer.
OK. You're inside the lobby of the building and you will see a plaque on the wall straight ahead; that lists all the programs. All you have to do is click on the plaque and it will come into better view. Currently, the department offers majors in Coaching, Playing Cyber sports for fun and profit, Sports Business, and, of course, Mascotology. Go ahead, I know you're dying to find out: click on Mascotology.
Well, here's the web page for the School of Mascotology. You, of course, will immediately notice the large blank oval in the middle of the page. Welland here's something fun for youwe are currently sponsoring a contest to create and name the college mascot for Virtual Tech. Return to our site in the near future and there will be more details. (Because we may not be visiting the School of Music, I should also inform you about the contest they will be sponsoring to write the alma mater and the school fight song; once again, more details will be forthcoming.) Anyway, back to the matters at hand. You could click on any one of the items: faculty, programs and chunks, job opportunities, etc., but I know you're here to find out about Mascotology. So click on programs and then proceed to click on School of Mascotology.
There you are! Well, first let's check out the chunks in the program. Click on Curriculum and it will show a listing of all our chunks. Let's just scan quickly down the page and pick a few at random:
MASCOT 101: Introduction to Mascotology. An introductory chunk designed to acquaint students with the history of mascots. Special emphasis given to great moments in mascotology in the 20th century. Required of all Mascotology majors. Instructor: B. Buckeye.*
MASCOT 102: Theory of Mascotology. An introductory chunk designed to acquaint students with basic theories in Mascotology. The student will study concepts such as Mascots and College Identity, the Social-Psychology of the Mascot, Mascot Acrobatics, etc. Required of all Mascotology majors. Instructor: G. Hoya.
MASCOT 353: Advanced Mascot Design. This upper division chunk explores the complex nature of designing new mascots and revitalizing worn out remnants of the past. May be taken for humanities credit. Instructor: S.C. Trojan.
MASCOT 480: Psycho-Social Dynamics of Mascotology. This advanced chunk focuses on the delicate balance the Mascot faces as he/she moves between the world of the mascot and the world of the student (or laborer as the case may be). The delicate psychological balance is viewed through the theories of Freud, Adler, Rank, Laing, and Dr. Joyce Brothers. May be used to fulfil psychology requirement. Required of all Mascotology majors. Instructor: B. Badger.
Well, I'm sure you'll agree it is a pretty exciting course of study isn't it? I think you will find in a few years time that the quality of mascoting will improve throughout the nation as more and more mascot-bound students log onto Virtual Tech.
Well, so much for athletics at Virtual Tech. Let's move along and head over to the administration building so we can get you registered for chunks. Oh, look! It's Professor Karen and Professor Ray. They are having a conversation. Let's listen in. We always like for our students to get a feel for what faculty life is like at Virtual Tech and there is no better way than to catch them, as it were, off-duty in casual conversation. Don't be surprised if they are focused 110% on their chunks in this conversation. Click on either Karen or Ray.
Karen: "I don't know, Ray. I don't see anyway out of this. I think we have to unionize. Overall has really exceeded his powers …"
Ray: "I agree, Karen. I think we will have to call for a vote of no confid"
Oops, I guess we have a little glitch here. It seems that remnants of the Administrative/Faculty scenario have "bled" into the virtual tour. OK. Go up to the menu and click on Tour Specs. There you see Professors Karen and Ray. Click on that and let's see what we get. Ah, that's better. You will see a variety of topics by discipline. You could select whatever you like; there's Pankhurst for women's studies, or Browning for the lit majors, Catatonia for the psych students, etc. Let's go for Browning. Click that. Then go back to the screen and click either Karen or Ray again. OK.
Karen: "I just don't know how to rank "My Last Duchess" in the Browning canon, Ray. I feel it is a minor effort at times, but then I find some subtly coded text that needs deconstruction (Karen is from the Midwest)"
Ray: "I agree Karen. I don't have a problem with the major dialogues, but the shorter pieces hardly seem worthy of consideration at times."
Well there, that's more like it. There's nothing like an innocuous poetry discussion to give you a real feel for virtual campus life.
Speaking of getting a feel for college life. What would your college experience be without the fun and comradeship afforded you by membership in a fraternity or a sorority. Well, I can tell you, it wouldn't be much. Your development as a fully functioning and integrated human being is not complete without pledging. Judy Tenuta once remarked that she didn't join a sorority because she already had a personality. Well, that's not true for youwhat else are you doing at this site, for crying out loud? No, no, it's time to cultivate a personality and perhaps more importantly, contacts. Let's face it, what greater recommendation can someone offer when looking for a job than to be able to remind a brother or sister that they prayed and hurled at the throne of the porcelain god together. Well, there is none. Join up now.
Currently, Virtual Tech has only one fraternity: Iota Tappa Keg. ITA's or, as they preferred to be called, Tappa Keggers are the fun guys to be around.
One final stop before we get you registered. Yes, it's the Brittany Spears Arts Complex. As I mentioned earlier we have a wonderful art gallery. If you click on the building you will be taken inside the magnificent atrium-like lobby and you will see a marble slab directly ahead. This lists all of the facilities housed within the complex. Click on the Art Gallery just for fun. Pretty mind boggling isn't it. Have you ever seen so many possibilities. You have just accessed a pretty exhaustive list of galleries and museums that we can access from Virtual Tech. Go down the list and there is a virtual tour of the Louvre. Actually, scroll up just a little. Ah, there it is: the Larry Flynt Museum of Great American Erotica. Yep, when it comes to the arts at Virtual Tech, there's something for everybody. Our state-of-the-art movie theatre is streaming the most recent flicks, so you won't have to scrounge up a roommate or some other poor slob left on campus and hike down to the local movie bunkers for stale popcorn and a bad print. Even better, you don't have to curb your TV viewing impulses, you know like talking, belching, getting up and going to the fridge for goodies, like you do at the theatre. Yes, "Hell is other people" and we have factored them out of our college experience at Virtual Tech. Come back sometime and we'll tour more of the Arts Complex.
OK. On to the Administration Building and Registration.
Of course, you probably have a good sense of what you want to major in but you really should check out our bulletin to see all the opportunities available to the cyber student at Virtual Tech. Just for practice, let's pretend that you are going to major in Mascotology. First, however you have to incorporate your general education requirements. In the space which says Year: write Freshman. Hit enter twice and, bingo, look at the chunk schedule. You will see listed:
ENGL 110: Letters to the Editor
PSYCH 135: General Psychology
MATH 120: Quantitative Methods
PHED 150: Cyber Soccer
ANTH 200: Strange People, Strange Places
And so on.
What, do I see a look of consternation, a look of doubt on your face? Ah, you say, it is that pesky Math requirement, heh! Well, not to worry. Click on the Math requirement and then hit CTRL and Delete at the same time. Presto, Chango! No math requirement for you. Oops, spoke too soon. I see there is a block on the delete. It appears, according to your high school transcript, that the last math you had was 8th grade remedial arithmetic. Ooo, too bad. But we maybe can fix this. Remember: your convenience and happiness is our only concern. Go back to the Registration Menu and click on the Admissions icon. There you will see the minimal requirements for admission to Virtual Tech. Click on Math. You will see two options: 1) Developmental Math sequence; 2) Proficiency Test. Let's just try Proficiency Test. Click on it. And, there it is. Hmmm, doesn't look too bad. Let's try it:
Well, let's see how you did. For number one the answers are b and d; for number 2 the answers are a and d; for number 3, the answers are c and d; for number 4, the answers are a and d.
OK. Well, it looks like you passed and so you will not have to deal with that Math requirement. Let's get back to the Chunk Schedule.
Click on Registration in the menu bar. The drop box shows all aspects of the registration procedure. Click on Chunk Schedule. OK. Now you see a blank form. Click in one of the spaces reserved for listing the chunks. See what happens? You have accessed the entire college catalog. In the search space at the top type in the class that you want or if you know the prefix, type that. Type in MASCOT 101; press enter and now look at your form; there is MASCOT 101 in the space and you are registered for it. And that is the way the whole registration process goes. No hassles, no lines, no signatures and, well, quite frankly, it's a no brainer! Return to the menu bar at the top and click on tour.
And here we are, back at the main gate. By now you should have a good idea if Virtual Tech is for you. If you officially register now, you will be one of an elite corps of cyber scholars who are saying yes to the future, who are saying yes to educational self-determination, who are saying yes to convenience and who are finally able to realize that childhood dream of every schoolboy and girl: "no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks!" You will be prepared for what they are calling the accelerated futurein fact, you will be the one with your foot on the gas pedal, streaking through the staid, dull, and passé streets of BM universities, waving at those poor schmoes still lugging their books to classes and talking with friends and engaging in silly intellectual discussion and yelling, "See ya, suckers!" What a great feeling.
You say you still have reservations! You are still contemplating Stanford, Michigan, St. John's, Florida State, Vanderbilt, or wherever. Before you do, be sure that you click one more time on Registration and scan down the menu. You will see the simple word "Get." Click on it. You are now in our own special competitive recruitment game called "Grant That Degree." It is like the old Name That Tune, except that you are the Master of Ceremonies (so to speak!). You select the school that you are considering besides Virtual Tech, let's say it is Arizona State. You say, I want a degree in Business. The ASU mascot will tell you that they can grant that degree in four years. Then the President of Virtual Tech (remember we don't have a mascot, and, besides, we would never insult you by having our mascot quote you numbers!) will say, "We can grant that degree in one year." That should just about seal it up for you.
The immortal Mel Brooks in the patter lyric to "Springtime for Hitler" once said, "Don't be stupid, Be a smarty, / Come and join the Nazi Party." To you we say, "Don't be stupid you old poop, / Get your degree at VTU."
It's more than an education, it's fun and games.
* All Mascotology courses are taught by actual college mascots.
Dr. Timothy E. Scheurer is Chair of the Department of English and Humanities and Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, and the Book Review Editor of Popular Music and Society, a publication of the Popular Culture Association. He can be reached at email@example.com.
• The views expressed by the authors are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of The College Quarterly or of Seneca College.
Copyright © 2004 - The College Quarterly, Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology