By DAVID JONES
PROLIFIC PROFESSOR: Rodger Randle at his office at the University of Oklahoma Shusterman Campus in Tulsa, where he serves as professor and director of the University Center for Studies in Democracy and Culture.
DAVID JONES for GTR Newspapers
At various times Rodger Randle had been a member of the Peace Corps, a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, a member of the Oklahoma Senate, president Pro Tempore of the State Senate, mayor of Tulsa and president of the University Center of Tulsa, which became Rogers University and later Oklahoma State University at Tulsa. He has even been an award-winning photographer.
Now he’s what he’s always wanted to be: a college professor.
“I’ve never had more fun,” he says.
Officially a professor in the Department of Human Relations at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa at 41st Street and Yale Avenue, he is also an Honorary British Consul, a handy title for someone heading the University Center for Studies in Democracy and Culture. He is responsible for getting speakers to come to the campus on a variety of subjects from the Americanization of the British Isles to the growing nationalistic movement in Scotland.
But what is most fascinating him now, he says, is computers; more specifically, their use in education.
“The computer,” Randle says, “is not a miracle but a tool. The key is that this tool be interactive so students can learn at their own pace.”
Randle loves computers. He has spent the last few years learning a half-dozen programs that will allow him to put sophisticated lessons on computer so that the masses have access to that information.
“Almost everything in the academic world is published in academic journals whose readers are academics. The question is, how do you get your information to the public?”
With that in mind, Randle has been working on his own Web site, which is a shrewd combination of video and audio.
The trick is to give the consumer the information he or she specifically needs in the most efficient way. A dissertation on the battle of Waterloo, for example, might deal with events leading up to the battle, the strategy of the battle and the results of the battle. A student might be interested in certain portions of the lecture. By allowing access to only those portions of a lecture the researcher is interested in, information-gathering time can be cut.
“We can offer a menu of questions and by clicking on the ones you want to ask go directly to that information. People wanting to hear the entire lecture can download it to their iPods and hear it going to and from the office.”
It also offers the luxury of repetition. A student having difficulty with a complex subject can play and replay the section of the lecture on that subject until it is mastered. It is not unlike reading and rereading a text: same technique, different technology.
How necessary is the computer? “When it comes to information, people without a computer now are suffering the same handicap as people 25 years ago who didn’t own a television set. For many people today, the Web has become the dominant source of information.
“The big Internet divide today is between those who have a slow connection and those who have a fast connection. Here I fear the United States lags behind Europe and much of Asia.
“The Internet is a tool with a lot of possibilities, especially at a time when there’s so much more to learn. There’s an astounding amount of information out there but not all of it is in an accessible form. Putting this information in a form that is accessible is our challenge for the future.”
Those who do use the Internet, Randle says, are rapidly changing the way information is gleaned.
“The use of the college research library is down. Students Google.
“My goal is to contribute to providing content that is academically solid that the students can find from a Google search.”