Campus News - January 29, 2001
Erlandson clicks for HSC
By Malcolm Brenner, Health Sciences Public Affairs Representative
her cubicle in the depths of the HSC Library building, web applications developer
Jane Erlandson shapes the future of education.
Like everything else, education is moving onto the World Wide Web. As a member
of HSCs Web Team, Erlandson provides consulting and website development
for the North Campus. Her interest in technologys impact on education
started in the mid-1970s when she was a librarian in the Illinois public library
I was using computers long before there were desktops, Erlandson
recalls. It was hard to explain the Internet to a wall of blank faces
before the World Wide Web existed.
Now, Erlandson advises her on-campus clients about creating Web pages everyone
can read and use. Her job is to make sure that the layout of course-related
materials is intuitive, easy to navigate and graphically pleasing.
I try to balance the number of clicks versus the amount of information
on the site, she explains. At first, the design of Web pages was
so print-oriented, we wanted everything to look cool. But HTML the language
used to build Web pages is not conducive to page layout.
Further complicating website design are attempts by many Web developers to
tweak HTML code for the sake of layout. Erlandson insists on consistent
code, which reads the same in any browser, a commitment she made after experiencing
speech software for vision-impaired Web users.
With no formal art training, Erlandson draws on her innate aesthetic sense
when designing a Web page. Although she describes her style as unsophisticated,
her layouts are simple and clean. Her hobby, lost-wax casting in silver, had
led her to pursue a degree in metal art.
Erlandson sees many advantages to a Web-based curriculum, one being the access
it provides to vast amounts of information.
One of the best things about taking a course on the Web is for people who dont speak up in class, she says. They may feel less self-conscious on the Web, where richer discussions can take place.
Still, Erlandson sees the Web as augmenting, not replacing, face-to-face instruction.
Without the subtle cues communicated by posture, gestures and tone, for instance,
its easy to misinterpret another persons intentions in e-mail, she
Id hate to see education move entirely onto the Web, she
says. If were really interested in students, we should pay attention
to how they learn. Whats the best way for people to explore what they
want to learn?
Erlandson said she was attracted to UNM by its non-profit status and the New Mexico environment. After a hard day of Web-building, she may look forward to a round of golf or a late-night walk with her dogs. Even though her work puts her in front of a terminal all day, I have a heart attack if I cant get on-line at home, she confesses.
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