CORVALLIS - Oregon State University has been recognized as the leading higher educational institution in the United States and Canada for its electronic services to students.

The award was made by the American Productivity and Quality Center, a consortium of America's largest and most progressive businesses and industries.

It recognizes the university's innovative programs that range from information "kiosks" scattered across campus to Internet access in every residence hall room and a pioneering "OSU Statewide" program that can bring higher education access into the homes of Oregonians all over the state.

As a result of this and other recent honors made to OSU, a variety of institutions will study and emulate some of the university's most successful initiatives, officials say.

"This award recognizes that OSU has made some extraordinary accomplishments on a broad scale, not just in a few areas, and during a time of limited resources," said Phil Isensee, an administrator with OSU's Department of Information Services. "Our technology and programs will aid OSU students, parents, staff and faculty for years to come."

Information Services has also recently had some serious budget problems and cost overruns, Isensee said, which have been the source of considerable public attention. It may be of value, he said, to help people realize the scope of accomplishments made with some of those funds.

"We have serious budget concerns that we're now in the process of solving on a long-term basis," he said. "But at the same time, people should also recognize - as this most recent award makes clear - that we made some strategic investments. They were good investments in both people and technology that will have a direct, bottom-line payback. We've determined that some of these initiatives are already saving the university about $250,000 a year, and those savings will continue indefinitely."

Many tasks that used to be mired in "paper shuffling" are now electronic and automated, Isensee said, freeing up resources for more pressing university priorities such as student retention programs.

At the same time, Isensee said, OSU has gained a reputation as one of the most student-friendly, parent-friendly campuses in the nation for the range of electronic services it provides.

For instance, the popular information kiosks on campus are now being used 10,000 times a month, allowing students to check their grades or find out if a class they want is available. The Information Services part of OSU's Web site is being accessed 50,000 times a month.

This recent award recognized OSU's accomplishments in five areas:

- Range of electronic student services;
- Comprehensive management of organizational change;
- Multiple modes of technology;
- Collaboration and cooperation with other Oregon institutions;
- Measuring and quantifying accomplishments, and incorporating feedback from customers.

OSU was one of the first universities in the nation to make an early commitment to new technologies, Isensee said. Beginning steps such as telephone registration soon expanded to include electronic initiatives in admission, financial aid, advising, instruction and many other areas.

One of the most recent, and most significant of all these ventures is the creation of "OSU Statewide," an extended education initiative that is now bringing undergraduate and graduate degrees to Oregonians across the state.

Flexible programs, often created in collaboration with other institutions and in direct response to student needs and demands, use such technologies as interactive video, the Internet, Oregon's Ednet system, CD-ROMs, individualized directed learning programs and whatever else is necessary to deliver higher education to the people who want it, when and where they need it. Program offerings are continuing to expand.

On campus, OSU students work in residence halls that are totally wired for computer access. Some courses, even on campus, are available electronically. Students can review their electronic account of food purchases at the Memorial Union, or books at the bookstore. They can obtain the full text and articles in more than 2,000 professional journals.

A high school senior wishing to apply for admission to OSU can do it electronically from a home computer. And that same student, after graduating, may use the university's technology to do a job interview via interactive video with a prospective employer thousands of miles away.

"As the award recognized, we've tried very hard to incorporate feedback from our students and faculty into the new systems," Isensee said. "I think one of the things most surprising to me is not any difficulties people have had using the new technology, but rather that the students so quickly embrace it.

"They've grown up now with electronic services and computers and they expect them to be available. Fortunately we've been able to meet those expectations."

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Phil Isensee, 541-737-3325