Landing : Athabascau University

Internet Educational BBS Pioneers of Alberta - Part 2

Our story has many undocumented aspects due to the rapid nature of computing, academic design, and development activities focused on extremely short timelines to produce outcomes for stakeholders. Most of the software and hardware involved with the BBS project has been lost to history.

The SciTech BBS began with the idea of leveraging existing communications technologies to reach students at a distance via computers. On March 4, 1993 I met with Dennis Leask over coffee and we discussed the idea of using BBS technology as a distance education communication tool ( https://landing.athabascau.ca/file/view/4123603/1993-03-04-notes-on-creation-of-a-bbs-for-education ). We chose naming the server as SciTech BBS and listing the scitech.mtroyal.ab.ca domain (note - we originally had mtroyal.ab.ca but handed this over to IT to avoid future issues).

The SciTech BBS was a social network, MOOC, a virtual library, learning management system, real-time digital agora, and learning portal. Open e-books, course content, and Internet were intentional information connectivity features of the BBS. Dynamic and static text, graphical, audio, and video messaging provided human to human digital communications features. Teleconferencing (aka chat), whiteboard, and online testing provided real-time interactivity. The server also included a door to the college mainframe to computer based learning modules. The server hosted student websites, e-commerce, FTP, Email, and Telnet.

Students communicated with the SciTech BBS via the college computer lab local area network or off campus directly via a modem or indirectly via an Internet connection.

Developing the SciTech BBS was voluntary outside our normal duties. The software for the BBS was selected based on such qualities as ease of use for the host and client, cost of maintenance, stability, and scalability. All the BBS software was provided free of charge by the companies in our pursuit of integrating the technology in education. In March of 1993 we started with 1st Desk BBS (a small Macintosh based application) to test the feasibility of using such technology on campus. By the summer of 1993 we changed to Synchronet BBS (PC application) as it has more features such as multiple levels of security and ability to add modules. In the Fall of 1993 we moved to Worldgroup BBS (PC application). We stayed with this product until the SciTech BBS project was terminated on the direct order of the Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology.

The SciTech BBS was always voluntary for students and community. We provided open workshops on how to use the BBS for students and staff in the college. In October of 1993, the Calgary Herald reported on our development ( https://landing.athabascau.ca/file/view/4123601/1993-10-14-p37-calgary-herald-college-goes-home ).

To Be Continued...

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