Landing : Athabascau University

Internet Educational BBS Pioneers of Alberta - Part 4 of 4

The SciTech BBS was a central focus for environmental students to communicate digitally at a distance with instructors and learners that proved to be stable and accessible for any computer of any age with a modem or network connection. However, in 1996 several tragic events directly impacted the operation and software supporting open distance and blended education for the SciTech BBS.

On August 6, 1996 Tim Stryker (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Stryker), died leaving Galacticomm company without succession and a greatly diminished capacity to leverage BBS technology in a rapidly evolving Internet environ. Since the SciTech BBS existed on Worldgroup software, there was growing uncertainty in future application support and development.

On December 31, 1996, Ray Sloan died suddenly from a brain aneurysm. Ray was a formidable advocate, beta tester, and educational practitioner with the SciTech BBS. The loss of Ray as a key founding stakeholder foreshadowed the future of the SciTech BBS. Indeed, a directive meeting between the Director of Information Technology, myself, and administrators was the staging for a hostile takeover and decommissioning of the SciTech BBS. During the aforementioned meeting the Director of Information Technology stated that the SciTech BBS was hindering the ability to justify a million dollar budget when the SciTech BBS was operating with less than a few thousand dollars per annum for digital communications. In particular, the email functionality of SciTech BBS was perceived to compete with a commercial agenda requiring a million dollar budget. The fallout from the aforementioned administrator meeting was the eventual order by the Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology to permanently shutdown the SciTech BBS. The founding stakeholders reluctantly complied.

The termination of the SciTech BBS was announced online to assist students with their digital learning needs. In example, students with e-portfolios were advised on alternative off-campus hosting options.

NOTICE OF CLOSURE: On July 1, 1999 the SciTech ISP/BBS will be shutdown permanently. Due to trends in institutional technology we are ending the experiment on campus. We would like to thank our many sponsors, whom over the years have contributed much to the success of integrating synchronous and asynchronous telecommunications as an extension of the classroom environment.

In addition to the extensive integrated functionality of the system, the SciTech BBS also hosted student e-portfolios, a free Java Applet collection mirror site, and Goose cam. The Goose cam was a real-time webcam of a Canada Goose on campus that chose a planter for nesting and producing goslings, returning annually to the same location. The Goose cam equipment and website were confiscated and coopted by the Information Technology as their own site, ignoring plagiarism and attribution. A noteworthy observation to the closure of the SciTech BBS was the few reactions to the event, as students did not protest their right to have the SciTech BBS on campus, rather the innovation and services to students were quickly forgotten by most, but remembered fondly by the few. There were a few responses of support such as,

From: studentname.confidential@scitech.mtroyal.ab.ca
Sent: Saturday, May 15, 1999 9:37 PM
To: Sysop@scitech.mtroyal.ab.ca
Subject: closing
Hi Mr Sysop,
Sorry to hear you are closing this BBS
It was comforting to have Scitech as an alternate all these years.
Do you know what is replacing it ?
Thanks and regards
Studentname.confidential

 

Epilog

No online social network, content management system, or cloud service has surpassed the autonomous digital communications functionality and minimal financial costs found in the Worldgroup BBS running on a basic PC. If the UNIX version of Worldgroup BBS had survived and migrated to Linux as an open source application, there could have been a future transition in BBS to Internet connectivity.

The SciTech BBS technology was moved off-campus and ran privately until 2004 when static IP addressing became financially prohibitive for private use (another story with Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission allowing no pricing controls on major IP hosts over small static IP users).

Lessons learned are many, from the computing technology to educational politics. What terminated the SciTech BBS innovation more than anything else was the change from education for learning, to the business of education.

 

Surviving founders of the SciTech BBS

Final photo of SciTech BBS Closure 1999-06-30 with Steve Swettenham at server

Steve Swettenham at SciTech BBS (aka SciTech ISP) server.

Final photo of SciTech BBS Closure 1999-06-30 with Dennis Leask at server

Dennis Leask at closure of SciTech ISP server (aka SciTech BBS)

 

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