4th European Christian Internet Conference, 8-10 July 1999, Budapest

Kristóf Nyíri (Budapest):

The Idea of a Virtual University
Religious Studies on the Net

Introduction: The Idea of a University
Issues in Virtual Higher Education
Religious Studies on the Net
Conclusion: The UNIWORLD Project

Introduction: The Idea of a University

The title of my talk is an allusion to Cardinal Newman's book The Idea of a University, published in 1852.(1) The book begins by stating that the university is "a place of teaching universal knowledge", aiming at intellectual, rather than moral, education; its object being "the diffusion and extension", rather than the "advancement", of knowledge.(2) Newman underlines the words "teaching" and "knowledge"; my own focus here is, instead, on the terms universal, and, in particular, on place. At first "university" had little to do with universality; it certainly did not mean an universitas facultatum. The Latin term universitas, both in Roman and medieval times, designated simply an aggregate of persons. Medieval universities were corporations - either of masters or of students. Only gradually, with the modern notion of a unity of knowledge,(3) did the university become associated with the notion of a comprehensive, all-embracing, knowledge, i.e. with the requirement of teaching a complete array of subjects.(4) This is Newman's point. As he puts it: "all branches of knowledge are connected together, because the subject-matter of knowledge is intimately united in itself, as being the acts and the work of the Creator". Now according to Newman the mere fact that the university offers a wide range of studies is beneficial to the students, since "though they cannot pursue every subject which is open to them, they will be gainers by living among those and under those who represent the whole circle. This I conceive to be the advantage of a seat of universal learning, considered as a place of education."(5) The idea that a university should be a place of encounters and exchanges is centrally important to Newman. If he had to choose, he writes, "between a so-called University, which dispensed with residence and tutorial superintendence, and gave its degrees to any person who passed an examination in a wide range of subjects, and a University which had no professors or examinations at all, but merely brought a number of young men together for three or four years, and then sent them away", he would definitely elect the former. "When a multitude of young men", he explains, "keen, open-hearted, sympathetic, and observant, as young men are, come together and freely mix with each other, they are sure to learn one from another, even if there be no one to teach them; the conversation of all is a series of lectures to each, and they gain for themselves new ideas and fresh views, fresh matter of thought, and distinct principles for judging and acting, day by day." For this reason already "a large school or college" should be seen, as Newman puts it, as "an enlargement of mind":

It is seeing the world on a small field with little trouble; for the pupils or students come from very different places, and with widely different notions, and there is much to generalize, much to adjust, much to eliminate, there are inter-relations to be defined, and conventional rules to be established, in the process, by which the whole assemblage is moulded together, and gains one tone and one character. ... that youthful community will ... give birth to a living teaching, which in course of time will take the shape of a self-perpetuating tradition, or a genius loci, as it is sometimes called.(6)
A similar view was formulated by Hastings Rashdall, in his classic work The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages, published in 1895.(7) "Names are sometimes of more importance than is commonly supposed", Rashdall wrote in the epilogue of his work. "Whether a particular institution should or should not be called a university may seem by itself to be a very small thing. But the name has got to be associated with education of the highest type: to degrade the name of a university is therefore to degrade our highest educational ideal."(8) For Rashdall,
[t]he two most essential functions which a true university has to perform are to make possible the life of study, whether for a few years or during a whole career, and to bring together during that period, face to face in living intercourse, teacher and teacher, teacher and student, student and student. It would be a fatal error to imagine that either the multiplication of books or the increased facilities of communication can ever remove the need of institutions which permit of such personal intercourse. A university, therefore, must have a local habitation. It may in a sense be maintained that the bewildering accumulation of literature and the rapidity with which it is diffused have only emphasized the necessity for personal guidance and interpretation - for association in teaching, in study, and in research. Personal contact adds something even to the highest spiritual and intellectual influences... There is a kind of knowledge, too, which can only be secured by personal intercommunication, a kind of intellectual cultivation which is only made possible by constant interchange of ideas with other minds, a kind of enthusiasm which is impossible in isolation.(9)
Educational institutions have at all times been formed by contemporary information technologies.(10) The medieval university, in particular, is representative of the European manuscript culture of the 12th and 13th centuries, with its scarcity of books, and still markedly oral communication patterns. The students' university was not just a political organization providing legal protection for its members; it was also a framework for collective learning and memorizing. As the Hungarian historian István Hajnal, discussing the medieval university system, wrote:
Though waxed tablets might have been widely employed in the course of quick composition and recording, the fact remains that the time honoured methods of the education of the clerici centered around severe drilling in words of mouth... It is well known how teaching at the universities proceeded without books and without writing: at the lectio publica a strictly compulsory traditional book in the teacher's hand; there is lecturing, detailized explanation, repeated over and over again... But the students themselves at their hospitia are preparing in advance for the text of the daily lecture, their masters and seniors reciting it loudly into their ears, and as soon as lecture is over, they repeat the text again and again. ... It is simply indispensable for a student to have groups of mates, and elders around himself; they are his living educational tools, carriers of scientific material available for exercises.(11)
With the emergence of printing, and with books becoming abundant and relatively cheap by the mid-eighteenth century, individual reading supplanted collective memorizing. If the university, in essence, was still defined as a place of learning, that place, gradually, meant less and less a place for oral exchange, and more and more a place where collections of books were concentrated. The modern university is centered around the university library, in particular around the university library as an encyclopaedic research library. The paradigmatic event here was the founding of the Göttingen university library in 1737;(12) a major act within the same paradigm being the reorganization of the Harvard university library in the 1870s and 1880s. The problem these libraries had to solve was that of information overload created by too much printed material becoming available. Today we are, again, facing a similar problem; but this time the information we have to cope with exists mostly in digital form, on the Internet. The Internet, itself a huge virtual library in a loose sense, constitutes a framework for virtual libraries in the narrower sense; and with the virtual library there arises the idea of a virtual university - a university not bound, anymore, by the logic of places. Is such a university possible?

Issues in Virtual Higher Education

Newman's and Rashdall's views are still today very much present in discussions pertaining to issues of university reforms. The 1996 American Federation of Teachers report on "How Unions Can Harness the Technology Revolution on Campus" takes the position that no undergraduate degree programs in their entirety should be offered "at a distance". As the report puts it: "All our experience as educators tells us that teaching and learning in the shared human spaces of a campus are essential to the undergraduate experience and cannot be compromised too greatly without rendering the education unacceptable."(13) Last autumn University of Utah president J. Bernard Machen, in his inauguration speech, warned the state's governor and other officials that no online curriculum could ever replace the kind of educational experience offered, as he put it, by bricks-and-mortar institutions. Utah Governor Mike Leavitt has been a leading proponent of the Western Governors University, a major virtual university project. In his remarks, Machen said that "the use of technology can be an important part of the delivery of certain aspects of education", but referred to Western Governors University as merely an "experiment" which would be more appropriate for "the job-skills component of education." Speaking of his own university, Machen said: "Let us not succumb to the temptation to force a college education to its lowest common denominator. The kind of education I am describing is not the cheapest, but it is the best."(14)

The idea, then, is that any proper form of higher education inevitably presupposes something like a traditional university setting: a definite location and a definite time interval to serve as the framework of protracted personal communication between teachers and students. Now I have the impression that, whatever the arguments for or against, Newman's and Rashdall's university has long ceased to exist. Certainly my own student years had little formative effect on me; most of what I have ever learnt I have learnt by reading books suggested by friends, by attending conferences, and generally by belonging to an informal network of colleagues having similar or related interests. As a university teacher I have not been invariably unsuccessful; but I am perfectly aware of the fact that, during all these decades, only a fraction of my professional energies was spent on students;(15) and practically none on fellow faculty members. Other people seem to have similar experiences. As a former professor at Harvard and at the University of California recently said: "I became a very senior, respected professor by publishing books and papers and by going around the world giving talks, not by being a good teacher. The more I was a good teacher, the more it took away from my publications and therefore my promotion possibilities."(16) In his book The Emerging Worldwide Electronic University Parker Rossman endorses the prediction of "the end of the university as most Americans picture it - four happy years on a resident campus". Rossman notes that half of American students in 1990 were older than the traditional college age, and that many people complete their college education or take graduate degrees on a part-time basis as commuters, taking courses across many working years."(17) As George Landow, of Brown University, suggests:

although we like to think - imagine or fantasize would be a more accurate term - that our educational institutions are characterized by Oxbridge tutorials, small seminars, and lots of contact between student and faculty, the great majority of American and European students (many of whom, incidentally, are nonresident or attend institutions without campuses or adequate student facilities) have for half a century or more received their education in lectures with hundreds of others.
collegiality is dissolving throughout both our colleges and universities, ... because faculty, especially in the humanities and the social sciences, spend less time on campus, preferring to work at home on personal computers, which give them access to libraries, databases, and other colleagues all over the world. In that sense the university as a place is disappearing because the people who really constitute the place interact less and less in the traditional university space.
Landow makes the important point that "the digital university is coming into being to remedy the shortcomings of the present non-digital one"; he emphasizes that traditional student-teacher contacts are supported and supplemented, rather than done away with, by contacts in the virtual space; that "[e]lectronic networks, like telephone lines, connect people, supplementing and strengthening rather than destroying the community based on physical presence"; and that computer-mediated communication actually produces "a new kind of collegiality".(18)

It was in a similar spirit Neil Rudenstine, President of Harvard University, addressed the issue in a talk given on May 29, 1996:

Many inventions (such as radio, film, and television) have of course had a massive effect on society - on how people spend their time, entertain themselves, and even gain information. But, in spite of many predictions, these particular inventions have had little effect on formal, serious, advanced education. Why should the Internet be any different? ... Let me suggest some of the main reasons why I believe that the Internet is fundamentally different from those earlier electronic inventions, and why I believe it is already having - and will continue to have - such a major effect on higher education. - To begin with, there is the steadily mounting evidence of dramatic change and intensity of use... More fundamentally, there is in fact a very close fit - a critical interlock - between the structures and processes of the Internet, and the main structures and processes of university teaching and learning. That same fit simply did not (and does not) exist with radio, film, or television. ... - If I say there is a critical interlock or fit here, I mean nothing more complicated than the plain fact that students can carry forward their work on the Internet in ways that are similar to - and tightly intertwined with - the traditional ways that they study and learn in libraries, classrooms, lecture halls, seminars, informal discussion groups, laboratories, and in the writing and editing of papers or reports.(19)
Some months later Rudenstine added some important points. As he said:
The Internet enhances the vital process of 'conversational' learning. We all know that the daily exchange of ideas and opinions among students, and between students and faculty members, is one of the oldest and most important forms of education. People argue and debate, listen and react, and sometimes even discover common solutions to difficult problems. - The Internet creates an array of new electronic forums for such conversational learning. Communication takes place at all hours, across distances, among people on campus and beyond. Instructors can hold supplementary 'electronic office hours' and moderate on-line discussion groups, unbounded by time or place. Students, even those who are reticent in the classroom, can put forward their hypotheses and invite their peers' reactions, or describe a problem they are struggling to solve and solicit suggestions from others. - Sustained, direct human contact is absolutely essential to serious education, and always will be. Ultimately, there is no effective substitute for 'live', face-to-face interchange. Nonetheless, the Internet permits a significant extension of scope, continuity, and even the quality of certain forms of interaction, even though electronic communication will always lack critical elements of 'real' conversation.(20)
And let me round off this tableau of illustrative citations by quoting two passages from an 1998 essay by Carl Raschke, professor of religious studies at the University of Denver. Raschke speaks about what he calls a "third knowledge revolution":
The first knowledge revolution was the beginning and use of language. The second knowledge revolution ... took place ... with the invention of writing. ... By the third knowledge revolution we mean the movement from knowledge that depends on a centrally located 'manufacturing' system to knowledge as a global and consumer-driven process of active inquiry, exploration, and interaction. This revolution has been ignited by the advent of computer networks and fueled by our feeding frenzy of information exchange, but its significance goes far beyond the explosive growth of online computing. ... - ... there is no way the third knowledge revolution can fail to shake up higher learning. Research is beginning to accumulate evidence that the electronic university will advance the goals of traditional higher education better than traditional higher education has been able to do and in ways that have nothing to do with costs and efficiency. New ways of packaging course content and visualization of concepts, better evaluation strategies, or promoting racial and ethnic diversity in the university community are just a few among many examples.(21)
Now although the new technologies tend to lead to patterns of audiovisual communication which, on the whole, are closer to our natural-biological makeup than were the patterns induced by the technologies of handwriting and printing, still today, and in the foreseeable future, there occur some serious cognitive losses when moving from physical to virtual teaching and learning environments. Face-to-face communication - this was, really, one of the crucial points Rudenstine made - has an incomparably wider bandwidth than any virtual channel. One should recall here Gérard Raulet's profound study "The New Utopia", written in the 1980s, pointing to the spurious idea of "supplanting places by spaces", and to the gap separating symbolic "interactivity" from actual social interaction.(22) We should refer, also, to the essentially consistent findings of an impressive array of empirical investigations showing that telecommunications, however dense and multidimensional the networks, do not have the effectiveness, let alone the emotional impact, of face-to-face encounters. Until the late seventies, such investigations focused on the effects of the telephone.(23) What they found was that although telephone contacts did of course make a difference when no other contacts were available,(24) the former, as contrasted with face-to-face contacts, had no great propensity to create new linkages. Telephone contacts are effective if they can rely on background information from earlier personal meetings, and if they are regularly reinforced by such.(25) The same pattern still holds when e-mail and teleconferencing enter.(26) The effectiveness of videoconferencing is low when not backed up by face-to-face conferences; e-mail correspondences peter out if they are not complemented by personal encounters, or at least enlivened by phone calls and/or video contacts.

The relative narrowness of virtual channels of communication has two sets of consequences for the virtual university. First, virtual learning environments absolutely need to be supplemented by physical learning environments; appropriate combinations of virtual and physical spaces have to be constructed. The virtual university presupposes a background of real universities, or some alternative network of physical consultation centers - the locations of face-to-face encounters among students, and between students and faculty. Secondly, to maintain a virtual seminar - that is, to keep up a steady flow of communication among students, and between students and faculty - requires a vast amount of work and time. This is true even when the virtual seminar supplements, rather than supplants, the usual university courses.(27)

It is at this point we should consider the contrast between, on the one hand, virtual universities in the strict sense of the word, and, on the other, distance education on the Internet. Distance education, writes James W. Hall, Vice Chancellor for Educational Technology and President of Empire State College, State University of New York,

is one of the most significant ways that the traditional university has sought to respond to scarcity. Distance education is, first and foremost, a movement that sought not so much to challenge or change the structure of higher learning, but a movement to extend the traditional university, a movement to overcome its inherent problems of scarcity and exclusivity. Distance education developed as a creative political response to the increasing inability of the traditional university structure to grow bigger.(28)
I am in sympathy with Hall's point of view; still, I believe it is useful to keep the two notions distinct - even if in practice, of course, they overlap. I take the view of the authors of a recent book, The Wired Professor, when they write:
While we may not agree with the lumping together of course Web pages with distance learning, we do believe that the experiences of educators working with distance learning are a valuable resource for advanced instructional design. ... Typically, the distance educator faces several challenges. Key among these is the isolation of the student and the fact that teachers and students often will have little in common in terms of background and daily experiences. These factors add new challenges for the distance educator, who starts a course knowing that the motivational factors that develop naturally in a classroom from contact and competition with classmates will be absent in a distance education course.(29)
I think it makes sense to say that the virtual university idea essentially involves the institution of virtual seminars, whereas distance education on the Internet relies on digital documents, and occasional e-mail or face-to-face consultations. Distance education on the Internet does present some new, specific, psychological and pedagogical problems, since the vehicle of conventional distance education - written or printed language - on the one hand, and digital texts and images on the other, do just not carry the same sort of information. I believe virtual documents have some obvious advantages, but there are still certain functions best served by the printed book. The specific pedagogical, psychological, and sociological problems a virtual university has to confront have to do with the differences between face-to-face and virtual communication. It is significant that different personality types vary in their capacity to cope with a virtual environment - this presents research challenges both for distance education on the Internet, and for the virtual university.

Religious Studies on the Net

According to an oft-cited formulation by John Dewey, "[s]ociety not only continues to exist by transmission, by communication, but it may fairly be said to exist in transmission, in communication. There is more than a verbal tie between the words common, community, and communication. Men live in a community in virtue of the things they have in common; and communication is the way in which they come to possess things in common."(30) To this passage Dewey added that "[n]ot only is social life identical with communication, but all communication (and hence all genuine social life) is educative. To be a recipient of communication is to have an enlarged and changed experience."(31) Need it be said that, also, there is an essential connection between communication and the religious quality of any community? As this conference itself so clearly testifies, the Christian churches are in the forefront of exploring the spiritual potentials of today's most advanced communications technologies. In his message to the 23rd World Communications Day, in 1989, Pope John Paul II could emphasize that: "Today ... one no longer thinks or speaks of social communications as mere instruments or technologies. Rather they are now seen as part of a still unfolding culture whose full implications are as yet imperfectly understood..."

It can come as no surprise, then, that religious studies are very much present on the Internet. Religious studies resource materials are available, as you of course know, in breath-taking abundance.(32) There are, also, pages providing overviews of specific courses in religious studies, offered by various departments and universities in the US and around the world.(33) Most of these courses are conventional ones, having a syllabus, a calendar, perhaps even some course materials, and so on, on the Web, like for instance some courses offered by the Department of Religious Studies at Southwest Missouri State University,(34) or the course "Islamic Civilisation" at the Universiti Putra Malaysia.(35) There are very many such courses. Some, indeed quite a few, though still of the conventional kind, have rich Internet dimensions, like Raschke's "The End of the World: Myth, Prophecy, or Fantasy?"(36), or the courses "Introduction to Religion" and "Comparative Religion" offered by Gerald Smith at Sewanee University.(37) By contrast, full-credit courses offered entirely on the Internet, like the Summer Internet "Comparative Religion" course from the University of Pennsylvania,(38) are still rare. And I am not aware of there being any institution offering a comprehensive Religious Studies program on the Internet.

Conclusion: The UNIWORLD Project

The UNIWORLD Non-Profit Association, working in close association with the Institute of Philosophy of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, had planned just such a program. Let me give you, first, an outline of the UNIWORLD virtual university project in general.(39) As the introductory page states,

UNIWORLD is building a virtual network in which Hungarian, European, and American institutions of higher education cooperate. The planned courses and subjects - to be offered, typically, both in Hungarian and English - will be jointly developed, and jointly taught to enrolled students of the participating institutions. It is expected that the partner institutions will move towards mutually recognizing the credits issued in connection with the joint undertakings.(40)
The introductory statement further points out:
The project aims at a general improvement of the efficiency of Hungarian tertiary education, with special awareness, however, of the needs of rural Hungary. The chances to enroll at a university are today for young Hungarians living in small villages ten to twenty times worse than for those living in bigger towns. Hungary has a large diaspora both in the neighboring countries of Romania, Slovakia, and Yugoslavia, as well as in the U.S. and globally. For small nations, ethnic groups, and isolated language areas all over the world, UNIWORLD could become a model for specific uses of electronic communication in higher education.
During the past two years, or four semesters, several university courses have been held under the auspices of UNIWORLD. The most recent one, "Ethics and Politics of Cross-Cultural Communications", was organized jointly with SUNY at Buffalo. And, from the very beginning, we envisaged building up the subject Religious Studies, along lines that, as we hoped, would reflect the growing presence of computer mediated-communication in society. All the time it was understood that, directed by Professor Miklós Tomka, the Philosophy of Religion Research Group of the Institute of Philosophy of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences would play a leading role in this enterprise. The Research Group has presented the plans of a Comparative Religious Studies Program, to be worked out in Hungarian - there exists no such university program in Hungary today at all - with a curriculum aiming at completeness, and a professed background of scientific pluralism and multiculturalism.

For lack of funds the program, so far, could not be realized.(41) As indicated above, the elaboration of virtual courses involves very high costs in terms of faculty time, and academics in contemporary Hungary - forgive me for mentioning, by way of conclusion, such a down-to-earth matter - have no time to spend on unpaid jobs. Our virtual university religious studies program, then, is more virtual than real; however, very real are the researches that form its backround: scientific investigations into, and experiments on, the possibilities of virtual education.(42)


1. The book was based on lectures delivered in Dublin, where Newman presided over the establishment of a Roman Catholic University that came into being in 1854. The collection first bore the title Discourses on the Scope and Nature of University Education: Addressed to the Catholics of Dublin, becoming popularly known as The Idea of a University after several revisions and enlargements. I am here quoting from the edition by F.M. Turner, with contributions by Martha McMackin Garland, Sara Castro-Klarén, George P. Landow, George M. Marsden, Frank M. Turner, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.

2. Newman, op. cit., p.3.

3. See my paper "Electronic Networking and the Unity of Knowledge", in: Stephanie Kenna and Seamus Ross, eds., Networking in the Humanities, London: Bowker-Saur, 1995, pp.253-282.

4. I owe this point to Tamás Tóth's paper "A napoleoni egyetemtõl a humboldti egyetemig" [From the Napoleonic to the Humboldtian University]. Concerning Newman I am indebted to Zoltán Endreffy's "A katolikus egyetemrõl" [On the Catholic University]. Both papers were written as part of the Institute of Philosophy of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences research project "The Changing Function of the European University", directed by Professor Tóth, and are to appear in the Aug.-Sept. 1999 issue of Világosság.

5. Newman, op. cit., pp.76f.

6. Ibid., pp.105f.

7. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1895, in 2 volumes. New edition in three volumes, ed. by F.M. Powicke and A.B. Emden, London: Oxford University Press, 1936, reprinted in1969. It is the latter edition I will be quoting from.

8. "That universities should be multiplied", the passage continues, "is, within certain limits, natural and desirable; and it is by no means essential that all should conform exactly to the same pattern. It is natural and desirable again that efforts should be made to diffuse knowledge and intellectual interests among all classes by means of evening lectures. ... But it would be a delusion, and a mischievous delusion, to suppose thet evening lectures, however excellent and however much supplemented by self-education, can be the same thing as the student-leisure of many years, duly prepared for by a still longer period of regular school training" (Rashdall, op. cit., vol.3, p.462).

9. "To a certain extent of course", the passage continues, "these functions are performed by every sort of educational institution and every scientific or literary society. But it behoves us not to lose or lower the ideal of the university as the place par excellence for professed and properly trained students, not for amateurs or dilettantes or even for the most serious of leisure-hour students; for the highest intellectual cultivation, and not merely for elementary instruction or useful knowledge; for the advancement of science, and not merely for its conservation or diffusion; as the place moreover where different branches of knowledge are brought into contact and harmonious combination with one another, and where education and research advance side by side" (Rashdall, op.cit., vol.3, pp. 463f.).

10. See esp. George P. Landow's recent essay, "Newman and the Idea of an Electronic University", in: Turner, F.M. (ed.), J.H. Newman: The Idea of a University.

11. I. Hajnal, "Universities and the Development of Writing in the XIIth-XIIIth Centuries", Scriptorum. International Review of Manuscript Studies, VI/2 [1952],pp.179f. - Hajnal was a truly seminal figure. His early work, published in the 1930s, had a marked influence on the so-called Toronto School, from which e.g. Marshall McLuhan emerged.

12. For a brilliant analysis see I.R. Willison, On the History of Libraries and Scholarship, Washington: Library of Congress, 1980.

13. Cf. "Should Distance Learning be Rationed?". Interview with Larry Gold and James R. Mingle. Educom Review, vol.31, no.4 (July/August 1996). James Mingle, Executive Director of the State Higher Education Executives Offices, is critical of the report. "Admittedly", he says, "it is difficult for faculty to accept the transformation of higher education from a producer-dominated to a consumer-dominated enterprise. Actually, it doesn't much matter whether legislators, or accrediting bodies, or parents, or faculty, prefer one delivery mode over another - for we are not fully in control. It will be the marketplace that will decide whether 'distance learning' will thrive or die. This of course doesn't mean that professionals should abdicate their responsibilities to exercise quality control and establish integrity in our educational programs. It just means we have to negotiate our views with some powerful new groups - students and employers mainly - who have a whole new set of choices." Educom Review materials are accessible at <http://www.educause.edu/pub/er/review/teachLearnIndex.html>.

14. Chronicle of Higher Education, 9 Oct 1998.

15. Since 1997 this has changed - as a consequence of my putting courses on the web (see <http://www.uniworld.hu/egyetem>), and having day-to-day e-mail contacts with my classes.

16. Donald Norman in the exchange "Transforming and Preserving Education: Traditional Values in Question", Educom Review, vol.29, no.6 (November/December 1994).

17. Parker Rossman, The Emerging Worldwide Electronic University: Information Age Global Higher Education, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1992, pp.7f. More recent (1995/96) figures are reported by Richard L. Hannah in his brilliant essay "Merging the Intellectual and Technical Infrastructures of Higher Education: The Internet Example" (The Internet and Higher Education, vol.1, no.1., 1998, p.10): "The age, experience, and work history of students impact online acceptance, often define access points (e.g., campus, work, home) and indicate career relevance of leaning about and through the Internet in addition to the context of the specific academic course content. The traditional "four year degree" is not realistic for most students. In fact, the majority (58.3%) of undergraduate college students are now beyond the benchmark (if not mythical) 21-year-old graduate... Statistical profiles of freshmen surveys consistently show a high proportion of students expect to work to help pay for college expenses, 39.5%, with 5.5% expecting to work full time... Anecdotal testaments indicate this is a significant underestimate of work hours, and some research is indicating that the work-school blending is also emerging as a significant factor in high schools."

18. George P. Landow, op. cit., pp.359ff.

19. Neil Rudenstine, "The Internet is Changing Higher Education", American Studies Journal, no.39, November 1996, p.50.

20. Neil Rudenstine, "The Internet and Education: a Close Fit", The Chronicle of Higher Education, Feb. 21, 1997.

21. Carl Raschke, "Digital Culture, the Third Knowledge Revolution, and the Coming of the Hyperuniversity", Syllabus, March 1998, pp.14 and 16.

22. My references here are based on the German edition: G. Raulet, "Die neue Utopie. Die soziologische und philosophische Bedeutung der neuen Kommunikationstechnologien", in: M. Frank, G. Raulet and W. van Reijen, eds., Die Frage nach dem Subjekt, Frankfurt/M.: 1988. Compare especially p.285 ("die hier gemeinte 'neue Utopie' [bedeutet] das Verschwinden des Örtlichen zugunsten des Räumlichen... die Kategorie der Delokalisierung") and p.287 ("eine leichtfertig mit der sozialen Interaktion verwechselte 'Interaktivität'").

23. A pioneering study was Richard L. Meier's A Communications Theory of Urban Growth, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1962. "Face-to-face interaction", Meier here wrote, "which is most efficient by far in creating and maintaining groups, requires proximity" (loc. cit., p.42).

24. See e.g. Suzanne Keller, "The Telephone in New (and Old) Communities", in: Ithiel de Sola Pool, ed., The Social Impact of the Telephone, Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1977.

25. See esp. Bertil Thorngren, "Silent Actors: Communication Networks for Development", in: Ithiel de Sola Pool, ed., The Social Impact of the Telephone.

26. Analyzing the impact of telecommunications on urban and regional development, Lionel Nicol wrote in 1985: "telecommunications - and, for that matter, the telephone - have traditionally been presented as having a decentralizing influence. The basic argument is that a fundamental effect of better communications is to reduce spatial impedance; that is, the frictional forces that geographical space imposes on the transfer of persons, commodities, and information. ... Yet, despite its impressive advantages, there are no tangible signs that telecommunications may be displacing transportation... Claims to the contrary simply ignore the synergic effects of improved communications on the need for face-to-face contacts that, for institutional or cultural reasons, cannot be handled on-line." (Lionel Nicol, "Communications Technology: Economic and Spatial Impacts", in: Manuel Castells, ed., High Technology, Space, and Society, Beverly Hills, Ca.: Sage: 1985, p.195.) As Mitchell L. Moss has put it: "Although many so-called futurists argue that the electronic cottage will replace the office building and that teleconferencing will replace the in-person meeting, such speculation merely demonstrates a poor understanding of urban functions... ... telecommunications has not reduced the value of the face to face transactions that occur in large urban centres." (Mitchell L. Moss, "Telecommunications and the Future of Cities", Land Development Studies, 3 [1986], pp.38f.)

27. As Richard Hannah writes: " most faculty I know who rely heavily on Internet use in standard term courses speak of an intensified commitment with more one-on-one contact and faculty-to-class contact between the scheduled class meeting times. ... Most of the true costs are paid in faculty reallocations of time. Faculty members I know who have been engaged with Internet activities for the past few years count their investment in thousands of hours." (op. cit., pp.12 and 15).

28. James W. Hall, "The Revolution in Electronic Technology and The Modern University: The Convergence of Means", Educom Review, vol.30, no.4 (July/August 1995).

29. Anne B. Keating - Joseph Hargitai, The Wired Professor: A Guide to Incorporating the World Wide Web in College Instruction, New York University Press, 1999, cf. <http://www.nyupress.nyu.edu/professor.html/webinteaching>, chapter 6).

30. Dewey, Democracy and Education, New York: Macmillan Co., 1915, p.4.

31. Ibid., p.6.

32. See e.g. <http://humanitas.ucsb.edu/shuttle/religion.html#general> for an excellent "General Religious Studies Resources" overview.

33. See e.g. <http://www.utexas.edu/world/lecture/rel> (" World Lecture Hall").

34. See <http://www.smsu.edu/RelSt/courses/courses.htm>.

35. See <http://eco1.upm.edu.my>.

36. Short description, on the "World Lecture Hall" page: "Patterns of 'apocalyptic' religious belief concerning the end of the world, in historical and contemporary contexts. Groups that exemplify the phenomenon of 'millenial fever' as we approach the year 2000. Syllabus. Exams.

Grades. Student work. Links to related materials. By Carl Raschke, University of Denver.


37. See <http://smith2.sewanee.edu/Rayid/111> and <http://smith2.sewanee.edu/Rayid/261/00261.html>.

38. As a recent e-mail announcement stated: "Religious Studies 002, 'Religions of the West', will be offered this summer in a full-credit internet version taught by Professor Ann Matter. This course will explore primary religious traditions of the Western world. The religious traditions of the ancient Near East will be a backdrop for study of the living and intertwined belief systems of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism and Baha'i. Topics will include the role of scripture, definitions of monotheism, gender and authority, ritual, material culture, and the role of religion in western political systems. - The course will be offered from June 21- July 26. It will involve 'real

time' video lectures and slide presentations scheduled for Mondays 7-10 p.m. and Saturdays 11a.m. - 2 p.m. EDT, as well as chat room office hours and threaded discussions during the week. Religious Studies 002 is part of the General Requirement in History and Tradition at the University of Pennsylvania. This version of the course will count for the requirement. - This program makes it possible to earn a University of Pennsylvania transcript and undergraduate credit without setting foot on campus! For additional information or an on-line application, check the website at http://www.advance.upenn.edu or call (215) 898-1684 (College of General Studies). You can also email Professor Matter directly at <matter@ccat.sas.upenn.edu>."

39. See <http://www.uniworld.hu>, with link to the English pages.

40. After this passage, there follows an optimistic sentence, not, I am afraid, anymore reflecting our present expectations: "In the long term, UNIWORLD plannes to offer direct enrollment possibilities and degrees." And then come some enthusiastic passages, in the essential message of which I still believe: "The virtual university is a 21st century version of distance education, eliminating, however, rather than bridging, distance. Though personal encounters between faculty and students should and could not be completely eliminated, the vehicle of instruction through UNIWORLD is networked communication. UNIWORLD preserves, or even recreates, the personal community of scholar and student, the living atmosphere of lectures and seminars. In this sense it continues the legacy of the traditional university. It is different, though, from both the traditional university and distance education, so far as it makes most of the world of multimedia. It radically surpasses the realm of the linear text, the culture of the book. The curriculum transcends disciplinary boundaries, making extensive use of the rich variety of audiovisual tools and interactive teaching methods. This elevates the building of virtual university into a task of philosophical dimensions by an effort to go beyond the text-centered thinking of modern European culture. - The UNIWORLD project is, first and foremost, a research program in social theory and the theory of knowledge; an avantgarde practice, out of the experiences of which a new theory of the new modes of organization of ideas and people - of the symbolic and the social-physical world - can be constructed. UNIWORLD encompasses the whole vertical integration of education, from the basic skills of writing and reading to postgraduate training; our hypothesis being that the borders between elementary, secondary, and tertiary education are becoming fluid. UNIWORLD is interested both in liberal education and professional training; our hypothesis being that the walls between abstract and concrete knowledge, between theoretical knowledge and practical skills, are crumbling away."

41. We still try to work on some more modest tasks. Thus there exist plans for a "Religions, Cultures, and Communication" course, to be elaborated as part of an EU project. The course, as designed by Professor Tomka, intends to develop Internet-accessible study material within a multidisciplinary framework, combining psychological, sociological and political approaches with concepts of cultural communication, and emphasizing the new conditions of religious communication in the Internet era. The key topics of the course would be: Religion as symbolic and social communication. - Religion in the genesis of old and new Europe. - The European value system and its religious components. - The multiplicity of religions in a European context. - The specific European feature of Secularization. - Diverging religious tendencies in Western and in post-communist societies. - Correlations of individualism, religious pluralism, communication and tolerance.

42. Added at 15:35, July 9, 1999: Some minutes after I have finished my talk at the ECIC IV conference, I received a telephone message saying that the Hungarian Ministry of Education has granted UNIWORLD a small sum that will enable us to continue working on the planned Religious Studies programme. It appears the prayers had not been in vain.