Back when all EIES were on the virtual classroom


Texas Instruments Portable Memory Terminal Model 765 which was used in EIES teleconferences.

Tim's blog entry a few days ago on the state of "continuing education" and my own entry yesterday that included a reference to 1970's video, sent me back to the earliest efforts in "online collaboration" here at NJIT.

The Electronic Information Exchange System (EIES) came about in the early 70's when IBM was a power to be reckoned with and computers in schools were limited to universities. EIES received funding from IBM and AT&T, non-profit foundations like the Annenberg Trust, and governmental agencies like the NSF and the NJ Commission of Science and Technology. EIES was the first major implementation of collaborative software.

Here's EIES founder Murray Turoff describing in 1972 an early version of EIES:

"Basically the Delphi Conference appears to have utility when one or more of the following conditions were met:

  • the group cannot meet often enough in committee to give adequate timely consideration to the topic because of time or distance constraints
  • there is a specific reason to preserve the anonymity of the conferees (e.g., refereeing of position papers or a free exchange among different levels
    in an organizational structure)
  • the group is too large for an effective conference telephone call or committee exchange
  • the group is interdisciplinary to the extent that a structured or refereed communication mode as opposed to a committee or panel approach is more desirable in promoting an efficient exchange of information
  • telephone and letter communications, on a one-to-one basis, are insufficient ortoo cumbersome to augment the particular committee activity
  • disagreement among members of the group are too severe for a meaningful committee of face-to-face process for the exchange of views and information."

Circa 1975, EIES and the Computerized Conferencing and Communications (CCCC) and Emerging Technologies Centers at NJIT were all pre-public Internet. By 1977, they were connecting scientists worldwide with email, chat and discussion groups. They started Groupware and user programming using the homegrown Interact interface language. Much of the experimentation was designed to learn how to structure group communications. NJIT owns the trademark on CollectiveIntelligenceâ„¢ and the VirtualClassroomâ„¢ .They had thousands of researchers, futurists, authors, librarians and corporate executives using the tools until 2000.

EIES pioneered many of the concepts of BBS- style community software and even the CMS products like WebCT/Blackboard of today and it evolved to include threaded-replies, anonymous messages and polling.

The same way that we play semantics badminton with terms like "course management system", "learning management system" and "virtual learning environment", the EIES era hit "decision support system", "computer-mediated communications", and "collective intelligence" back and forth.

Some of the EIES crew is still at NJIT including distinguished professors Murray Turoff and Roxanne Hiltz, while others like Al Leurck and Jim Scarver are nearby at Xanthus, but the centers and EIES are retired.

The New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) has been a pioneer in the adaptation and implementation of computer technology for the purpose of augmenting and extending the classroom experience.


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