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Part IV.

Listen to the following passage about new technology and its impact on the changes in universities. Write a short summary of around 150-200 words of what you have heard. This part of the test carries 20 points.

Our society is now being reshaped by rapid advances in information technologies -- computers, telecommunications networks, and other digital systems -- that have vastly increased our capacity to know, achieve, and collaborate. These technologies allow us to transmit information quickly and widely, linking distant places and diverse areas of endeavor in productive new ways, and to create communities that just a decade ago were unimaginable.

Of course, our society has been through other periods of dramatic change before, driven by such innovations as the steam engine, railroad, telephone, and automobile. But never before have we experienced technologies that are evolving so rapidly (increasing in power by a hundredfold every decade), altering the constraints of space and time, and reshaping the way we communicate, learn and think.

The rapid evolution of digital technologies is creating not only new opportunities for our society, but also challenges to it as well, and institutions of every stripe are grappling to respond by adapting their strategies and activities. Corporations and governments are reorganizing to enhance productivity, improve quality, and control costs. Entire industries have been restructured to better align themselves with the realities of the digital age. It is no great exaggeration to say that information technology is fundamentally changing the relationship between people and knowledge.

Yet ironically, at the most knowledge-based entities of all -- our colleges and universities -- the pace of transformation has been relatively modest in key areas. Although research has in many ways been transformed by information technology, and it is increasingly used for student and faculty communications, other higher-education functions have remained more or less unchanged. Teaching, for example, largely continues to follow a classroom-centered, seat-based paradigm.

Nevertheless, some major technology-aided teaching experiments are beginning to emerge, and several factors suggest that digital technologies may eventually drive significant changes throughout academia. Because these technologies are expanding by orders of magnitude our ability to create, transfer, and apply information, they will have a profound impact on how universities define and fulfill their missions. In particular, the ability of information technology to facilitate new forms of human interaction may allow the transformation of universities toward a greater focus on learning.

Already, higher education has experienced significant technology-based change, particularly in research, even though it presently lags other sectors in some respects. And we expect that the new technology will eventually also have a profound impact on one of the university's primary activities -- teaching -- by freeing the classroom from its physical and temporal bounds and by providing students with access to original source materials. The situations that students will encounter as citizens and professionals can increasingly be simulated and modeled for teaching and learning, and new learning communities driven by information technology will allow universities to better teach students how to be critical analyzers and consumers of information.

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