About the Center
The foundation of the TAC goes back more than fifteen years to an Advanced Research Products Agency Technology Reinvestment Project (ARPA/TRP/NSF) at East Carolina University, called The Factory as a Learning Laboratory-- A Practice-Based M.S. Degree Program for Defense Industry Scientists and Engineers, Dr. J. Barry DuVall, Director (1994-1997). This project led to the development of the first Internet programs for East Carolina University (ECU) and the first online graduate degree programs in Industrial Technology in the nation. A significant outcome of the ARPA/TRP project was the creation of a strong cadre of online teaching faculty and the identification and testing of a suite of interactive tools. The content delivery solution enabled learners to complete their coursework using primitive dial-up connections from remote and distant lands.
U. S. Department of Education (FPSE/LAAP) Initiative
Two years later, $4.68 million in funding was provided by the U.S. Department of Education (FIPSE/LAAP), Ericsson (Research Triangle Park, NC), and East Carolina University for a research project called OWLS (Online Wireless Learning Solutions; 1999-2002). At the same time, an innovative project directed by Dr. David L. Watkins called (Handsprings to Learning) was implemented at ECU to enhance the teaching and learning processes using handheld computers. The major partner in this project was Handsprings, manufacturer of the Visor and other devices running the Palm OS (Operating System). In the Spring semester of 2000, handhelds (PDA/personal Digital Assistants) were distributed to more than 75 students in six classes. Many of these students were enrolled in distance learning classes from locations worldwide. The Handsprings to Learning initiative was the first project of its kind in the world deploying handheld computers to undergraduate and graduate students outside of the boundaries of the continental United States. A synergy was created with an integration of the OWLS and HTL projects. This resulted in refinement of the OWLS philosophy for anytime/anywhere learning, and the OWLS Sync-and-Go solution. Learners were able to sync their handheld to a desktop and pull the latest course content from the OWLS AvantGo server to their PDA for on-the-go learning.
OWLS provided a content delivery system capitalizing on wireless, wired, and standalone access to content, enabling students to take learning almost anywhere. When the OWLS project was completed, more than 40 different colleges, universities, professional organizations, and public schools had received OWLS training and tested materials and products that had been developed. 29 of these participants were colleges and universities, two represented professional organizations serving eight locations, and four were public schools in North Carolina. Participants offering courses and training were located in: California, Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, South Carolina, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Learners served by participants were located in 23 states, the District of Columbia, and several distant lands: Australia, Brazil, Belgium, the Marshall Islands, and Vietnam. The OWLS project was Co-directed by Drs. J. Barry DuVall and David R. Hillis.
Center for Wireless and Mobile Computing
A proposal to create the Center for Wireless and Mobile Computing was submitted by Drs. David Watkins, Barry DuVall and David Hillis to the ECU upper administration. Formal approval to establish the Center was provided by the Interim Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, Dr. Robert Thompson in March of 2002. A one-year extension was provided on March 15, 2002 to OWLS by the U.S. Department of Education (2002-2003) enabling OWLS to provide expanded services to East Carolina University. The CWMC was established with direct reporting authority to the Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs/Distributive Education and Academic Information Technology.
From its inception in April of 2002 until January of 2004, the Center for Wireless and Mobile Computing was charged to: (1) provide leadership in developing and effectively applying wireless and mobile technologies for teaching, learning, communication, and information processing, (2) build partnerships and alliances within and outside of the University, (3) share information on effective applications of wireless and mobile devices in education, business, and industry, and (4) build a learning organization benefiting from the knowledge of corporate leaders designing the future of wireless and mobile computing.
Reorganization of the university and new priorities for action made it increasingly important for the Center to rethink and expand its mission, emphasizing the role of the Center as an R&D incubator and test bed conducting applied research and transfer of technology for learning from a distance.
By the summer of 2004, the Center for Wireless and Mobile Computing had established a reputation for identifying, testing, and implementing new technology for wireless and mobile teaching and learning. Successful projects with alliance partners and maturation of the fields of wireless and mobile computing and distance learning suggested the need for an expanded vision and name for the Center.
Technology Advancement Center
A request to change the name of the Center for Wireless and Mobile Computing to the Technology Advancement Center (TAC) was made to Dr. Elmer C. Poe, Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs/Academic Outreach. Final approval supporting the name change was granted by the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs on January 19th, 2005. The Center was closed on June 30, 2009 due to an economic downturn and budget reductions university-wide.