August 17, 2000
Vol. 19 No. 20

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    University joins other institutions in the launch of educational Web site Fathom

    By Steve Koppes
    News Office

    The University is one of four new partners of Fathom, a company formed by a number of leading academic and cultural institutions to launch what they hope will become the premier site for interactive knowledge and education on the Web.

    Fathom will offer users free content from its member institutions, access to courses and products related to intellectual pursuits through www.fathom.com, which will be launched later this year.

    Fathom’s original six institutions are Columbia University, the London School of Economics and Political Science, Cambridge University Press, the British Library, the New York Public Library and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

    Joining Fathom with the University are the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the American Film Institute and RAND, a not-for-profit institution devoted to improving policy and decision-making through research and analysis. At Fathom, the institutions will include a variety of content that includes images of the wreck of the Titanic (Woods Hole), the first-ever chemical analysis of Martian rocks (the University), master seminars by cinema legends on the filmmaking process (American Film Institute) and ground-breaking reports on education reform (RAND).

    “The University of Chicago has, since its founding, understood its obligation to make the discoveries of its faculty available beyond the academic world,” said Robert Zimmer, the Max Mason Distinguished Service Professor in Mathematics and Deputy Provost of the University. “We are partnering with Fathom because we believe it will help our faculty to share their work efficiently with sophisticated audiences wherever they may be.”

    Fathom will work with the leading faculty, researchers and curators of partner institutions to develop original content on a diverse range of subjects. Fathom content is intended to meet the quality standards of the participating institutions and will be authenticated, meaning that the knowledge will be attributed to the appropriate academic or cultural institution and its faculty or research staff. An advisory board comprised of scholars selected from Fathom’s members, including Chicago, will oversee the development of content, which will include multimedia lectures, seminars, databases, publications and performances.

    Fathom plans to offer e-commerce in the context of knowledge acquisition that complements its free content. Products will range from textbooks and CD-ROMs to journals and educational travel opportunities, as well as a comprehensive directory of related online courses. Users may request enrollment in online courses through Fathom, with tuition fees, accreditation and admission policies set at the discretion of the offering university or cultural institution.

    “Fathom’s offerings through content, courses and e-commerce will create a vibrant home for intellectual enrichment and development online,” said Ann Kirschner, Fathom’s chief executive officer. “With 10 of the world’s most respected institutions as key members of the enterprise, Fathom is building a one-of-a-kind, international brand for knowledge and education on the Internet.”