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Institutional Readiness Criteria - Example 2

Is there a demonstrated commitment on the part of institutional leaders to use technology to achieve strategic academic goals, a commitment that moves beyond using technology to provide general support for all faculty and for all courses?

Almost every college and university in the country provides support for faculty to integrate technology into teaching and learning. Most, however, stop at that general goal without thinking more deeply about how the use of technology enables the institution to achieve its strategic goals. Fewer still target specific elements of the curriculum to achieve maximum impact. Do your institutional strategic plans differentiate between general support and strategic applications of technology in the academic program?

What evidence can you provide to demonstrate an institutional commitment to using technology to achieve strategic academic goals? Here are some examples of the ways various institutions have responded to this criterion.

University at Buffalo (SUNY)

Administrative Restructuring for Advancing the Academic Uses of Technology. Through reorganization, UB has signaled its determination to emphasize an increased capability to define and achieve strategic academic uses of technology. It has created two high-level positions to oversee the creation of a coherent IT infrastructure solidly integrated into the academic culture: in 1996 a Senior Associate Vice President who is the institution’s CIO, and in 1998 a Senior Vice Provost for Educational Technology whose major responsibility is to develop comprehensive initiatives for student use and faculty development of IT. The newly established College of Arts & Sciences, the entity responsible for the greater part of undergraduate general education, also incorporates the recently created position of Assistant Dean for Educational Technology. The current Provost makes the point with crystal clarity, in his Mission Review document of March 1999, that the academic uses of IT are conspicuously at the center of the university’s strategic vision.

Focussed Faculty and Curriculum IT Development. To begun a coordinated integration of IT into academic teaching and learning, the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Development established the Faculty Development Working Group (FDWG). For maximum impact, the FDWG focuses on support of faculty and curriculum IT development in the introductory courses most affected by freshman enrollment: Computer Science 101, Chemistry 101, Evolutionary Biology 200, Psychology 101, English Composition, and World Civilization 111. Bringing together the expertise of faculty, technologists, and librarians, the FDWG provides technical and pedagogical guidance (planning and supporting discipline-specific workshops and individual training support) in a collaborative peer relationship with course instructors and TAs.

Center for Computational Research (CCR). Representing major partnerships with IBM, Sun, and SGI, and with a strategic $2.5 million institutional investment, CCR demonstrates UB’s staunch commitment to the development of a high- speed computational facility. The establishment of CCR places UB in the top ten nationally of academic supercomputing centers. (See http://www.ccr.buffalo.edu/).

Integrated Digital Explorations in the Arts & Sciences (IDEAS). The IDEAS Center is a university investment in digital multimedia collaboration across an array of Arts & Sciences disciplines (Media Study, Art, Music, English Department Poetics Program, Computer Science, Library Science). It focuses on interdisciplinary research and instructional development projects in the arts, humanities, and sciences. The Center is negotiating a partnership with CCR (see above).

University of Central Florida

In 1994 the university Strategic Planning Council was charged with revisiting the 1991 Strategic Plan with the subsequent revision completed in 1996. The present plan has, as its central support, the original five goals identified by President John C. Hitt and adopted in the 1991 Strategic Plan. The five goals are to:

  • offer the best undergraduate education available in Florida
  • achieve international prominence in key programs of graduate study and research
  • provide international focus to our curriculum and research programs
  • become more inclusive and diverse
  • be America’s partnership university.

In order to accomplish the five goals, the Strategic Plan delineated four strategic directions, one of which is the innovative use of technology. A basic assumption of the plan is the university’s employment of advanced information technology resources and services to accomplish its strategic mission.

Projections by the State University System indicate that UCF enrollment will increase from its current 30,000 students to 52,000 students by the year 2010. The university recognizes the challenges involved in developing strategies for accommodating growth while maintaining quality by employing all available methods, including distributed learning. The Strategic Plan recommends the maintenance of an advanced institutional technology infrastructure that supports the institution’s primary functions of teaching, research, and service and the provision of adequate technology for all faculty, staff, and administrators. The plan encourages the proactive development and deployment of instructional technologies and distance learning delivery modes to facilitate time- and place-independent learning or just-in-time learning.

UCF has formally recognized distributed learning as a strategic direction to improve access to educational opportunities for students within its service area and beyond. The university has chosen to employ the World Wide Web as its primary tool to address a rapidly-growing student population, a shortage of classroom space, and the need to maintain quality within available resources. The Strategic Plan makes a strong commitment to contribute significant resources to effectively employ technology throughout the university.

Faculty development programs to assist in acquiring the appropriate skills to effectively select and use technology are on-going. The Interactive Distributed Learning eight-week faculty development course (IDL6543) moves beyond general support for faculty and courses by providing: release time to develop courses, course templates and software, and group and one-on-one technical assistance. Faculty who plan to teach a course fully or partially on-line must participate in the IDL course prior to offering the course.

The processes used in this systematic course and faculty development initiative have enabled the support of many faculty and courses while maintaining quality. Course developers act as change agents to facilitate model- and process-building across disciplines for faculty with varying levels of technological ability and experience. A cultural change is encouraged among faculty through the development of faculty cohorts that transform the teaching and learning process involving collaborative, experiential learning, and modeling instructional best practices.

UCF was named as one of five North American Best Practices institutions in assisting faculty to use technology in the classroom in a recent benchmarking study by the American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC) and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO). The APQC/SHEEO ranking considered the coordinated efforts of the library, the Office of Instructional Resources (OIR), the Computer Services department, the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning, and the Office of Course Development and Web Services to provide UCF faculty with comprehensive support for the use of technology and information resources.

University of Colorado-Boulder

Our campus' main academic initiative, the Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society (ATLAS), is a very broad campus-wide initiative aimed at establishing excellence in integration and understanding of information and communication technology into teaching, curriculum, research and outreach. ATLAS was started in 1997 with a substantial ongoing resource commitment, and the highest visibility of any initiative on campus. It has progressed very rapidly and with broad faculty involvement. Some highlights of ATLAS accomplishments so far include:

  • a planning process that included nearly 100 of our 1200 faculty;
  • many individual course, "showcase" and unit-scale projects that make innovative uses of technology in education in a broad range of disciplines, coupled with assessment by a newly-established technology in education assessment research group;
  • establishment of a novel, campus-wide Technology, Arts and Media undergraduate certificate program and development and offering of new multidisciplinary courses for the program;
  • new multidisciplinary research projects on several topics in the societal impacts of technology; and
  • involvement in major K-12 proposals with school districts and our state education department.

ATLAS also has provided some of the drive for the very substantial infrastructure commitments that are discussed below. It forms a major part of the campus' external fundraising objectives, including private, industrial, state, and federal.

In addition, President Buechner has made the creation of a Total Learning Environment (TLE) the cornerstone of his plans for CU, and one of the four TLE goals is "Using technology to improve teaching, learning, research and management." ATLAS is our campus' main new TLE initiative and has received substantial resource support from the system as well. The use of technology in large, core undergraduate courses has been a particular emphasis of both TLE and ATLAS funding.

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

The SCALE Efficiency Projects represent a campus-level strategic approach to IT implementation, although they are atypical of UIUC. It is important to note that the UIUC campus is highly decentralized and that much of the IT support for instruction lies within the individual units. If commitment to strategic ends means centrally initiated projects, then no, there is little recent history of such commitment. However, many of the units themselves have embraced strategic objectives. Here are some examples.

In the College of Commerce and Business Administration, technology adoption within the MBA program has been aimed at fostering team building and camaraderie among the students. This has been done by adopting courseware program wide rather than at the course level. In the Physics department, the entire introductory engineering-physics sequence has been redesigned using IT for the homework assignments, both to introduce active learning elements into the instruction and to get more of the faculty engaged in the teaching of these introductory courses. In the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, the online distance learning masters program, LEEP3, has been designed so that all faculty members teach in the program, to make it integral to the school’s mission. Each of these cases illustrates a strategic approach to IT implementation. In each case, the decisions have been entirely internalized by the units that made them.

For a campus-level strategic initiative to be successful at UIUC, it must either be restricted to those courses which have very broad audiences or it must be designed to respect the decentralized decision structure.

Virginia Tech

The University’s Academic Agenda identifies such strategies as

  • Facilitate teaching in a distributed learning environment
  • Facilitate the integration of technology in teaching, research and outreach

to implement its Strategic Directions for improving the learning environment to promote both disciplinary competence and education of the whole person. This commitment is supported and spelled out in the planning document, College of Arts and Science Strategies and Tasks for 1997-1999.

Each year the Center for Innovation in Learning (CIL) offers grants to encourage faculty to integrate technology in teaching in strategically targeted curricular areas. One of those targeted areas is high demand, core curriculum courses. In addition, Virginia Tech provides on-going faculty development for the integration of technology in teaching in its Faculty Development Institute (FDI). FDI is a four-year cycling program during which time all Virginia Tech faculty have an opportunity to work on instructional projects that incorporate technology. Ninety-six percent of Virginia Tech’s faculty have participated in the first four-year cycle. This year, 1998 –99, marks the first year of the second cycle, and nearly 500 faculty participated in the intensive summer workshops. Just-in-time workshops and conferences occur throughout the rest of the year. These two initiatives are representative of Virginia Tech’s programs for grass-roots faculty development with technology in concert with a strategically focused curriculum development effort.