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Institutional Readiness Criteria - Example 7

Has the institution made a commitment to learner readiness to engage in IT-based courses?

Learner readiness involves more than access to computers and to the network. It also involves access to technical support as well as other forms of student support (e.g., help in using navigation tools, course management systems, etc.) How computer literate/network savvy are your students? Do you have processes in place that enable them to gain such literacy? Are students aware of what is required to be successful in technology-intensive courses? Do you have processes in place that assist them in making wise choices or that prepare them for success?

What evidence can you provide to demonstrate an institutional commitment to preparing students to participate in IT-based courses? Here are some examples of the ways various institutions have responded to this criterion.

De Anza College (Foothill-De Anza Community College District)

Over the past three years, approximately $4,000,000 of the $4,800,000 instructional equipment budget has been allocated to technological needs and the De Anza Student Body has donated more than $2,000,000 in support of computer laboratories. De Anza seeks to be a leader in distance learning and enthusiastically participates in innovative community college ventures such as @ONE and the Flashlight Consortium.

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, De Anza has a very high proportion of students who are quite computer and network savvy. In fact, virtually all of our students are employed concurrent with their academic pursuits, many in high-tech companies here in the Valley. About a third indicate they are at De Anza primarily to improve their job skills and employability for positions in the area. As a result, our highest levels of enrollment are in technology areas such as computer information systems, CAD, and computer graphics, accounting for 20% of our total FTES. We often have extremely long waiting lists for these types of classes. "Computer literacy," as such, is not an issue for us.

The college recognizes awareness of what is required to be successful in technology-intensive courses is a critical prerequisite to success in our technology-intensive classes. To prepare our distance learning students for their experience, for example, we recently designed and installed an extensive web-based orientation process that has met with very good reviews (http://distance.deanza.fhda.edu/orientation.html). We are currently examining the impact of this preparation method, including web-based self-assessments, for possible transfer to other areas of the college.

Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI)

IUPUI has made a commitment to engage learners in IT-based courses. For example, through the UITS Education Program, during new student orientation, IUPUI freshmen are introduced to the IUPUI network and computing resources on campus. In 1999, UITS will participate in more than 110 orientation sessions to provide 7,500 newly-admitted students access to their network IDs, as well as a general overview of the resources available.

After they are enrolled, IUPUI students can participate in STEPS (Student Technology Education Programs) classes. These classes offer IUPUI students beginning and in-depth instruction in such applications as word processing, electronic mail, spreadsheets, databases, graphics, presentations, statistics, and browsing and publishing on the Web. Because STEPS classes are paid for by the Student Technology Fee, there is no additional charge to students.

Students may also take PROSTEPS (Professionals' Technology Education Programs) classes. These classes last from an hour and a half to three. Offered for a nominal fee (and some at no charge), PROSTEPS classes provide instruction in such applications as beginning and advanced word processing, electronic mail, spreadsheets, databases, graphics, presentations, statistics, and browsing and publishing on the Web.

Rio Salado College (Maricopa Community College District)

Yes. Although Rio Salado has made a commitment to determine learner readiness to engage in IT-based courses, the college is well aware that this is an area of continuous improvement. Our efforts to date are:

  • Clearly listing technology requirements for web-based courses in our schedules.
  • Creating web-based tutorials for first-time Internet students.
  • Instituting a calling program for first-time Internet students. These students are called during the first two weeks of class to determine if they are on track or have any questions.

Several other initiatives are under investigation or development including an in-person student technology orientation, a student learning styles assessment that will help students determine what delivery modality (print, mixed/media, Internet, or in-person based) to enroll in for a particular class, and student surveys to determine interventions that will help first-time Internet students.

University of Central Florida

A system of core network services and Universal Access provides students with the tools, equipment, and support enabling them to utilize technology throughout their tenure at UCF. In addition to those resources, learner support materials and processes have been and are being developed so that distance learning students have access to the same support services available to on-campus students. Faculty members are prepared through the faculty development program to provide essential learner support. They develop course operational protocols that provide learners with a consistent and understandable asynchronous learning environment, and intervention strategies designed to help individual and groups of learners.

Technical and skill requirements are provided to potential students of Web-based courses in both print materials and on the university Web site. Print materials include the Virtual Campus Catalog and Class Schedule and the special designations for on-line courses in the university’s printed schedule of courses. The technical requirements include Internet access, computer hardware, and computer software. The skill requirements include general computer skills, Internet skills, and study skills. Students can test their technical readiness for Web-based course work by completing the Distributed Learning Orientation Course on the Web prior to registration.

After enrollment, students have access to learning resources to assist them in their Web-based courses. The UCF Library provides learning support to distance learners through many on-line resources. WebLUIS provides access to electronic databases, the library catalog and some full-text articles to library users at home, office, or other off-campus locations. The Library home page provides access to the Library’s electronic resources and gives information on the Library’s services and collections. Electronic access is available to more than 180 U.S. government databases. WebLUIS and FirstSearch indexes provide some full-text articles. EBSCOhost is an electronic index of 3,000 journals and publications of which approximately one-third are full-text. A diversity of databases is available in a wide range of academic disciplines. Links to other reference sources such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, fact books, and citation manuals are also available. The Florida Distance Learning Reference and Referral Center (RCC) provides centralized reference and referral guides and tutorials to students enrolled in off-campus courses offered by the State of Florida’s public universities and community colleges. The RCC’s services to students include answering reference questions, guiding and assisting in the use of WebLUIS, LINCCWeb and other on-line databases including Britannica Online and FirstSearch. The RCC also provides research advice and training, assistance in locating and borrowing books and articles, and offers basic technical support.

Trained consultants are available in all public computer labs. Labs and help desk supports are available to UCF students and faculty 24 hours a day, including telephone, Web and walk-in assistance. The CyberKnights are student computer consultants who assist UCF students with questions related to their class assignments. They can also generate work orders that are taken by phone to assist the Help Desk to get the necessary service to solve students’ technical problems.

On-campus orientations for students enrolled in full Web courses are held on the Saturday prior to the beginning of each term. Students are exposed to library resources, campus services, and technical support available to students enrolled in W courses. In addition, students are provided demonstrations of the Pegasus Connections CD-ROM that assesses instructional readiness, provides necessary software to access Web-based materials, and provides tutorials for all students and faculty related to teaching and learning via technology. CD-ROM-based tutorials also promote information competency for ever-increasing, on-line library resources. The Pegasus Connections CD-ROM version 1.5 is currently being revised based upon evaluation data gathered from student and faculty users. Plans include the dissemination of the Pegasus Connections CD-ROM to all students as they participate in the required university orientations for first time in college and transfer students.

Virginia Tech

A vigorous orientation effort, beginning almost from the moment a student accepts admission to Virginia Tech, accompanies the computer ownership requirement. Introductory instruction in computer and network basics is offered at the beginning of the academic year. Online access to the services of such essential units as the library and registrar, as well as to Web-based course information, promote the rapid integration of students into the IT life of the campus. Students encounter a variety of computer applications and software throughout the first-year curriculum. Since a large majority of first-year students take math courses in the Math Emporium, this facility has deepened the early involvement of students with technology.