CAUSE/EFFECT

Copyright 1997 CAUSE. From CAUSE/EFFECT Volume 20, Number 3, Fall 1997, pp. 45-48. Permission to copy or disseminate all or part of this material is granted provided that the copies are not made or distributed for commercial advantage, the CAUSE copyright and its date appear, and notice is given that copying is by permission of CAUSE, the association for managing and using information resources in higher education. To disseminate otherwise, or to republish, requires written permission. For further information, contact Jim Roche at CAUSE, 4840 Pearl East Circle, Suite 302E, Boulder, CO 80301 USA; 303-939-0308; e-mail: jroche@cause.org


Supporting Faculty Exploration of Teaching with Technology

by Janet R. de Vry and Paul Hyde

Bridging the gap between technology's perceived potential and its effective classroom use, PRESENT (Practical Resources for Educators Seeking Effective New Technologies) has opened its doors to University of Delaware faculty and teaching staff.

PRESENT is bridging a number of existing gaps: the gap between recent innovative uses and current mainstream options; the gap between faculty learning technology in a class and applying it to a class; and the gap between obtaining or developing technology-based materials and actually trying them in a classroom setting. PRESENT offers a place to address these issues with all of the university's resources organized for easy use. The result is more effective educational use of technology and the inclusion of users who were previously hesitant to apply technology to teaching.

Background

PRESENT is one recent step in the University of Delaware's long history of weaving technology into the academic fabric and listening to faculty concerns at each step in the process. The university has created a teaching, learning, and technology roundtable (TLTR) to address a number of broader issues. Concurrently, we are surveying faculty about their technology experiences and hope to initiate a network of mentors.

To help organize existing resources and identify gaps in our services, we assembled a Tool Kit for Teaching with Technology (see http://www.udel.edu/learn/technology/). It addresses the faculty need for a single information source to the diverse and sometimes hard-to-locate resources at the university. This ensures that all faculty, not just the technology "regulars," have all the information they need to find out about teaching with technology. Concurrently, we have implemented an online database in which faculty can enter their teaching-with-technology profile. The database provides a convenient way to list and search the teaching-with-technology initiatives at the university and provides the basis for a mentor network.

Goals

The mission of PRESENT is to bridge the gap between "gee-whiz" technology and effective classroom use of technology. It is a hands-on evaluation site for technology-based strategies used in instructional delivery. Established technologies, including Web-based solutions, presentation applications, and distance learning options are available for learning and experimentation in a simulated university classroom environment. Personalized attention is given to identifying the appropriateness for, and making the connection to, specific areas of instruction. The site serves as a resource for current advances and fresh insights in classroom technology, highlighting university faculty success stories as models for others.

We identified goals that faculty could achieve based on a prior survey, class evaluation forms, our own needs self-assessment, and current research. These are:

To meet as many goals as possible with the resources available, the site's goals are being phased in over three stages. The first stage emphasizes installing multimedia computer systems, reallocating existing resources that were primarily in staff offices, transferring classroom materials into digital form, and meeting needs that were not met elsewhere on campus. These include a room for testing classroom presentations and Internet server demonstrations. The second stage focuses on laptop configuration assistance for classroom use and improving the site's facilities. The final stage complements the previous two by creating an all-encompassing facility, which provides one place for faculty to try technology and then be able to buy it or use it somewhere else on campus.

Staff planning

Determining the demand for staff at the PRESENT site will be an ongoing process. When we began, the one staff member with faculty development in his job description made PRESENT his full-time focus. We asked other staff with an interest in consulting with faculty on teaching to volunteer their time. We offered nothing more than the opportunity to do interesting work and learn new skills. Initially, an "Adopt-a-High-Tech-Way" program was developed to allow interested staff to volunteer to develop support and documentation for one of the high-tech ways of teaching that the site has to offer. Staff presented the technology they had adopted at several open houses designed to spread the word on campus.

From the beginning, we understood that one of the staff's main roles was to provide a thorough needs analysis. The needs analysis ensures that appropriate technology is selected for the stated educational goals. In addition, staff work with the faculty member to understand what skills and equipment are needed, assist in breaking the project into manageable parts, and see it through to a successful conclusion. The staff provide the initial training and consultation with the faculty member.

What we have discovered after the initial enthusiam is that some staff have been able to make more time available than others and that we need to think creatively about leveraging our resources. We are doing this in several ways, including making templates out of successful projects, documenting the most often used processes, facilitating customized workshops for several faculty members at a time who have similar goals, and hiring students. We have sought out student workers with complementary skill sets -- one computer science major, one graphic arts major, one honors biology student with high-level HTML skills. Two students regularly provide follow-up assistance to faculty in the site during normal working hours while the others are available on an as-needed basis.

Equipment and space planning

The first purchases were aimed at meeting our first-level goals for the site. We also wanted to maximize our existing departmental resources, so we relocated many peripherals to the site. All staff would still have access to specialized devices such as scanners and videotape players, and we would now be providing the opportunity for more extensive use by faculty users.

To prepare a budget for the first year's site purchases, the three-stage goals were used again. Rather than identifying exact purchase recommendations that would most likely not be valid in six to 12 months, we budgeted for best-of-class prices in the second and third stages. As we move into these stages and actually finalize our purchase decisions, we will probably be able to purchase more features for the same or less money than originally forecast. We estimated that the on-going budget for the site would be one-third of the initial equipment outlay. This is consistent with the university's three-year hardware purchase cycle.

The room is initially situated in 22' by 18' of space. The equipment is aligned around the perimeter of the room. In the center of the room is a large folding conference table, which can be replaced with 20 chairs to accommodate larger group presentations. All of the video and audio outputs from the various computers are directed to a central portable video projector and sound system for group presentation of any function. Other initial planning considerations included: access, security system, telephones, network connection, IP numbers, domain names, paint, window treatments, floor conduit for cables, inventory database, loaner calendar, library of documentation, and software.

Getting the word out

We have given presentations on the facility to the User Services faculty advisory committee, the Multimedia User Group, the TLTR, and Committee on Information Resources Planning and Management. We've held open houses for our departmental staff, campus computing support persons, and all faculty. Some departments have accepted our invitation to hold one of their regular meetings in our site or to have a brown-bag presentation. We have written articles for our campus newspaper, sent e-mail announcements to various faculty groups, developed a Web site detailing all the services and equipment available at PRESENT, and developed a site brochure and "business cards." The brochure was mailed to all faculty.

Operations

The key feature of our operation is that it is process oriented and faculty focused. This means we will strive to guide faculty through the teaching-with-technology process, not just solve the "crisis du jour." When faculty members express interest in the site, they are asked to participate in a needs assessment. This helps us determine those services that would best fit the faculty member's abilities and future goals. It provides the framework for continuing to work with the faculty after their initial needs are met. We also inform the faculty from the outset that we are interested in what they produce, either as an inspirational example for other faculty or as a lesson that can be made into a template for other users.

The site will host various events and attractions to inform faculty of new developments in the field and provide continuing opportunities for new faculty to participate in the site's offerings. These events include our faculty institute, brown-bag meetings, and faculty and vendor demonstrations. The on-going operation includes the mundane, yet necessary, work of maintaining current information, equipment, services, and tracking projects through an internal database.

Effectiveness

We have effectively created a unique and positive identity for PRESENT on an already technologically rich campus. Faculty say this is just what they needed at just the right time. Approximately 150 faculty have participated in at least one event in the site. They are now making appointments to get started with some of their ideas for teaching with technology. Several have already completed projects.

Juliet Dee, director of the Legal Studies Program, wanted to have a Web page for that program but simply didn't know how to go about the process. After working at PRESENT, she has a Web page online with information about what the program has to offer. She is particularly pleased to have links to Supreme Court decisions and to all of the U.S. Court of Appeals, bringing a wider array of resources to the legal studies minors than before.

Dave Barlow, chair of the Department of Health and Exercise Sciences, came to PRESENT wanting to use digital video to make his anatomy lessons more dynamic, but he only had several weeks time and wasn't sure what was feasible. "The staff at the PRESENT brainstormed with me about various approaches and helped me pick the best one given my particular constraints. Once the approach was decided upon, then the staff in the PRESENT provided the guidance and technical reources so that I could complete the project successfully.

"I was able to capture high-quality motion images of actual cadaver dissection for use in a PowerPoint presentation. For example, I was able to illustrate minute locations on the heart, and present knee joints from different angles, thereby adding a surgeon's view of organs in a way I never before thought possible in a presentation."

Jorge Cubillos, assistant professor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, summed his experiences up this way. "The PRESENT has provided an optimal environment for the development of instructional materials for my foreign-language courses: the equipment is well selected and maintained, the software fits my needs, and most of all, the staff is knowledgeable and eager to help. I particularly appreciate their concern with the pedagogical issues that motivate my use of technology. More than a clearinghouse for technological 'bells and whistles,' the PRESENT has become a place for the supportive exploration of alternative instructional options. Also, by visiting this facility, I have discovered unexpected connections with faculty across campus."

User Services has always provided consulting services for faculty and a high level of support for the application of technology to education. What is new is that this is a formalized process that takes place within a simulated classroom environment that is reserved strictly for faculty. The process includes needs analysis, follow-up, and impact assessment. The projects are handled by teams of staff and students with complementary skills. The entire effort is directed toward ensuring that faculty have a successful experience using the most appropriate technology for their educational goals.


Janet R. de Vry (janet@udel.edu) is Manager of Information and Instructional Services for Information Technologies/User Services at the University of Delaware.

Paul Hyde (paulhyde@udel.edu) is an Information Resource Consultant III, Coordinator of Technology Learning Initiatives, for Information Technologies/User Services at the University of Delaware.

...to the table of contents


[Comments] [Search] [Home]