Illinois Interinstitutional Faculty Summer Institute on Learning Technologies

Governors State University Local Plans and Solutions

The Integration of Networked Information Technologies into the Curriculum:
A Report from the Interinstitutional Faculty Summer Institute on Learning Technologies

Highlights

Those of us who were fortunate in being able to attend the Faculty Summer Institute are very grateful for the opportunity and have returned to campus enthusiastic about the applicability of Asynchronous Learning Networks (ALN) and related technologies to the GSU student population. We believe that these technologies can be very important in providing both greater access and more effective student learning.

  1. The speakers for the plenary sessions were outstanding. Each was the caliber that you would expect for the one major keynote speaker at a major professional conference. The afternoon sessions were organized around discipline or function. We have a wide variety of materials as well as access to on-line materials through a web site. We will be happy to share these materials in any appropriate manner.
  2. The bulk of the projects and campuses represented were heavily skewed toward traditional residential settings, and the "learning technologies" discussed were limited to asynchronous web-based delivery. For those of us working with distant students and other technologies, the adjustments are minimal.
  3. GSU's history of developing teleclasses and our experience with older and distant students gives us an advantage in adapting to some new models for web-based delivery. We are not at the leading edge of this technology, but have the advantage of working in this area. We believe that there is a place for hybrid products that include our rich video resources.
  4. Some of the most interesting discussions took place during the frequent informal chats among GSU attendees. We had all been to different sessions, and by coming together we were able to relate what we had learned to our local conditions. We believe the group will be a resource to the entire campus.
  5. We would like to be part of the process whereby the $1,000 per attendee matching funds are allocated. We recommend that they should be used in areas which meet several criteria listed in the body of the report. We will meet shortly to discuss this further.
  6. We believe that for GSU the most difficult issues will be coordination among and support of asynchronous learning projects.
  7. It may be useful for us to focus on two strategic questions: where is all this technology taking us; and how do we use it to add value.

The remainder of the report is centered around the questions raised at the institute and how we believe they apply at GSU.

 

Infrastructure and Support Issues

1. What discussions can be initiated to ensure that the campus network is adequate?

The decisions made last week and the proposed network upgrade/reconfiguration to be done this summer should ensure that the campus network is adequate. ITS will check out whether server capacities will be adequate given the various suggestions about ALN-related software. What perhaps, we will find more difficult, is ensuring adequate dissemination of information to the campus at large. Suggestions included:

2. What is needed in technical support at the campus level?

There are several aspects to technical support at GSU. The four areas where support is continually needed are: GSU network, office technology, classroom technology, and computing from home. In addition technical support is needed for off-campus students. Several specific ideas were raised:

Note that the term "technical support" has grown too big to be useful. In our situation it could be broken into 1) "mechanical" or system support to include network, machine operating system, and hardware problems, 2) specific software expertise to answer questions like "how do I get First Class to recognize more that 1 password?" 3) someone to actually write code at the system level to put together a complex course component with HTML, CyberProf, etc., and 4) just plain training on a new software package. We need all of these, and by lumping it into one category, we often miss one or more parts.

3. What is needed in hardware at the campus level? departmental level?

There are three major issues here:

Incentives and Reward Structures

1. How can the use of technology in teaching be integrated in the promotion and tenure process?

We believe that GSU is in reasonable shape here because division criteria already reflect "research and creative development" and because we already have a track record of accepting course development (mediated courses such as teleclasses) as being legitimate. The important issues here will be building on existing practices and ensuring that there is a good process for ensuring quality development not technology-for-the-sake-of-technology.

2. What new or expanded measures of faculty workload are needed?

Again we believe that in principle GSU is in good shape here since we have mechanisms for development and delivery of mediated instruction. In practice there may need to be refinement or adjustment of workload for new types of courses. In particular, we will need to figure out how to foster cross and inter-disciplinary collaboration.

3. What kinds of instructional support teams are needed to make networked courses effective?

With the new assignments of Larry Freeman and Gary Fisk to the Center for Learning and Technology (in Communication Services) and the Faculty Lab, we believe much of the technical basics are in place here. A crucial issue will be putting together successful teams that include all the relevant people and knowledge. For example, teams may need library resource components, instructional design components, knowledge of group problem solving methods, etc. Note that the first teams are already in place (the Statistics Home Page which is a cross discipline group is an example). Perhaps some sort of template to help set teams up in the most effective way might be useful.

 

Training and Development

1. What is needed in terms of training for faculty?

The simple answer is time and dollars. ITS has already begun doing training, so once again the basics are in place. Several suggestions were made to build on the existing short courses and PQP activity:

2. What is needed in terms of training for students?

Training for students will be concentrated at the beginning of each trimester and will be similar to that offered at present. This item will be aided by the development of standard computer competencies for students (core competencies for all students, with variations for each college). These standards are being developed by CTI.

3. What is needed in terms of training for teaching assistants?

For us the issue is not training teaching assistants, but training graduate assistants and student workers (especially lab assistants). Timing is critical -- immediately before a trimester begins and whenever upgrades are introduced.

 

Other Issues

1. Simple stuff.

We need to develop ways of making sure that everyone who needs it has:

2. Allocating the $1,000 per institute participant matching funds.

We would like to be part of the process whereby these funds are allocated. We recommend that they should be used in areas which meet the following criteria:

We also believe that it should be possible to impact the ABELink Project as well as colleges/disciplines. Note that we plan to meet shortly to discuss specific ideas and recommendations.

3. Coordination, collaboration, experimentation and building on our strengths.

We believe that the most crucial issue for GSU will be to build on our existing knowledge of mediated instruction and to effectively utilize asynchronous learning technology without spending inordinate amounts of time reinventing a variety of different shaped wheels. It is clearly important that interested faculty be able to experiment with the technology. It is, however, also important to bear in mind that given our teaching loads, it is probably not practical for most faculty members to start from scratch in designing course materials. It may be significantly more effective to collaborate not only across the campus but also with those at other campuses, some of whom have already developed materials which we might be able to test. There is a delicate balance here--to support faculty in experimenting, but providing the best possible information and support to help jump start the experimentation.

GSU has other expertise in mediated instruction, especially in the development of teleclasses, but also in the development of other packaged instruction. Wherever possible and appropriate this expertise should be used with the asynchronous learning technologies, so that GSU capitalizes on its current strength and builds a unique core competence.

4. Improving the quality of instruction

Several thoughts arise here:

 

Conclusion

We'd like to begin with some basic steps toward integrating ALN on GSU's campus. Perhaps the most logical program at GSU to begin the process would be the Board of Governors Program. We would recommend a plan to review and evaluate the software products and network requirements to support the following:

Mallard

FirstClass

Allaire

WebBoard

Learning Space

CyberProf.

 

Web sites which relate to the above technologies are:

  1. http://cyber.ccsr.uiuc.edu/cyberprof/general/homepage/Newpage/welcome/survey.html
  2. http://w3.scale.uiuc.edu/scale/ArvanPresentations.html
  3. http://www.aln.org/

For added information, please feel free to perform a key word search, using AltaVista in Netscape, on any of the products listed above.

Note also that implementing these basic steps is one place where the group may be of some help. We also wish to assist in gaining campus-wide input and in establishing relevant training so we can begin using ALN.