Friday, September 5, 2014

A New Faculty’s need from Information Technology

I often focus on the emerging needs of students at a university.  The rationale is students are the largest audience for an IT department.   In this post I would like to focus on what a new faculty member needs from the Information Technology Department.   The number one requirement new faculty need is information necessary to be successful in the classroom or with research.   Often new faculty have a limited understanding of what a university information department has to offer.  Many IT departments use email or web sites to exchange information.  Both tools are important but what a new faculty member needs is an individual that is available to answer their many questions.   I assume new faculty often default to asking a peer or taking a stab-in-the-dark.   I have often thought an IT boot camp would be a great way to interact with new faculty and make a new impression.  The event would not be long, possibly a day with lunch provided.   During the boot camp faculty would be presented with all the resources needed to be successful interacting with the technology they are encouraged to adopt.  Several ideas for a boot camp might be:

  1. Faculty need a quick guide to locate services available, nothing fancy but a phone number and email address for all technology support groups.  Assistance in person is a major asset for the IT organization.  
  2. Information on how to use the campus student information system (SIS).  The SIS provides the faculty a wealth of information on students in their courses and to students they are assigned to advise.   Faculty often are informed of the SIS but are not informed of the wealth of information it contains.  Faculty also need information necessary for entering mid-term and final grades.  
  3.  Information on the campus learning management system (LMS) and directions on the support available from the information technology department.   Faculty are often bewildered by what is expected in implementing a course. Expected best practices would be helpful.
  4. New Faculty need to be informed of all the support technologies at a university.  Many new faculty have taught at other universities and understand their standards and often adopt the “known” rather that the campus standard.  Provide faculty a list of tools such as Adobe Connect, Goggle Apps, Microsoft Apps and the campus course capture is important to faculty getting support..  Better yet is offering one-on-one training sessions.
  5. Don’t forget the basics, be sure to explain to faculty the guidelines for telephone service, cell phone service and any site license software.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Every once in a while you read a blog post that makes a difference in your thinking, I had this experience reading a blog post of Brian Mathews.  Brian's blog "The Ubiquitous Librarian" post on organizations at a university resonated with my thoughts of what needs to happen to be effective in meeting the expectations of today's students. Brian points out it is time to rethink our purpose and provides  two resources to guide your thinking, the two books are:
Brian blends thoughts from both authors to develop a process to follow in transforming your organization.  Brian's thought were focused on what he wanted to accomplish with The Learning Division at the Virgina Tech library. 

My goal in the next few months is to read the two books and create a similar transformation process to improve student support services for the 21st century.   As I look across the university I find a number of individuals trying to help students, but we are using the same technology and tactics we have used for the last 25 years.   Change may not be required but the university community needs to debate why we are doing what we are doing and expecting different results.

Friday, July 25, 2014

You’re University’s Student Focus

I had an interesting conversation with a well-known learning & teaching professional from a national higher education organization this week.  The individual made a statement that caused me pause, he stated that the learning and teaching focus at universities had changed more in the last three years than it had in his entire career spanning three decades.   My initial reaction suggested this was an exaggeration and he was trying to make a point that pedagogy was important to the success of universities relevance.  As the discussion progressed I realized he was correct for a number of reasons.   The first point was the problem related to the cost of higher education and student debt.  The second point was the introduction of MOOC’s, MOOC’s are requiring universities to evaluate their responsibility to educating student’s worldwide, not just nationally.  The final point was the support structure universities have in place to support student success, questioning if what has worked for centuries will work in a world that is connected and that has technology available to the masses.

                The conversation caused me to evaluate how I believe universities are doing today in supporting students.   I decided to develop a checklist of how relevant we are to students today.  I have listed five areas that you should review to determine how well your university is doing meeting your student’s requirements.

1.      Does your university have a senior level academic administrator that coordinates student support services across all disciplines? Has your university developed a holistic approach to meeting the academic support requirements of students?   Does your undergraduate studies department meet monthly with the library and technology staff to understand the support structure needed to meet the rigorous academic requirements of the classroom?  I have discussed this with many universities and I have found very few have student support departments working together, often universities are funding a number of students support services but the individual departments do not work together.  The result is students being frustrated when trying to complete their coursework.   I don’t believe universities have a problem with funding student success but I do believe that a lack of communications across department’s limit the success of what could be accomplished.

2.      What hours are your student support services are staffed?  An insightful comment was made by a senior level administrator at our university.  His comment was the university is a nine-to-two organization, it’s just the wrong nine-to-two.  Many students begin their academic work after 7:00 PM, how many libraries are staffed at that time, how many academic student services are open after 5:00 PM and how many student technology labs have individuals that can assist in subject matter questions in the evening.  Is it possible the student support structure that was established a century ago is no longer relevant to today’s student?

3.      Is your universities wireless networking infrastructure robust?  It is not uncommon for a student to have two or more wireless devices.   Today the cost of a laptop, tablet or smartphone is less than five hundred dollars and most students have two devices.   The wireless network must be robust, networks established five years ago will not meet the needs of today’s student.  Libraries, study areas and classrooms must be able to support 50 or more students  concurrently accessing information in the classroom, faculty use of video to support instruction is growing, faculty and students are going to expect the technology infrastructure to work.   A good rule of thumb is your technology infrastructure must be as easy to use as their home networks.  Our university has over 6000 wireless access points and I would predict that we will need over 12,000 in the next five years.

4.      Is your university mobile friendly?  A good place to evaluate is the applications students are expected to use, the learning management system, the library system, your student registration system.  Many universities have retrofitted their applications to work on mobile devices but far fewer have spent the time to architect a user interface that works well on a mobile device.  A mobile friendly system must have the middle-ware changed to meet the expectations of students.  It is good to remember that we are not being evaluated against other university’s applications but against the student experience from Google, Apple or Facebook.

5.      Are you investing in student analytics to support student success?  Has   your academic departments invested in faculty development to ensure information is available to assist in understanding the students being successful and the students having difficulty.   Is your Information Technology organization providing the departments with real time information to allow faculty to advise the student in a timely manner? Student analytics must encompass the entire teaching learning ecosystem and includes information from outside resources such as textbook publishers to provide faculty with a comprehensive view of the student’s efforts.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Changes in learning spaces at the University of Kentucky

The University of Kentucky is evaluating learning spaces holistically across campus.  The participants are who you would expect; faculty, undergraduate studies, the library, Information Technology, facilities and the Learning and Teaching Center.  The University of Kentucky Library Faculty initiated the discussion with the creation of an Information Commons that has expanded  the past to cover two floors of the library.  The Information Commons introduced the idea of collaborative study spaces that is widely embraced by the students.   The success of the Information Commons introduced a debate on the role of traditional student computer labs that resulted in a plan to convert the computer labs into collaborative study spaces that were enriched with significant technology support.  Plans are underway to convert all general purpose computer labs into study spaces that address the specific academic needs of each college. Discussions are currently underway to determine the best staffing model for the new learning space, initial thoughts suggest technology experts are no longer needed and staffing should focus on student success instead of technology.

The second effort was by the College of Arts & Science, it introduced a Living Learning Community that equipped each student with an iPad and hosted an active learning classroom.  Faculty were encouraged to integrate technology with pedagogy to expand student learning experiences.   The A&S Wired LLC has continued to expand and initial results indicate students who live in the residence hall have higher retention rates than the remainder of their cohort.   An outcome of the A&S Wired residence hall  introduced the need to consider alternative classroom environments in creating learning spaces.

The University of Kentucky introduced UK Core that emphasized multimodal communications across the curriculum.  In response to the needs of students Information Technology introduced a new Student Media Depot that provides students with the technical resources necessary to be successful.  Concurrent with this effort the Office of the Provost created a faculty support organization, Presentation U, which provides faculty with skills to support teaching in a multimodal curriculum environment.   Information Technology is following by creating Faculty Media Depot to support faculty who are not a member of the cohorts of Presentation U or who have completed the faculty program.
The College of Arts & Science and Information Technology are creating an active learning classroom to support the Statistics Department.  The goal of the project is to extend the ideas that were successful in the A&S Wired to a classroom that support a large number of undergraduate students.   The College will use the research outcomes of this classroom in building a new facility.

The recognition of the success of the Information Commons and the A&S Wired has resulted in the creation of new learning spaces being created on campus.  The College of Business and Economics is currently building a new facility with over 10 classrooms to support collaborative case management learning spaces.  It is interesting to note the new facility will not have college based library or centrally supported computer lab.  The classrooms are designed to support open study spaces when not assigned to a classroom and the public spaces are equipped with collaborative study areas.  A second building is being built by the College of Arts & Science (Academic Sciences Building) and thirteen classrooms are active learning classrooms and open collaborative study spaces.  The two buildings will provide the university an opportunity to understand the impact of alternative learning spaces on student success.

The University recognizes on college or department cannot change the learning space experience but a coordinated effort of all interested and invested partners will begin the transform of the learning space environment.