Louisiana State University (LSU) has improved retention rates with software that warns students who are falling behind in class and encourages those who are excelling. The 28,000-student institution also makes technology—including laptops and digital cameras—available to students who might not otherwise have access to the equipment. But what really distinguishes the school is its commitment to staff IT training and support.
Campus leaders have combined an online knowledge base with face-to-face assistance to help faculty integrate technology into their teaching and research.
For understanding that technology is only as effective as the people who use it, we’ve chosen LSU as our “eCampus of the Month” in June—a designation for colleges and universities that are national leaders in using technology effectively in the classroom, library, dormitory, and beyond.
Here, Brian Voss, LSU’s vice chancellor for information technology, describes the school’s approach in more detail. (To nominate your own campus for this award, go to: http://ecampusnews.eschoolmedia.com/ecampus-of-the-month.)
How does your campus use technology to advance student learning?
LSU uses Moodle as its learning management system. The Early Academic Referral System (EARS) is a program that has been developed by LSU and is incorporated into LSU’s Moodle to promote retention. EARS alerts students when they are not performing at level in the class, sends their information to the Center for Academic Success (CAS), and recommends that they receive assistance from CAS in the form of subject and study skills tutoring. EARS also sends encouraging messages to those students performing well in the class.
LSU recently built into its legacy student information system the Comprehensive Academic Tracking System (CATS), which tracks individual student progress toward degree completion. CATS tracks progress each semester by tracking critical requirements and provides the student feedback when s/he is not meeting those requirements.
LSU offers students free access to high-end software through the public access labs, as well a virtual lab which provides online accessibility. Students, faculty, and staff may download a host of free software for personal and professional use, like Symantec Antivirus and Microsoft Office from TigerWare. LSU’s Gear 2 Geaux program provides students with free access to laptops, digital video recorders, and digital cameras through a check-out program in the LSU library.
How has your campus financed its technology initiatives?
The majority of initiatives are paid for by the institution. A student technology fee (STF) also generates nearly $4 million annually, and a committee comprised of a majority of student representatives determines how these funds will be invested. The STF funds the labs, software for students in TigerWare, multimedia classrooms, and a number of other initiatives.
What initiative or project are you most proud of, and why?
LSU has a Flagship Information Technology Strategy (FITS) that was drafted by the campus community at large and has been guiding investments in IT for the last five years. Faculty, through the Faculty Senate-appointed IT Governance Council, are at the forefront of decisions being made regarding the strategic investments made in IT infrastructure and services. The IT Governance Council recently completed its updating of FITS this year.
What has proved most challenging when it comes to integrating technology into lecture halls and campus processes?
The biggest challenge lies in people’s fear of change and the need to effectively train faculty and staff in utilizing new technologies. Technology has to be used in order to be effective.
How did you overcome those challenges?
LSU has invested in the people necessary to train and provide one-on-one technology support to facilitate the transition to new technologies. GROK, the online knowledge base, houses step-by-step instructions for those interested in self-paced, individual learning. The Faculty Technology Center (FTC) provides face-to-face assistance to faculty across campus interested in utilizing technology for their teaching and research. The FTC provides training as well as opportunities for faculty to demonstrate to other faculty their use of technology.
What’s your best or most useful ed-tech advice?
Successful IT deployments require people buying into the new technology’s use. Decisions should be made in conjunction with the customers using the technology and not in an IT vacuum. Invest in the people to support the technology used on campus; it is the best way to maximize the investments you make in the technology itself.
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