eCampus of the Month: Redesigning learning spaces for digital-age students

What ed-tech initiative are you most proud of, and why?

Although not a use of technology per se, one of our most recent accomplishments that is proving to be quite valuable is the formation of an IT Governance Structure, which gives a voice to all constituents on campus in some form to aid in technology decision-making. Given the distributed nature of computing on our campus, this is an important thing to do and brings the university together on the most important technology issues.

What have been your biggest ed-tech challenges? How have you overcome these challenges?

One challenging aspect of integrating technology within education environments relates to determining the return on investment. Universities have invested heavily in modernizing student information, financial, and human resources systems over the past 10 to 20 years. In our classrooms, for instance, we have established a consistent and comprehensive AV display footprint over the past 15 to 20 years.

As a result, faculty members can walk into almost any campus classroom and count on support across a wide range of platforms and media types. Unfortunately, few data exist that show how these investments have improved student outcomes. In fact, some studies suggest that investments in our AV display infrastructure have only reinforced a one-way approach to teaching that emphasizes presentation of information at the expense of interaction and collaboration.

By far, the greatest challenge that those of us in academe face is initiating enough of a campus conversation to point us in the right direction. We all struggle to identify consensus among our faculty. We should not be satisfied with the “cover” that a faculty advisory committee provides in our decision-making process.

It is impossible for a handful of faculty members to speak for all of their colleagues. The onus is on us to identify approaches that promote faculty experimentation with interactive learning techniques without penalizing those who are still well-served by a more traditional approach to teaching. Support of our learning spaces involves a number of stakeholders. Successfully introducing pedagogy as a criterion for classroom scheduling decisions, for example, will require new ways of doing business that must be reflected in our policies and outlooks.

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