Strategic Goal: "Strengthen skills of faculty for utilizing new and emerging instructional technologies to enhance student learning"

DRAFT (10/18/98) by Bob Godwin-Jones

I. Perspective

The following was put together with some input from faculty (12 faculty members from both campuses sent suggestions), but the perspective is largely that of one individual, based on a 3-year tenure in the Instructional Development Center (IDC) and experience as a teaching faculty member at VCU using technology (I have continued to teach 1-2 courses a semester).

II. Scope

The question of how best to train faculty in the use of instructional technologies to enhance learning cannot be viewed in isolation. There are a number of factors which impact faculty use of technology in teaching, including…

• faculty and student access to computing and network
• integration of technology and pedagogy
• classrooms equipped with networking and data projection
• recognition and rewards for faculty use of instructional technology
• availability of computing support and design services

Many of these factors lie outside of the scope of this paper but must be addressed in order to carry out the goal.

III. Background

Instructional technology has become an essential part of higher education in the US, as seen in the most recent Campus Computing Survey: "The 1997 survey reveals that almost one-third (32.8 percent) of all college courses make use of e-mail, up from 25.0 percent in 1996 and 8.0 percent in 1994. Fully one-fourth (24.8 percent) of all classes draw on resources available on the Internet, compared to 15.3 percent in 1996. And more than an eighth (13.4 percent) of all college courses use some form of multimedia resources, up from 8.4 percent in 1996 and 4.0 percent in 1994." [http://ericir.syr.edu/Projects/Campus_computing]

Source: The Campus Computing Project (c) Kenneth C. Green, 1997

As seen from this data, the Internet has become a prime resource for delivery of instruction in American higher education. Interest in the use of stand-alone multimedia (most often CD-ROM delivered) is growing at a less rapid pace. Presentation software continues to be used heavily.

The trends at VCU fall largely into this pattern. Interest in Web-based [distance delivered courses] and Web-enhanced [classroom taught with accompanying course Web site] instruction has grown enormously in the last two years. Currently, there are 153 course Web sites listed for VCU [http://views.vcu.edu/wcb]. This represents a 48% increase over Spring, 1998 (108 courses) and a 172% increase over Fall, 1997 (64 courses). Of the current courses listed, 95% (145 courses) were created with Web Course in a Box. As one indicator of growth, the space on the VCU Web server dedicated to course Web sites created with Web Course in a Box (from 1996 to now) doubled just in the month of September, 1998. Of the current course Web sites listed, 14 (or 9 %) are stand-alone courses (distance delivered), the rest are in support of classroom-taught classes; included in the list are two degree programs delivered over the Web.

Publishers are beginning to create companion Web sites for their textbooks, as well as offering other Web-based services. These are discipline-specific and no campus-wide statistics are available.

CD-ROM's also are typically discipline-specific and distributed locally, mostly for use in school or department computer labs. No campus-wide statistics are available. A prominent user of CD-ROM technology is the School of Medicine, through its CBIL lab. "CBIL contains instructional resources that include 149 computer-based instruction programs, approximately 67 of which were developed by School of Medicine faculty, staff, and students." [http://www.cbil.vcu.edu/cbil/rg/resources.html]. Many publishers are now including CD-ROM's with their texts.

No university-wide statistics are available on use of e-mail, presentation software or other uses of technology in teaching.

Information gathered by IDC through recent seminars and institutes as well as from applications to the Faculty Mentoring Program can supply some additional indicators of VCU faculty interest in instructional technologies. For the most recent IDC faculty institutes, the most popular sessions (based on number of registrants) were Web Course in a Box, Introduction to PhotoShop, Using FrontPage. Recent sessions with low registration were CD-ROM authoring, Lotus Notes, and the Digital Library.

The following is the breakdown of proposed projects for the Faculty Mentoring Program for the past two years:

Web-based instruction46 (75%)
Stand-alone multimedia6 (9 %)
CD-ROM development5 (8%)
Commercial software2 (3%)
Video2 (3%)
Presentation software1 (2%)

The breakdown of technology-related projects submitted for the Teaching Excellence Grant Program in the last two years follows this same pattern, with the overwhelming majority dealing with using the Web in instruction, many proposing interactive Web sites with drill and practice, collaborative features and/or simulations.

Several schools at VCU are making use of video (compressed, satellite, videotape) to deliver instruction (Engineering, Business, Social Work, Arts, Allied Health, Medicine). Lack of training has been less of an inhibitor of growth in video, compared to issues of cost and set-up of remote sites. An issue as well has been the absence of a centrally located and supported compressed video classroom at VCU.

 

IV. Outlook

Based on faculty contacts, experience from IDC training sessions, and information gathered at national conferences, these are some likely parameters for the use of technology at VCU, which will affect training of faculty for the use of technology in teaching:

• The rate of change will continue to accelerate, with a bewildering array of choices in terms of new and emerging technologies. Faculty confusion and uncertainty, already high, will increase, leading to a greater need for advice and guidance. Some faculty backlash against the use of technology is likely as well.

• For mainstream faculty to use technology in teaching, they will need to see tangible benefits of using technology…
- studies in effectiveness showing how use of technology has enhanced student learning
- recognition and reward
, including technology use being part of the professional evaluation process (for tenure, promotion, annual salary adjustments)

• There will continue to be a diversity of degrees of interest, comfort levels, and technical know-how among VCU faculty, eliminating the possibility of an "all-in-one" training approach.

• Technology use in teaching needs to be discussed in conjunction with current pedagogies and learning theories. VCU faculty input indicates this is an essential point to consider in the context of technology training.

• Training is most effective if it is tied to the faculty member's discipline, and if it is offered at least in part by other faculty. This is another point stressed by VCU faculty contributing to this report.

• Much of what will be useful to faculty will be network-centered, so that materials are available from a variety of locations (office, home, classroom, remote location). In many cases the same networked materials may be used for research and teaching.

• As faculty make increasing use of electronic materials, centralized storage, cataloging, and retrieval of these educational "objects" will become increasingly important, resulting in use of central cataloging systems such as the Instructional Management System (IMS) and central storage/retrieval facilities (i.e., Digital Library).

• Faculty are more likely to use technology in their teaching and to develop electronic learning materials if the resources are available in their offices (i.e. they do not need to go to a separate development facility). This is among the reasons for the popularity of Web authoring among faculty.

• As faculty have acquired computers with multimedia capability, there has been recently an upsurge in interest in using different media (especially audio) in their teaching materials. This is likely to increase, making a centrally located VCU media server desirable.

• There has been a surge of interest in hybrid delivery options for electronic materials, i.e. using presentations in class, then making them available on the Web, or putting media files on CD-ROM and accessing related text files off the Web. This is likely to continue.

• There will be increased interest in tying teaching electronically to research and to other electronic resources such as student information systems. It will be increasingly important for different systems of electronic data within the university to be linked to teaching delivery systems over the Internet.

• Some faculty will be interested in distance delivery of their courses. As more faculty use computer-mediated instruction, the level of interest will likely increase. Most growth will be in the use of the Internet for distance education, rather than video.

V. Instructional Development Center (IDC)

Much of the training currently available to VCU faculty in instructional uses of technology is offered through the Instructional Development Center, although courses and workshops are also available from University Computing Services (both campuses) and Human Resources, some of which are applicable to teaching.

IDC offers services in consulting/programming and in research in emerging technologies, but these lie outside the scope of the present paper. The fundamental approach of IDC has evolved in the last two years from a "do for" to a "show how" approach, i.e. trying to help faculty develop teaching resources themselves, rather than doing it for them. In the process, faculty development has become a new central role of IDC, one not part of the original vision for the unit when created in 1995 (as the Multimedia Development Center). This has been driven by limited staff resources on the one hand and on the other by the conviction that faculty should be in control of the learning resources and that content and technology are intertwined. In line with this approach, IDC currently offers the following services, all related directly or indirectly to faculty training and development:

Training

IDC offers training for faculty in a variety of ways:

1) Noon seminars, often co-taught by IDC staff and teaching faculty
2) Winter/summer institutes: faculty showcase, presentations, hands-on over 2 days
3) Fall/spring mini-institutes, 1 day hands-on workshops
4) Special workshops offered to schools, departments and faculty groups
5) Self-study tutorials on the Web, put together in conjunction with Institute workshops

Consulting and "house calls"

IDC staff regularly consult with faculty from both campuses on projects related to instructional technology. This includes helping academic units as well as individual faculty members with the use of video (satellite, compressed, desktop, closed circuit) in teaching. In computing, this has been in effect one on one tutoring sessions, usually in the faculty member's office. The most requested consulting has dealt with getting started in Web authoring. Help with instructional design is also a frequently requested and delivered service. IDC staff have offered this service, but with additional student workers, some "house calls" could be delegated to students. The absence of an IDC presence on the Academic Campus sometimes makes it problematic to consult with faculty on that campus.

Template-based authoring tools

Web Course in a Box was developed by IDC in order to enable faculty to create course Web sites, without having to develop any technical expertise in Web authoring. This program is being heavily used, with 423 faculty accounts and 8130 student accounts. It is being used to deliver distant education programs, including the Ph.D. in Health-Related Sciences and the Executive Masters In Health Administration. Current development plans call for use of Web Course in a Box as an interface for the VCU Digital Library (Leonoardo). A case study template (programmed in Authorware) is currently under development. These tools are intended to take the process of creating electronic learning materials to the desktop of the faculty members.

Faculty Mentoring Program

The IDC Faculty Mentoring offers laptop computers (with software and accessories) and training/consulting to selected faculty (10-15 per year) with the goal of seeding discipline-based interest/expertise in instructional technology in departments and schools across the university. The intent is that faculty will work in a variety of ways to help colleagues begin to use technology in their teaching, enabling discipline-focused training and consultation.

Faculty Fellows

A VCU faculty member served as a "Faculty Fellow" of IDC for the spring semester, 1996. This program could be continued, with faculty members receiving full or partial release-time from their units to work on IDC projects related to teaching and technology. They would have an office with IDC and, for the term of their appointment, be considered a part of the unit, participating as well in training events.

Project development

Development of projects resulting in learning software is a joint effort of IDC staff, artists from Media Production Services (MPS), student workers and the faculty member. In this team approach, the faculty member as content expert plays a key role and can help considerably in the development effort if he/she has a basic understanding of the technologies/software being used. Faculty from the development teams have been willing to participate in training workshops offered by IDC.

Faculty development efforts in conjunction with other units

IDC has been cooperating with Academic Affairs in several areas, including co-sponsoring events, jointly creating/editing the new Web version of VCU Teaching, participation in the selection process for the Teaching Excellence Grant Program, and participation in the new Academic Success Center's Summer Institute for faculty. IDC also cooperates with University Outreach in workshops and consulting for k-12 teachers and with VCU distance education.

VI. Recommendations

VCU

Recognition and Rewards: Innovative and effective use of instructional technology by VCU faculty should be recognized and rewarded, perhaps through release time or monetary awards. It is essential that faculty work in this area also be recognized professionally, through formal evaluation processes.

Faculty computers: There should be a program in place for regular replacement of faculty workstations with upgraded machines.

Administrative support for distance education: A growing number of VCU faculty are likely become interested in distance education. Currently no mechanisms or procedures exist to support faculty administratively (registration, recruitment, etc.) in this effort.

 

OIT

Coordination of training: OIT units need to move beyond just sharing plans for workshops and seminars but should jointly plan, develop and offer training opportunities for faculty. Many introductory workshops in areas such as word processing or presentation software are applicable to teaching.

Classroom support: Faculty should be encouraged to use new technologies in their teaching through the ubiquitous presence of networking (including universal DHCP implementation) and data projection in all VCU classrooms. Compressed video classrooms should be available on each campus and centrally administered by OIT.

Coordination and integration of services: Given the high degree of interest in using the Web in teaching, services available from other units (OneCard data, registration information, student records, library services) should be made accessible to faculty using the Web in teaching.

Speakers, programs: In order to expose VCU faculty and OIT staff to current developments in technology and higher education, outside speakers should be brought to VCU. Partnering in national collaborative programs such as the Teaching and Learning Roundtable or the Flashlight project [http://www.tltgroup.org] might also be considered.

 

IDC

Space needs: Academic Campus presence. There is currently no IDC space or assigned staff on the Academic Campus. Ideally, "IDC West" should incorporate staff offices for development and consulting as well as a mini-lab area for small group work.

Staffing needs: Multimedia programmer, Database specialist, Java programmer. Besides the Director (faculty position), there are currently 4 full-time staff members in IDC. Additional staff are needed to meet demand. If "IDC West" is established, an additional 1-2 staff should be hired. With the current level of staffing, IDC can continue existing programs, but is not in a position to expand or to meet needs in project development (currently at least a 1 year wait for any new projects), nor is it likely to be able to explore adequately new and emerging technologies.

Research and Development: In order to "strengthen skills of faculty for utilizing new and emerging technologies", IDC staff need to stay current with those technologies. This necessitates an R&D budget sufficient for staff training, attendance at national conferences and regular upgrades of equipment and software as well as for support for operation of developmental servers.

Structure: IDC could become part of a larger Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology with the continuing mission of project/template creation and faculty development, but also with a research expectation in the areas of assessment and learning theories as they impact on technology use in teaching. The possibility of offering for-credit courses (such as multimedia development, advanced Web authoring) could be explored. This could be a joint unit of OIT and the Provost's office with the Director reporting to the Vice-Provost for Academic Affairs and the Vice-Provost for Information Technology. Dotted lines to the Vice-Provost for University Outreach and Director of the Academic Success Center may be advisable as well.

Leadership: The Director of the IDC (or newly created unit) should be a teaching faculty member. This is important for the unit to have credibility among faculty and to provide the needed perspective on faculty needs in this area. This might be a fixed term, rotating position. An OIT staff member should serve as managing director of the unit.

Bob Godwin-Jones