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Articles: Teaching & Learning

The editors of University Business are proud to announce this year’s Readers’ Choice Top Products. Campus leaders from across the country have seized the unique opportunity to nominate the products they are using to operate their institutions more efficiently and enhance students’ experiences.

In an online seminar on the Greek rhetorician Isocrates offered at the University of Pittsburgh, 176 students listened to a live stream of a discussion among graduate students taking the on-campus version of the class and then asked questions or made comments via Twitter.

The eight graduate students in the brick-and-mortar class took turns recording lectures once a week for the online students during the course this past fall. And both the online and doctoral students could interact with one another on the discussion board on Blackboard’s CourseSites platform.

Karine Joly says digital content is now the currency for search, social networking and even advertising.

What will 2014 bring to the digital field in higher ed? That’s the million dollar question at the start of this new year. Unfortunately, charting a precise course for success over the next 12 months isn’t possible.

When everything changes so quickly, we can only try to identify what looks like the best route to our destination. To help you with the exercise, let’s see what developments are leading the way.

Not everyone on campus is ready to use e-books, video lectures and other digital learning materials. But the campus bookstore can help in the adoption of new technology.

“As the course materials information center on campus, college stores are uniquely positioned to be the go-to resources on digital,” says Elizabeth McIntyre, vice president of communications and public relations at the National Association of College Stores. “Stores should take a role in educating the campus community about digital.”

An open textbook produced at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona.

As higher ed revolutions go, open textbooks may have been pushed below the surface by the technological tidal wave that is MOOCs. But several institutions are making a new push to provide students with free or very low-cost textbooks.

SUNY Open Textbooks posted its first two digital titles—written by SUNY faculty—in October and is preparing to release dozens more, says the program’s director, Cyril Oberlander, who is also library director at SUNY Geneseo.

Does autism run in families? Can children with autism grow up to live independently? These questions were part of a survey that tested University of California, Riverside faculty and students’ knowledge of autism spectrum disorder to help guide the support of these students through their college years. More than 1,000 people were quizzed on the prevalence, causes and signs of ASD in the largest known higher ed autism awareness survey.

When Tina Seelig, executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, taught “A Crash Course on Creativity” last spring, the 38 students in her graduate class worked on the same projects as the 25,000 people around the world who took the MOOC version of the course.

The MOOC not only offered an alternative to Stanford students who were unable to take this oversubscribed class, but also included perspective from people across the globe.

Employing an assessment and relocation strategy consolidated the  number of locations with computers and printers on campus, but easier  access to the technology has increased usage.

Despite having 4,500 computers and dozens of printers deployed campuswide at Boise State University in Idaho, students had to wait in line to print out assignments and term papers during busy times.

CIO Max Davis-Johnson arrived in 2010, and officials began taking a closer look at how technology was being used, and where. Davis-Johnson uses the phrase “keeping score” to describe this process of tracking technology usage to ensure that every available asset is being productive for the university.

At RIT, barcodes adorn all tech equipment, so when the internal auditing group conducts an asset audit, additional equipment beyond what is already tracked is rarely discovered by the team.

Tracking IT assets across a higher ed institution is tricky business. Depending on the college or university, it may be done by an internal audit group or IT, or a combination of both.

IT asset audits are important from a risk management perspective because they help schools track compliance with software licensing agreements, as well as state and federal requirements, and help them be more efficient.

Five years ago, there were no universities offering an undergraduate major in robotics. Today, “robotics is a high-growth area,” says Mike Gennert, the director of the Robotics Engineering Program at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), a 5,700-student university in Massachusetts.

“Nationally, we are seeing a growing number of undergraduate majors, and the number of grad programs has doubled or tripled in the last few years,” he says.

The field of robotics is expanding as the technology becomes more commercially viable.

For years, educators have recognized that children playing with LEGOs exhibit a natural talent in problem-solving and creativity. Because engineering students often have extensive experience with LEGOs, big-name universities, including Carnegie Mellon, Arizona State, University of Nevada-Reno, and Texas A&M are eager to work LEGO into their undergraduate curriculum to engage and retain students.

Although universities are under intense pressure to keep up with tech trends, being an early adopter is not always the best option. The launch of Windows Vista is a good example. In 2006, many higher ed institutions jumped on the new operating system when it came out, only to find it loaded with security issues and bugs.

ASU often takes advantage of its size and substantial budget to pilot and adopt new technological solutions that may be out of reach for other schools. “We are always one of the first schools to attempt to do new things at scale,” says CIO Gordon Wishon. “Over the years, we have been fairly aggressive in challenging some of the long-held assumptions about what sort of technologies can be delivered in the university setting.”

Panopto's lecture capture platform, like many others, includes captions for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The technological revolution sweeping higher education may not be carrying all students with it equally. MOOCs, lecture capture, and other digital platforms are being designed with varying degrees of accessibility for students with mobility restrictions, hearing and visual impairments, and learning disabilities.

The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville (UA) is using video conferencing comprehensively to improve learning and control operational costs. Originally used for occasional standard definition applications, we are employing high definition for everything from the classroom to committee work. We’ll soon enable video conferencing on students’ mobile devices, to make distance learning portable as well.