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Articles: Teaching & Learning

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.

Gary Nickerson, IT Director, Oklahoma Baptist University

A state-of-the-art emergency alert system that can reliably reach the entire student body is a must for modern-day universities. “It’s really imperative,” says Gary Nickerson, IT director at Oklahoma Baptist University, a 2,000 student school in Shawnee, Oklahoma. In implementing these alerts systems, university IT directors like Nickerson face an important choice: they can develop their own product or purchase a system from a vendor.

Jim Hall, IT Director, University of Minnesota, Morris

To fully engage students in on-campus life, in 2012, Morris’ IT director Jim Hall decided to develop an app that alerts students to the university’s events and on-campus programming. “The thing that helped us was to think like a student,” explains Hall. “We realized this generation doesn’t want to look for information, so we created a mobile app to bring the information directly to students’ phones.

“If you build it, they probably won’t come.” That’s Sara Wilson’s take on the launch of the typical campus financial literacy program. As financial literacy project manager at USA Funds, she knows firsthand how many students participate and what they think later as they look back.

While numerous post-graduation surveys by the company show students regret not learning more about personal finance while they were in school, they also tend not to access financial literacy information when it’s offered on a completely voluntary basis, Wilson says.

Open any newspaper these days and you’ll see variations on the same critiques of higher education we’ve heard for years: spiraling costs, unequal access, ineffective teaching, and so on. And you’ll hear politicians demand greater accountability, while they threaten greater funding cuts. Yet little ever changes.

Interdisciplinary courses and programs in peacebuilding have existed mainly at four-year institutions and graduate schools. But the offerings are a slow, but growing trend at community colleges.

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