Ed Tech Proposal

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Ed Tech Proposal

  1. 1. July 19, 2006 MEMORANDUM TO: Linda P. Brady, Senior Vice President and Provost FROM: Greg Bothun, Professor of Physics Deborah A. Carver, Dean of Libraries Co-Chairs, Educational Technology Steering Committee SUBJECT: Summary of Educational Technology Support A. Background The Educational Technology Coordinating Committee was appointed in 1994 to advise the university administration on matters related to educational technology at the University of Oregon. Its charge was to “complete a vision statement that could be used to guide future decisions on the application of educational technology and to provide implementation priorities for the first biennium.” The coordinating committee evolved into a standing committee, and its charge included “the allocation of funds to support campus instructional technology and facilities (including classroom improvements, student labs, network infrastructure), faculty development or training in the use of technology resources, and curriculum development.” The OUS Board approved a student fee in 1994 “to develop and implement the technological infrastructure and instructional materials to support the delivery of educational services via the network.” It was stipulated that services would specifically benefit all students. Initially, the fee was set at $50/student/term. It has increased gradually to the current $90/student/term. Over the last 13 years, the educational technology resource fee has provided approximately $40,000,000 in support of educational technology at the University of Oregon. Since its inception, ed tech revenues have focused on three main areas: • Basic infrastructure related to educational technology, curriculum delivery and network access, for example, modem pools, Blackboard™ system and support, wireless access, user support, and student labs. These programs have been managed primarily by the Library and Central Computing. • A deans’ allocation to address distributed technology needs at the departmental level. Each individual school and college received a formulaic allocation based on its percentage of total enrolled student credit hours. The Library also received an allocation to help address significant demands related to digital content and related infrastructure. • A discretionary fund to support programs related to faculty and curriculum development.
  2. 2. Infrastructure Programs Deans Figure 1 The intent of this approach was to create synergies by simultaneously investing in all three areas (represented by the overlap regions in Figure 1). However, until recently the basic needs at the infrastructure levels dominated expenditures. Figure 2 shows the changes in fund distribution as a percentage of total tech revenue. Figure 2 70% 60% 50% 40% Infra Deans 30% Programs 20% 10% 0% 1994-1996 1997-1999 2000-2002 2002-Now Infrastructure Years (Fall 1994 – Spring 1997):
  3. 3. In the first three years, the fee generated approximately $2,200,000/yr. (half of current revenues), and prices for equipment and infrastructure were considerably higher than now. In addition, a third of the revenue was pre-allocated to the schools and colleges. The combination of basic infrastructure needs and fewer dollars limited our capacity to achieve a balanced portfolio of strategic investments. Nevertheless, substantial improvements in infrastructure and centralized services were realized. Accomplishments during this period included the following: • Homogenous student and faculty email services • Initial foray of web services • Emergence of several campus computing labs • Expanded user support group within the Computing Center • Establishment of the network apprentice program and other student employment opportunities • Establishment of the faculty consultants’ network in the Library (precursor to the CET) • Campus-wide Ethernet availability • Expansion of the UO modem pool for off campus access The heavy investment in basic network infrastructure, combined with the Library’s lead role in establishing a statewide library network (Orbis) resulted in the University of Oregon receiving the 1996 CAUSE Award for Excellence in Campus Networking. The UO had clearly moved ahead of the curve during this time. The Status Quo Year (Fall 1997 – Fall 2000): Continued progress was limited over the next three years, and revenues barely covered existing obligations. Flat enrollments contributed to this situation, as did increases in labor costs. There were also increased costs associated with current programs, e.g., more demand for modem pool access. In 1997/98, there was a deficit of $140,000. The fee was eventually raised to $75/student/term, and in 1999, the University was able to begin making new investments again, e.g., the Blackboard™ service. However, no significant support could be made for faculty and curriculum development because of the continued infrastructure demands. The lack of other sources of funds sometimes meant that ed tech money was used to support other needs related to technology, e.g., network security. The Emergence of Opportunity (2000 – 2004): During this period student enrollment began to rise and the fee was raised to $90/student/term. Recurring baseline costs remained reasonably fixed (approximately $3,200,000/year), and over time the ed tech fee generated approximately $1,500,000/yr. in discretionary funds to invest in new programs and opportunities related to curriculum and faculty development. Thus, the initial vision and strategy that was expressed in 1994 could now be potentially realized starting in the year 2000. Given these emerging opportunities, the makeup of the committee gradually changed with more teaching faculty replacing technologists. Key improvements are summarized as follows: • Campus build out of wireless (started in 2000 and completed in 2005). • The initiation of an annual RFP, starting in 2001, for individual faculty to enhance teaching and learning. Between 10 and 20 awards have been given each year. Total annual investments ranged between $200,000 and $400,000.
  4. 4. • The construction of the first wireless laptop classroom (Fall 2001). • The initiation and expansion of the Center for Educational Technology in the Library. • The merger of the New Media Center, which had been focused on external grant funded projects, with the Library’s Media Services to provide greater support for faculty in developing curriculum projects. • An increase in dedicated FTE in network security, streaming video, and Blackboard™ support. • The opening of McKenzie Hall for additional computer services and computer labs. • Significant increases in transit bandwidth and in overall connectivity to the global Internet through Abilene. • Significant increases in presentation hardware installation in general pool classrooms. • The installation of student response systems in most large lecture rooms. In 2003, Lorraine Davis, Vice President for Academic Affairs, appointed the Technology Resources Group (Tim Gleason, Chair) to work with the existing committee and to conduct a broad analysis of the overall operation and direction for educational technology, and to report back to the Deans’ Council. The Technology Resources Group conducted a survey of the deans and other key stakeholders. Most of the deans indicated that the funding had resulted in significant improvements in core programs, especially in the areas of central student labs, student employment in technology-related positions, and equipment in the schools and colleges. The deans also mentioned several areas that were either neglected or under funded: faculty support, advanced training, classroom technology, and faculty equipment. Most respondents had a sense that the UO was once a leader in technology, particularly in the area of infrastructure, but had fallen behind the curve in recent years due to the lack of curriculum applications that leveraged our investments in infrastructure. The overall process for distributing funds was criticized for its lack of strategic vision and transparency. The deans suggested several improvements including a full account of how funds have benefited the students/college/campus, multi-year plans, allocations to encourage innovation, and a plan that recognizes the different missions of the units while establishing university goals. The Technology Resource Group and Educational Technology Steering Committee issued a report along with a revised vision statement and list of principles (see http://libweb.uoregon.edu/edtech/reports.html). That document and its recommendations provided the basis for many of the changes that were implemented in 2005/06. B. The Present Over the summer of 2005, the Ed Tech Committee chairs worked with the Provost, the Vice- President for Academic Affairs, and the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs to draft a strategic plan for the use of ed tech funds. By that time, there was an accumulated surplus that could be redirected
  5. 5. to support key initiatives. The plan was discussed in the Deans’ Council, and implemented in the fall of 2005. The plan centered on the following phases: • Phase I: A revised deans’ allocation targeted at baseline needs. The deans’ allocations had remained the same since they were instituted. The revisions were an attempt to address identified needs and create some equity across the schools and colleges. In some cases, particularly in CAS, the allocation was reduced. • Phase II: A dedicated amount to be used to improve both general pool and departmental instructional teaching spaces. Approximately $300,000 was allocated for this effort. Department heads, working with the Library’s Media Services, were able to specify appropriate equipment for various teaching spaces. • Phase III: A large-scale opportunity for individual schools and colleges and support units to launch projects that normally would not be supportable under extant deans’ allocations. The intent was to support significant infrastructure enhancements and changes in the curriculum at the program level. Approximately $700,000 was set aside for this effort. • Phase IV: A continuation of the individual faculty curriculum development proposal process that was initiated in Spring 2001. In addition to these phases, Academic Affairs continued a program started two years before aimed at faculty training and development, which also was funded with ed tech dollars. C. Evaluation of the Current Approach Phase I The process of reviewing and revising the deans’ allocations represented some improvement in accountability and allocation based on need, but there was a lack of an objective method to adequately determine baseline costs. As part of this process, we were able to consolidate campus wide site-licensed software into one central index, thus relieving the unintended cost share burdens on individual units and departments. The schools and colleges submitted a wide range of requests, some of which were more appropriately funded under another phase. Although the changes were discussed in the summer, the indexes were not adjusted until late in the fiscal calendar year, which created some budgeting problems and general confusion. Phase II Based on this committee’s comments and informal feedback, the classroom improvement project has been seen as very positive. Departmental requests were reviewed and approved by the Classroom Improvement Committee. Equipment is being ordered, and installation will take place over the summer. It should be noted that many faculty are concerned about the overall condition of classrooms and see the need for basic infrastructure such as blackboards, sufficient chalk, whiteboards, and flexible lighting. There is some understandable frustration when the campus is able to invest in higher-end technologies, while these basic needs still exist. Phase III The strategic restructuring of the ed tech budget was designed to encourage large-scale proposals, which anchor instructional technology within the context of an academic program. Phase III resulted in the funding of a number of important initiatives and generated a great deal of very good discussion within the committee about IT on campus and ways to improve the process and the
  6. 6. support of faculty ideas. However, the committee received fewer requests than expected, and some of the proposals were relatively modest in terms of impact. Some of the requests were for equipment only, for example, large computer monitors or basic upgrades to computer lab equipment. It appears that the lack of some basic technologies, e.g., newer computers in labs, is still a problem and accentuates the tension between using the money strategically and addressing ongoing and fundamental needs. The other concern is sustainability, such as the lack of adequate and predictable replacement funds for existing equipment. This need is currently handled differently across campus, e.g., various fees, technology endowments, and ed tech resources. Phase III proposals were expected to address the sustainability issue, which remains a challenge in many cases, and may have discouraged some submissions. Phase IV The availability of funds to support individual faculty in redesigning their courses has been greatly appreciated. The time investment from faculty and support units such as CET and TEP is considerable, and these funds have been essential. This process alone, however, cannot achieve any large-scale impact, which is why Phase III was designed as part of the strategic restructuring. This year, there were fewer requests submitted by individual faculty. Several reasons may explain the decline. In 2004/05, multi-year awards were given to faculty who have tended to be the early adopters of educational technology, so some of the usual applicants were not part of the process in 2006. Other faculty may have already received awards through Faculty IT Fellows program offered through Academic Affairs. The decline could also have been the result of “RFP fatigue.” D. Concluding Remarks and Observations The University of Oregon has made a good faith effort to invest educational technology resources in ways that achieve our strategic vision and desired goals. In the past three years, several changes have been implemented to address the concerns expressed earlier. These changes include the Faculty IT Fellows Program, the 2005 strategic restructuring, an increasing investment in classroom technology, the inclusion of more teaching faculty on the committee, the development of the ed tech website, and wider discussions in Deans’ Council about ed tech-related issues. Many of the obstacles that preclude a wider use of more technologies are gradually being addressed, either in the marketplace or on campus. More tools are available to faculty. There is better centralized support on campus, for example, the Library’s CET and the Teaching Effectiveness Program have a very effective partnership. There has been improved support for individual faculty through individual ed tech awards and through the Academic Affairs workshops. Achieving a true transformation, however, has been challenging, given available resources, needs, opportunities, and faculty support and encouragement. As documented in many articles in publications such as Educause Quarterly, most of higher education has seen modest change in the teaching/learning process as a result of technology. While Power Point presentations and courseware systems are prevalent, other technology-enhanced methods such as hybrid courses, video-on-demand, podcasting, and collaborative online learning have not been widely adopted. On this campus, progress continues to be scattered and often involves the same faculty. There have been few strong institutional messages to promote and encourage the use of a wider range of tools and approaches that can improve student learning and student engagement. Without an institutional imprimatur, it is difficult to achieve significant momentum. And while we have recently invested in classroom technology, many of our teaching spaces remain cramped and inflexible. These physical limitations do not easily accommodate different learning modalities. Based on a recent survey conducted through the committee, it is also apparent that some faculty see technology as a distraction, if not a mechanism for the loss of control, particularly in the classroom. On the other hand, with good design and preparation,
  7. 7. technology in the classroom can create new lines of professor-student communication and offer new types of learning. Achieving the correct balance between these perspectives seems to be the key to meaningful results. In more recent years, the committee has tried to address all facets of its charge, rather than focusing exclusively on the distribution of funds. The committee’s effectiveness, however, is tied closely to the strategic priorities of the campus and how well those priorities are communicated to the campus. There is still a need for greater transparency and predictability of funding. Despite all these issues and the perennial challenge of adequate financial support, a great deal of progress has been made on this campus. We look forward to being part of the larger conversation on goals and priorities and how we can make continuous improvements in the effective use of educational technology at the University of Oregon. cc. Don Harris Terri Warpinski Educational Technology Steering Committee

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