Chapter 11 - Technology and Innovation
The past ten years have seen tremendous growth and change in instructional and research technology in higher education, and Shippensburg University has responded to these changes, keeping pace with new and upgraded facilities, equipment, software and computer networking for its students, faculty and staff. These efforts have been in support of the mission and almost all of the goals of the institution, particularly its commitment to make the advantages of current computing and information technology available to all elements of the university and to maintain an environment that utilizes and emphasizes technology as a means of promoting excellence and innovation in teaching and learning. These aims mirror the belief of the Middle States Association in its Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education that "appropriate, well maintained and systematically updated equipment is crucial" to the success of colleges and universities, and it is consistent with the goal of the State System of Higher Education that seeks to enhance and to expand learning opportunities through information and communication technologies. It is also a pattern of support that will be very appropriate as the institution begins to develop programs for its students in the central Pennsylvania region through distance education technologies, a commitment that the university has recently undertaken.
Growth in technological resources has been achieved during the past decade despite the limitations of relatively steady university budgets. Expansion has been accomplished by finding creative solutions and structures for decision-making when necessary and by earmarking dedicated revenues for technological improvements on a regular basis. While the institution has had a long history of support for its administrative computer operations, systematic planning for the expansion of computing services to assist the entire campus in its academic and co-curricular missions did not really begin until the early 1990's. As the decade began, at least three different committees tried to deal with such issues as the upgrading and replacement of the main academic computer system, the growing need for microcomputer labs and classrooms, access to the Internet (which was then in its infancy), library automation, and the future of distance learning technologies. In 1992, the university consolidated these efforts in one committee and charged it with developing a five-year plan that would identify academic computing needs and create a framework to provide them.
The university committed over $1.5 million from the institutional budget to support the needs identified by the plan. In addition, a significant portion of the student Educational Service Fee, which had been established in the early 1980s, was designated as a regular source for certain technology equipment and supplies, and this fund has produced an additional $350,000 annually for purchases since 1992. Both sources were augmented by a windfall of $300,000 from the State System during the 1992/93 academic year when changes in health insurance costs resulted in a one-time-only rebate for each system campus and by a $350,000 grant from the Whitaker Foundation to purchase biology and chemistry equipment in 1993.
The plan focused on building the infrastructure to connect every classroom, laboratory and office in all of the academic buildings on campus in a network. This was accomplished in the first two years, and it included a major upgrade of the main academic computer to a DEC Alpha UNIX system. Existing computers were connected as the network progressed. The network was linked in turn to the State System of Higher Education Network that was also connected to the worldwide Internet. Mobile multimedia development stations, which could also be used for classroom presentations, were purchased and placed at strategic places on campus. An instructional technology specialist was hired and a training laboratory and resource center was created in 1996 to assist faculty both in improving their technology skills and in developing computer applications for classroom use. In addition, training and development monies were provided through the Professional Development Committee to faculty members interested in using the new technologies in their courses. Several professional staff positions were also added to support academic computer operations, and the number of graduate assistants and work-study students assisting with technology problems was increased.
As part of the plan, a dedicated instructional technology fund, administered by an Instructional Technology Committee composed generally of administrators and a small number of key faculty, was established in 1995, and this group developed guidelines and competitive procedures for the fund's use. For the three-year period ending in 1998, more than $1 million was spent from the fund for a variety of projects. These included the upgrading of existing computer laboratories, many of which had been implemented prior to the plan and were becoming obsolete, and the establishment of new computer classrooms for areas and disciplines that had previously had none. In the spring of 1998, the committee completed work on a new six-year Instructional Technology Plan for the university that projects the continuation of funding for equipment and supplies at approximately current levels. The plan will be supplemented by a $600,000 State System grant for the technological upgrading of Shippen Hall and the Rowland Laboratory School.
In addition, the university was able to add significantly to its technological capabilities after 1992 with the construction of two new buildings. Grove Hall, which was completed in 1997, provided new facilities for the College of Business and for two additional academic departments. The building was fully equipped with microcomputer laboratories and computer classrooms and contained the university's first electronic classroom, academic teleconferencing facilities and the technology to produce and receive compressed video for distance education. It also became the new home for the Media Services Department. The other building, the Mathematics/Computing Technology wing of Dauphin Humanities Center opened in 1995, housing the Information and Computing Technologies Center (ICTC) and the academic department of Mathematics and Computer Sciences.
The focus of all technological operations on campus is the Information and Computing Technologies Center. The ICTC's major computer and network systems are expected to function round the clock daily, and it is responsible for setting policy both for security for its networks and software and for providing access to the many users of its services. The center maintains extensive support services, including both professional staff and student assistants. It also develops policies for computer use and for campus networks and provides guidance in planning for future purchases of equipment. The Director reports to the Vice President for Administration and Finance but is also a member of or an advisor to most committees and groups on campus charged with planning computer and technology policies in academic and other areas, including the Instructional Technology Committee.
At present, the central administrative computer operated by the ICTC is a Unisys 2200/501, a mainframe that handles all university records. The mainframe is currently being converted to a new relational database with development tools that will make it easier to modify. The main academic server is a Digital Equipment 5/250 Alpha Server, and the server for the campus academic and administrative network is a dual processor 90GB Dell system using the Novell Network Operating System. The ICTC also operates a Sun Systems Server that provides library automation support for Shippensburg and for four other State System universities. The campus network uses a fiber optic backbone that connected only academic and administrative facilities until the summer of 1998, when this service was extended to the residence halls for student use. Within all the buildings is a 10baseT wiring plant that is connected either to shared media Ethernet hubs or to Ethernet switches. The ICTC houses a central Bay Systems router that directs data between buildings and out to the Internet. The State System-Net network provides Internet access through an on-campus FORE Systems ATM switch and PowerHub.
Library and Media Services
Library and Media Services are joined as one division in support of the academic mission of the university. Media Services maintains and supports a large inventory of equipment to service faculty and student activities in largely traditional ways, such as lending machines for temporary classroom use. It provides services in graphics, photography, video, teleconferencing and television as well as consulting assistance on the purchase and maintenance of equipment. Media Services was also involved with the design of the new Grove Hall facility and provided specifics for the purchase of a van equipped with microwave transmission, portable video cameras and broadcast capabilities in 1997. The latter acquisition makes it possible for the university to offer students direct experience with radio and television equipment. It also gives Shippensburg broadcast capabilities on a two-channel cable television network to the residence halls and other selected sights on campus in addition to the student-run radio station. These channels are used to provide a variety of cultural events and other educational programming to multiple sites at the university.
The Ezra Lehman Library has kept pace with information technology to improve its functions and services. In 1996, it became part of an integrated library system-the State System Keystone Library Network. This system was mandated by the State System and is a new venture in inter-university cooperation and collaboration. Costs for the purchase and maintenance of the new network are shared among the participating campuses, with local infrastructure expenses such as computer workstations for staff and public networking absorbed by the individual universities. With 60 public entry points as well as institutional networking, the new system allows access to the library's catalogue of holdings, the facilities of the Rowland School for Young Children and several departmental collections, such as those of the Career Development Center and the Women's Center. In addition, the new system creates a "virtual library" for all 14 State System institutions. Students and faculty may borrow materials from any of the other institutions, and they have immediate access to a broad range of electronic indices, full-text databases, other library catalogues and Internet sources. Interlibrary loan services were enhanced in 1998 with the addition of digital scanning equipment funded by the State System. The scanner and its software permit sending materials to users more smoothly and will expand the capabilities for providing distance learners with information and facilitate the preservation of unique and rare items in the library's collection.
The library also serves the academic mission of the university in other ways. The library skills component of the general education program has been changed from a written workbook to a tutorial on the library's home page and, at the same time, the tutorial became an integral part of the College Writing requirement in the general education curriculum with library faculty providing instruction during class time. Library faculty additionally provide training for professional staff in the use of application software and instruction on finding and using information. These services are offered both at scheduled sessions and on a request basis throughout the academic year. With the installation of computer classrooms and laboratories, library faculty have also provided instruction at these locations as well as at several off-campus sites.
Technology Training and Classroom Use
On-campus technology training for faculty is provided primarily by the ICTC, by the Ezra Lehman Library, by Media Services and, most recently, by the Instructional Technology Specialist. Since 1992, over 67 computer training workshops have been offered in such skills as word processing, databases, spreadsheets, graphics, desktop publishing, operating systems, web page design and telecommunications. Grant-funded workshops for enhancing media skills and conducted by faculty have also been presented, and individual departments have organized presentations for their own faculty. This training has also made use of distance education technologies, such as video-conferencing, and faculty have been supported in their attendance at several major off-campus conferences devoted to technology issues. Shippensburg itself hosted a conference entitled "Computing Across the Curriculum," a program sponsored by the State System. In addition, 48 individual professional development grants have been granted since 1994 and three educational leaves devoted to technology applications since 1992.
Technology training for staff and students is handled primarily in two ways. Staff training is coordinated by the Human Resources Office which conducts regular programs to upgrade computer-based skills, and other training is offered through the library faculty. Most of the efforts to develop computer skills in students are done as part of the normal curriculum of the university or through classroom requirements. Some training, particularly in the use of databases, has also been conducted for students by the library faculty.
Every academic department has integrated technology into its curriculum and its classrooms in some manner. The level of this use varies from program to program, with some departments only teaching graduate and upper-division research courses using such technologies as spreadsheets and the Internet, and others incorporating many different forms of media into all their classes. The use of computer laboratories and classrooms, which are often shared among academic departments, is also diverse. In many cases, these facilities are used by only a few faculty while in others the utilization is more widespread. In specialized courses, computer technology has been employed to give presentations on computer projection systems, to teach courses that involve writing and data analysis, and to demonstrate the use of such resources as the Internet. General education courses have tended to employ more traditional technologies, such as VCRs, audio and video equipment and traditional science laboratory materials, perhaps because of the larger average size of these classes and the limited availability of equipment and software.
Three examples from the College of Arts and Sciences illustrate both the recent successes and the challenges of the use of technology in the classroom. In the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, several professors use web sites that are designed to be interactive. One instructor has a home page for each of his classes, which allows his students to receive information and to have real-time "chat rooms" that amount to a semester-long conversation on the course. The same professor uses a symbolic manipulator to generate animations that are placed on the web site before classes. He then uses a laptop computer and video projector to screen the diagrams during class time.
In her course in physical chemistry, another professor has integrated computer technology into the study of kinetics and quantum mechanics. Because quantum mechanics is very abstract, the visualization provided by computer simulation is very helpful to students, who are taken to a laboratory to view materials that complement the class lectures. At the end of the semester, students prepare a group project on the hydrogen atom using a software package to generate a data set that is rendered three-dimensionally on the computer by employing different software. They then make computerized color plots of their atomic orbital and, to make these two-dimensional images more real, construct a model out of plastic to represent the three-dimensional orbit accurately. Computer technology is also employed effectively in the Art Department's Computer Design sequence. Students are guided through four courses that begin with basic design possibilities and progress to hard-edged and object-oriented computer illustrations in the second class. In the third course, students are introduced to photo manipulation and paint applications and, in the fourth class, they consider multimedia, which combines video, sound, animation, illustration, photo manipulation and page layout. In each course, the students do projects taken directly from the graphic design industry, and one project per semester is done with a real client. Computers allow the construction of pages, graphics, photos and texts with ease, arranging and rearranging for the best possible result. Colors are readily changed and paint never dries out as it does with traditional media. Computer generated images can then be used in many capacities, such as sized for wall hangings or for pictures on the Internet. The program, however, has one drawback. Many universities have more than four courses in comparable sequences, but resource shortages have precluded the expansion of the program at Shippensburg.
Study Group Review
In its review of technological support for university programs in 1997/98, the Technology and Innovation Study Group found very substantial congruence between the allocation of resources and the mission and goals of the institution. It noted and praised the success of the approaches taken since 1989 to increase the availability of technology, particularly the systematic planning for and financing of the expansion of equipment and facilities. These efforts were the result of close cooperation among selected administrators and faculty on the initial academic computing committees and the continuing collaboration of these constituencies on the Instructional Technology Committee and on various administrative groups concerned with technology applications and purchasing in recent years. The director of the ICTC, the Dean of Library and Media Services and the Associate Provost from the division of Academic Affairs have participated in all of these councils, and it has been their partnership that has provided both the necessary information and the leadership for the successful expansion and use of instructional and other media and equipment.
At the same time, the study group did note concern among some academic departments with the issue of financing equipment upgrades or replacement. Several departments questioned the predictability of budgeting decisions, while others expressed reservations about the historically-based allocation of funds unrelated to actual need. Another concern was the fear that the recent emphasis of the university on improving computer resources was tending to overlook other areas of technology, such as the laboratory instruments necessary for science instruction and for some other disciplines. A survey conducted by the study group revealed that many departments have a pressing need to upgrade or replace such equipment, and others see the purchase of new and advanced traditional instruments as extremely important for their programs.
The study group survey also indicated that academic departments have questions about the level and availability of training for computer equipment and software. While this concern seemed general, it was not accompanied by concrete suggestions for remedy. Indeed, both the instructional technology specialist and the ICTC help-line and services were commended for their work. The issue appears to stem in part from the success of instructional technology planning and delivery itself; the increased availability of new equipment and software to faculty, students and staff has outstripped the capacity of current resources to provide timely assistance for specific problems in some cases or to arrange as many workshops in the use of unfamiliar products as might seem necessary.
Distance Education and Collaboration with Other Universities
In addition, the study group concluded that distance education should be a very important part of instructional technology planning. This imperative, which is a key element projected by the State System for all its campuses, was addressed by the formation of a committee of faculty, administrators and staff in 1997 that developed a five-year plan for the university. The document envisions both internal initiatives and external collaboration with system institutions and with other agencies, and it assumes an entrepreneurial spirit in respect to the growing number of traditional and non-traditional students whom distance education might reach. Two initiatives are already underway. The first, funded by a grant from the State System, links Shippensburg with four other system campuses in the development of a prototype for curriculum and training integration through on-site instruction by discipline at the participating schools and through the creation of a virtual help center hotline. Areas of instruction for this grant include teleconferencing networks, interactive multimedia presentation systems, electronic presentation software and web-based instruction.
The second is a three-year collaborative effort with Millersville and West Chester of the State System to create a Virtual University serving students in southeastern and southcentral Pennsylvania. Funded by a State System grant that is partially matched by Shippensburg, the project includes initiatives in the following areas: training for faculty in utilizing a variety of technologies available for distance education; marketing research, program development and assessment; improvement of on-line student support services; and technological support. Several courses, particularly ones using on-line applications, were offered by Shippensburg through the Virtual University in the fall of 1998 as part of its initial program.
The Distance Education Plan anticipates that the institution will become actively involved in a variety of programs and activities in the near future. Graduate courses, as well as non-credit offerings through various centers on campus, offer the most immediate possibilities, but some undergraduate courses may also emerge once the necessary methodologies and technologies are in place. The latter courses, or even segments of courses, might be imported through distance education from other institutions, especially those in the State System. In addition, the plan foresees distance education playing a role in the supervision of student teachers and other student internships.
A number of graduate programs and course offerings were identified in the plan as being particularly well suited to distance education because their content and modes of delivery can easily employ video-conferencing or web-based applications. Examples of programs that can be offered with little advanced notice in this way are Reading Recovery, a nationally recognized initiative that trains in-service elementary teachers, and various certificates in Total Quality Management offered by the Frehn Center in the Grove College of Business. Three other graduate programs that can contain distance education components within the next one or two academic years are the Master of Science in Information Systems, a joint venture of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science and the College of Business, the Master of Public Administration, and the linked doctoral program in higher education with Duquesne University.
The Distance Education Plan calls for maximum support for training and support of faculty interested in implementing distance education technologies. Coordinated by the instructional technology specialist, these opportunities will not only be provided through the State System grants linking Shippensburg with other system universities but also by the Faculty/Staff Training and Resource Center, a campus facility that currently conducts workshops and programs to upgrade computer skills. Additionally, an agreement has been reached with the vendor of the video-conferencing equipment in Grove Hall to provide training for a limited number of university employees, who can then instruct others in the continued use of the electronic classroom facilities. Other support also may be available through two external agencies in the near future-the Center for Agile Pennsylvania Education (CAPE), an association of private and public Pennsylvania colleges and universities dedicated to improving institutional effectiveness through distance education, and the Center for Distance Education Development and Training, which the State System intends to establish during the 1998/99 academic year.
CAPE has already provided the institution with two small grants that support technological services, and the process of applying for such monies from a variety of sources will undoubtedly become a major part of planning by the university in the near future. In its discussions, the study group considered the possibility of the employment of a professional grant writer to meet this need.
A review of Shippensburg University's student services suggests that the institution is generally prepared to accommodate the anticipated needs of distance education students in the next few years. This assumption is based upon the development of an overall program that emphasizes graduate education, that deviates little from the on-campus calendar, and that has only a limited number of courses in a given semester. The new dean of extended studies will be charged with much of the administration of the program, including the use of the electronic classroom, although distance education courses that are taught by faculty as part of their regular teaching load will continue to be offered by the colleges and departments. Courses offered through the colleges will be subject to the normal scrutiny of the curriculum process for all credit-bearing offerings, and courses without credit or outside of a faculty member's contractual teaching load will be subject to policies governing the extended studies program. The university plans to establish effective assessment procedures for all of its distance education offerings.
Summer Discussions: Technological Change and Computer Literacy
Two of the questions discussed in the summer of 1998 by faculty, administrators and students focused on the future of technological use and support at Shippensburg. The first set of discussions sought comment on and analysis of how the university could manage the pace of technological change within a relatively steady budget, and the second focused on the issue of moving toward a possible computer literacy standard for students and for employees at the institution.
Both sets of discussions reflected much in common with the findings of the study group. Participants pointed to the need to involve academic departments and staff units in an improved planning process with better coordination between colleges and across administrative areas. One very concrete proposal was to create a new structure encompassing academic departments, colleges and administration that would facilitate purchases within and between divisions, disseminate information to employees and provide input for long-range planning. There was also discussion of a better balance between computer purchasing and upgrading and non-computer equipment procurement. Training and assistance were emphasized, and a number of suggestions were made for improvement of on-campus services. One called for a survey of current technology usage by faculty and other employees and for the creation of workshops in a rotating series tailored to survey results. Other suggestions included the distribution of the current technology newsletter to students, the establishment of a pool of experts throughout campus who might offer their expertise when necessary to supplement the services of the ICTC, and an on-line help line to provide "distance education on this campus." There was also considerable discussion both of the benefits, particularly for training and service, and of the drawbacks of possible increased standardization of computer hardware and software purchasing.
The merits of establishing a computer literacy standard or standards for the university were controversial among the participants in the discussions. The debate was not over the need for computer literacy throughout the campus community-it is a part of the mission and goals of the university-but over its definition, the means for achieving it and a possible widening of the meaning of the term. Many saw residence hall wiring, accomplished in the fall of 1998, as a very helpful step in promoting the goal. Others wanted to test all first-year students, much as the university does with mathematics, reading and writing skills. The institution could then require levels of competency that would necessitate either course work or meeting a standard for graduation in other ways. Several participants suggested embedding computer literacy in the general education curriculum, perhaps by the introduction of a new course requirement. Such a course or program could be expanded to encompass all of technology-that is, an appreciation of the crucial role that technology as a whole has played and will continue to play in everyone's lives. At the same time, many participants believed that student computer literacy should remain a disciplinary concern, achieved through the major or through the course requirements in specific academic departments.
Another suggestion was that computer literacy among students would follow from a higher standard among faculty. Since it is important for the leaders of a university community to promote beneficial educational change, faculty should model effective computer utilization both in and out of the classroom. This could be encouraged through installing permanent working configurations of equipment in classrooms, which would encourage more frequent use, and by putting many routine administrative functions on-line, such as class rosters and grades. Textbook ordering, grant proposals and most announcements could be done by computer. Standards for software usage by faculty could be also be set and maintained.
University staff participants interpreted the concept of computer literacy as essentially a matter of training, standardization and careful planning. Mirroring the discussions on keeping up with technological changes within a steady state budget, they called for better coordination of training workshops, especially with the implementation of "common software" which often now has many different versions in use, and increased support from administration to release staff from their immediate duties to attend the training sessions. Another suggestion was to create a university-wide budget for hardware purchases. Departments and administrative units could then apply for these funds at regular times and in keeping with the determined needs of the institution.
Despite the limitations of relatively stable university budgets, during the last decade Shippensburg University has been able to achieve substantial and carefully planned growth in technological resources that can be applied to instruction and research in support of the university's mission. This growth has included the networking of academic and administrative computers and the expansion of computer laboratory and classroom facilities and has recently also involved the wiring of university residence halls. Planning for this expansion has produced an increase and further coordination of services and training to support the application of the new technology. In addition the university has begun to utilize its new technological capacity to explore the possibilities of distance education and to collaborate in the creation of cooperative courses and programs with other institutions and with the State System of Higher Education.
These rapid changes have brought both concerns and opportunities. Planning efforts to manage the integration and application of all aspects of technological growth have become more complicated and have also increased the importance of developing and applying computer literacy and competency standards for all elements of the university community. The following recommendations may help the university to keep pace with the challenge of continuing technological change.
- Improve the planning and budgeting process for technology by creating a council with representation from all constituencies of the university that would plan, coordinate and monitor purchasing and usage. Among other responsibilities, the council should:
- Inventory current technology and its usage and assess its efficacy in relation to institutional mission and goals.
- Evaluate the efficiency of technological use in relation to space utilization and to the goal of providing the most productive classroom environment.
- Develop purchasing priorities for replacement and acquisition of new equipment.
- Monitor and suggest improvements in the interconnection and levels of university technological support, including the possibility of more personnel in certain areas.
- Improve the coordination of and opportunities for systematic training in the use of technology for faculty, administration and staff. This should be implemented either through the proposed technology council or through closer consultation among the units of the university currently responsible for training-that is, the Information and Computer Technologies Center, the Division of Library and Media Services and the Office of Human Resources. Many suggestions offer promise. For example:
- Assess needs through surveys on interest in and use of technology.
- Offer series of widely-advertised workshops.
- Identify role-models who can offer individual assistance throughout the various units of the university.
- Colleges within the university, in conjunction with the Office of Extended Studies and appropriate inter-campus committees, should support the development, implementation and evaluation of distance education efforts to develop web-based and video-conferencing courses locally and those involving collaborative efforts such as the Virtual University project, and should seek additional funding for expanded projects.
- Improve and build a more effective grant writing capability for the university. The Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Office of the Institute for Public Service and Sponsored Programs should explore ways of enhancing this capacity, including the possibility of employing new personnel.
- Continue the discussion of and come to a resolution on how technological or computer literacy might be further enhanced within the curriculum of the university and whether minimal computer competencies should be expected for students, faculty and staff. Such discussions should be conducted through the university governance structure. Competencies should be considered, when appropriate, by academic departments for inclusion in student outcomes assessment.
- Enhance the efficiency of Student Affairs administration and services by developing and implementing a five-year computer automation plan.