Assege HaileMariam, Ken Baker and I invite the campus community to participate in the 2011 strategic planning process. We hope to have stimulating, productive discussions that will prepare us to educate the next generation of students and help us build a sustainable future for EIU. William Weber
Roger Beck (chairperson), Karen Drage, Amy Edwards, Assege HaileMariam, Tiffany Leschke, and Kathy Reed formed the subcommittee responsible for preparing this concept paper.
This concept paper was first posted on September 14, 2011.
Constantly evolving technology and the technology needs of faculty, staff, and students at Eastern Illinois University (EIU) have resulted in an everchanging mission and expanding responsibilities for the Information Technology Services (ITS) department. ITS was originally centralized and tasked with the support of all technologies for the university including academic computing. As desktop computing and the need for technology education for faculty increased, technology duties began to be distributed across campus. By 2000, each college employed an Information Support Specialist (ISS) or an Assistant to the Dean responsible for technology. In 2001, the university established the Center for Academic Technology Support (CATS) whose mission was to support and promote academic departments in the use of information and communication technologies for teaching and learning.
ITS has continued throughout to administer the university telecommunications/network and infrastructure including enterprise, (i.e., universitywide), computing services for both academic and administrative operations. With increased technology on campus and a proliferation of student computer labs, colleges and departments, such as Housing, the Lumpkin School of Business, and Booth Library, have continued to add new technical positions to their staffs. The implementation of an integrated enterprise system (Banner) also propagated technical positions in several administrative departments. The growth in technology and positions has resulted in decentralized technology support.
The current state of university technology includes a campus-wide network upgrade in 2004 that gave classrooms limited wireless capabilities. Residence halls are currently undergoing installation of wireless capabilities. ITS supports one email system for faculty, staff, and students. Banner, an integrated enterprise system, was implemented during 2005–07, moving the university from mainframe to server-based technology. In 2009, the implementation of virtual servers allowed the university to enter the realm of cloud computing and continues with the virtualization of departmental servers.
Each university classroom is equipped with a desktop computer, projector, speakers, and DVD player. A fourth of the university’s classrooms have Smartboards and 10% have Starboards. In academic programs with laptop initiatives, such as Communication Disorders and Sciences, Journalism, and Art, each student must have access to a laptop, and specific models are typically recommended by the particular department. Software available campuswide to assist the learning and teaching efforts include WebCT, a learning management system (that integrates with Banner); Turnitin for evaluating written work; Respondus for building quizzes; Turning Point for the use of audience response clickers; and Zythos, a file sharing system. Additional tools that are available and may facilitate online or distance learning and teaching include Elluminate for asynchronous learning, CourseCast for recording lectures, and Respondus Lockdown Browser to facilitate testing.
Growing pains and knowledge gains for the entire university accompany any technology growth. Critical to the success of any implementation or change is training, not just for the faculty, staff and students, but just as importantly, for the technology staff. The university has more than once experienced the problems and frustrations associated with the implementation of technology that was not the choice of campus users or perhaps not an appropriate match for the university. Faculty, staff, and students must want a particular hardware or software and have a valid use for it to avoid wasting time and resources implementing technology that may prove only minimally effective. Technology implementation expenditures extend well beyond the cost of the hardware or software; the extent of human resources involved, both technology staff and functional staff, add considerably to a project’s cost. It is vital for technology staff to understand the technology that students, faculty, and staff are using and how to make that technology work effectively. Conversely, while the technology staff is willing to implement any technology chosen by faculty, staff, and students, not all will fit well with existing technology. The technology staff attempts to prepare for trends, but if an anticipated trend does not materialize, the university may find itself lagging in the alternative trend that did develop. Because they cannot always anticipate the types of hardware and software that faculty, students, and staff bring to campus, ITS and other technology staff frequently find themselves responding reactively rather than proactively.
Scaling up security systems and technology upgrades for an entire campus becomes increasingly more complex as technology evolves, requiring additional time and skill to implement. Security and policy implications associated with maintaining and upgrading campus technology are numerous. University policies, federal and state laws and acts, such as Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), must be adhered to.
Additionally, the university must develop, articulate, and follow policies and procedures to keep up with changing technology. The technology staff struggles in particular with vendors that do not follow standards. To make these vendor-purchased hardware and software packages (as well as the numerous non-standardized technologies faculty and students bring to campus) meet university standards and work with university software and systems requires increased time and effort. It is an ongoing effort to find and train technology employees to meet EIU’s technology needs.
Stakeholders frequently mentioned evolving trends in technology in higher education as a primary concern during engagement sessions. The university must be ready to support future trends in academic technology, such as hardware and software for individual classrooms and for particular disciplines, as well as online offerings, labs, electronic books, and online resources.
Up-to-date quality technology is needed in classrooms, labs, and the library if EIU is to recruit quality students and faculty, while continuing to meet current student and faculty needs. Some disciplines have specific technology needs, such as hands-on technology programs and science programs. It is important, however, for students in every discipline to possess technology proficiency, and the trend is for technology integration across the curriculum.
Online learning is one of the most significant trends in academia. Approximately one-third of all students in higher education in America took at least one online course in 2009. If appropriately administered and implemented and rigorously assessed and evaluated, online technology provides opportunities to expand programs, increase enrollment, and generate revenue. A larger number of online course offerings to augment our traditional and blended academic offerings is something the university should consider.
One of the academic arms that has been transformed by technology is the library. Many (though far from all) materials (e.g., books and journals) are now digitalized. Although this increases accessibility and aligns well with the trend in the use of mobile devices, it can also be costly to universities like EIU.
The potential for the use of mobile devices (such as smartphones and tablet computers) in the classroom is as yet untapped. Some suggest that mobile devices increase classroom participation and interaction (anytime, anywhere) between students and faculty. They also provide multiple learning opportunities, such as interactive learning, taking notes, reading textbooks and study guides, watching videos, managing assignments and schedules, and accessing online resources, such as research databases and online tutoring. Some institutions, therefore, have begun requiring students to possess some type of a mobile device. Given this trend, requiring some sort of mobile device—such as laptops, smart phones, or tablet computers—may benefit students. It is, therefore, something EIU should consider.
In sum, technology has become inseparable from education, and its impact is immense. It is the core of the university’s organization and communication, and because of technology, the classroom is more dynamic and information is more widely and more quickly accessible than at any time in history. Given the significance of technology in higher education and the reality of limited resources, the future success of a university may be rooted in integrating useful and cost effective technology with pedagogy.
Engagement sessions clearly revealed that technology is an important part of daily life for students, faculty, staff, and other stakeholders. Social media has become a popular method of communicating in the higher education community. Smartphone and tablet computer usage is on the rise. In addition, in order to address technology service, increased workloads and cost savings, universities are pursuing shared service models. Current trends suggest that everyone on campus will require support for mobile devices, and institutions must have a strategy for effective use and support of mobile technologies.
Effective use of technology for communication becomes of particular importance when it involves campus safety. Some institutions have implemented precision notification systems that connect to dedicated, networked alerting devices inside classrooms. This provides for a faster, more-accurate way to deliver an alert while still respecting classroom integrity and the learning experience.
In the 21st century, the academy cannot realize its mission of educating citizens without the increased use of technology in such areas as teaching and learning, research, service, and business practices. With this realization comes the task of maximizing opportunities for critical technologies and addressing inherent challenges in the face of limited resources. Given the substantial investment EIU has made in technology, the lessons learned thus far, and technology trends in higher education, an informed selection of high-impact technology and a refining of the process for delivery, maintenance, and upgrading appear to be the foremost challenges for the future. This will require the development of a roadmap for technology’s role at EIU. Developing criteria for adopting technology, providing up-to-date and state of the art infrastructure and operations, providing training and continuing education, effective customer service, and developing strategies for addressing security issues are only some of the areas that will be of particular importance for EIU’s future.
Technology goals must always align with the university’s goals and mission, i.e., advancing and supporting education, teaching, research, and engagement. Clear and defined goals relating to technology will also facilitate more and better collaboration and communication among the various branches of technology, e.g., ITS, CATS, Instructional Support Specialists, report writers, and additional technology staff within many other units. The decentralized division of assigned duties and oversight that is currently in place has contributed to duplication of technology and services (working on same solution, totally unaware of others) and confusion for users. Coordinating all of these services and improving collaboration and communication between and among them may be cost effective and also result in better services.
There must be a mechanism and process for adopting technology that is based on results of rigorous planning, investigation, testing, and collaboration and consultation with stakeholders. These criteria must be developed from sound rationale that includes benchmarking with successful higher education institutions to help anticipate the university’s needs. This practice is prudent and cost effective and discourages the “buy first, then find users” approach and costly research that does not lead anywhere. Overall, the goal is to adopt cost effective and high impact utilization of technology.
Technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace. For example, a thin line now distinguishes computers from mobile phones. These developments require universities to meet expectations for reliable, high-speed computing anywhere, anytime through wireless, mobile applications and cloud computing.
University operations, from student records to procurement to fundraising, rely on technology support services. It is critically important, therefore, that such departments as ITS and CATS provide effective customer service driven by the needs of the end users. Customer-centered practices will facilitate the best use of technology staff. Technology services must be coordinated so responsibilities are clear, work is not duplicated, and users know where to go for help.
Useful training must be provided to faculty, staff and students. Technology staff must also receive training on a regular basis so they may react quickly with effective solutions to users’ problems and be familiar with the most recent hardware and software developments. Training for students in all majors should aim for at least basic technology proficiency.
Securing data and protecting identity are of critical concern in the information age. Developing a campus wide security system and accompanying enforcement policies for reliably preserving and protecting assets, information, and systems functionality should be a high priority for the academy.
In summary, a judicious investment in up-to-date, secure, and appropriate technology is essential for recruitment and retention of students and faculty and for the education of the “net generation.”
Eastern Illinois University is a comprehensive institution, fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. The university is located on 320 beautifully landscaped acres in Charleston, Illinois. Eastern provides the total education experience, while maintaining those personal relationships that its students expect and value. Offering 47 baccalaureate and 25 master’s degrees, Eastern enrolls more than 11,000 students in undergraduate and graduate programs. Small class sizes allow close individual attention and guidance by faculty known for their excellence in teaching, research, creative activity and service. During its 116-year history, Eastern has enriched the lives of generations of students and established a lasting reputation for excellence. The university’s reputation reflects its mission to provide superior, accessible undergraduate and graduate education in the arts, sciences, humanities and professions.