Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Campus Technology – Day 3 – Part 2

In which I attend a session titled Use of Video Objects as Exemplars for Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy presented by Jerald Cole, the chair of the Education Department at the University of Bridgeport…Oops…

Strike that, that session was cancelled. So instead I am sitting in a rather nippy amphitheater about to attend Virtual Support Center for Geographically Dispersed Faculty & Students. It is being presented by JoAnn Gonzalez-Major and Amanda Albright of the University of Alaska Anchorage. At the risk of sounding a bit prejudicial I have to wonder if the climate was not acclimated for the presenters. My bad!

Second oops, Only Ms. Gonzalez-Major is presenting. The University of Alaska has three campuses: Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Southeast. She starts by providing an idea of their size. Alaska is twice as large as Texas, but they also have the slowest bandwidth. Their campuses are so spread out and remote that they require staff to fly in.

The campus IT department support 6 campuses, 6 extension, 1,278 faculty, 1,211 staff and other 20,000 students. Issues that had to be considered when designing campuses:

  • 4 native cultures and multitude of other cultures
  • Transient population due to military and oil industry
  • Students not always available either due to subsistence culture (fishing season, hunting season, etc) and tourist season

Needs for IT support

  • One-on-one distance support
  • Multiple campus offerings
  • Learning diversity and needs of populations
  • How to provide a consistent message across campuses – because of diverse campus each had diverse culture so movement between campus had to be seamless
  • Adjunct faculty support
  • Student resources and support
  • 24/7 access to support


For faculty support we select 12 faculty members and bring them in for one-week intensive training program to learn how to develop a course and they must share back with their other faculty. It must occur when they are off contract.

eLearning book group – choose one book published ahead of time – group pulled from all campuses – If they can reach Anchorage campus they appear in person. Those who can’t attend virtually – Each professor reviews an element of the book and share it with the others.

Subject Matter Experts brought in to help faculty with areas of expertise

Site visits in which IT visits the campus and they meet with faculty to assist them in using technology in their classes.

Meet with departments to focus on their particular needs

Multi-week workshops – asynchronous workshops: two areas of interest to faculty

  1. Second Life – 8 week course to assist in setting up a 2nd life classroom
  2. Developing online course – they work with colleagues using a peer review system for comment and input. – must develop 1st 3 lessons.

Shorter half-hour workshops – offered in various modalities – many are hands-on in lab, but also use eLive for remote campus faculty who meet in their labs and they work through topic. Typically focuses on one topic only that is worked through. We talk about a tool and how to implement in their classrooms.

EDITORS NOTE: Interrupted by a call, so I need to scramble to pick up where I left off. Minor snafu with my son and his car.

They developed a Resource Center within the school’s Moodle site to assist the faculty in use of technology which brought together various elements:

Faculty tutorials – series of tutorials to help faculty. She exhibits How to use a wiki in the course. They involve mashups of video and other media. Tutorials are no more than 3 pages long.

Blocks of software licenses are purchased for items such as Camtasia, Captivate, and Snagit and then the software is loaned out on an as-needed basis through a secure server.

The ebook sessions are recorded and posted to the school’s Moodle site so that they can be reviewed at any time.

Searchable FAQ built on call center queries, and if the center cannot handle the call it is referred to her and her associate, but they keep call center individuals on the call as well so that they can learn and answer the query the next time.


They were able to:

  • Increase access to development materials
  • Enhanced call center skill sets
  • Support Call Center interactions
  • Reduced tier II calls

Increased faculty technical independence – they took to it and used it to learn during off hours. While the site was designed for faculty, students found it and began using the Moodle site and started setting up blogs and forums, which look and function like Facebook, and were using it to socialize.

Faculty also started sending students to the site to work through the tutorials. In response the IT department set up a Start Here site to download the plug-ins (Adobe Reader, Flash Viewer, etc.) that will be needed for the courses and provide an opportunity to test out using these plug-ins before the course begins.

Next Steps

  • Increase multimedia units – to change courses from mostly text-based to multimedia
  • Additional synchronous and asynchronous programs
  • Increased marketing
  • Continues to build new resources
  • Incorporate Sloodle tools.

UPDATE: All in all this was an enlightening piece on how great things can be done with limited resources. The University of Alaska folks demonstrated that support for the end user can be conducted over a great expanse at low cost. The key I thought was that they did not try to fix everything themselves, but instead worked to provide the tools and the training to use them for the faculty and staff they supported. This freed them to innovate. It was a great capstone to the keynote address about how an IT department should be run.

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