Technology White Paper
Technology White Paper Taskforce Student Government Association
February 22, 2011
Georgia Institute of Technology
Technology White Paper Student Government Association Technology is one of the cornerstones of the Georgia Tech culture. We the students of Georgia Tech believe the integration of technology throughout the many facets of our college experience to be one of this Institute’s most valuable and defining characteristics. This is not only crucial to enhance the quality of education, but to maintain Georgia Tech’s standing as one of the premier technological universities in the world. This subject has not gone unnoticed in the recent formulation of the Institute’s strategic plan. The first goal of this document aims at making Georgia Tech one of the “Most Highly Respected Technology-Focused Learning Institutions in the World” through new forms of instruction and the application of electronic resources to create an enhanced and immersive learning environment. To this end, we as students propose several areas in which Georgia Tech can improve its technological capabilities.
Summary of Initiatives 1. Virtualization • Introduce Virtual Lab through an advertising campaign and improve its functionality through customization • Create an online library of tutorials 2. Information Systems • Redesign T-Square user interface and create a plan for future upgrades • Train professors how to properly use T-Square and encourage them to maintain a class page on this system 3. Classroom Integration • Introduce a “Technology Day” into the curriculum • Consolidate personal response systems • Expand CULC type collaborative learning rooms 4. Campus-wide Calendar of Events • Expand use of Mercury or similar system campus-wide • Introduce filtering and downloading functionality to the calendar interface • Create an event submission system for student organizations • Formation of a Calendar Committee to oversee this initiative 5. Campus Coordination of Technology Initiatives • Student representation on the “Vetting Layer” of IT Governance 1. Virtualization Virtualization of information allows for quick and easy access of resources across campus and the larger Georgia Tech community. Several initiatives have taken a step in this direction, such as the development of the Virtual Lab (Vlab) which allows students to access many software applications for free, the digitization of library books and resources, and the recording of lectures for distance learning classes. This is good progress, but more work is needed. Vlab is a helpful tool to many who make use of the system. Acceptance and usage could be greatly expanded, however, by advertising this resource more in future as many students are unaware of its existence and capabilities. Continued improvement of the system is desired so that 2
Technology White Paper Student Government Association speed and functionality can be increased. Additionally, customization is an issue that faces Vlab as students are unable to select which specific desktops or applications they need to use. Access is often limited to collegiate or school membership which prohibits cross-functionality. Steps to resolve this issue such as allowing students to open any individual application of their choice rather than desktops restricted by major should be examined. Overall, Vlab is a great resource and we hope all students at Georgia Tech find it useful at some point in their careers. The creation of an online library of tutorials is one project that would offer the Georgia Tech community easier access to information. Short lectures of 10 minutes or so on a wide variety of material would be a valuable asset for anyone seeking to brush up on their knowledge of a particular subject. One interesting model of this type is the Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org) where short explanations and examples are offered on subjects ranging from simplifying fractions to DNA. Other slightly different models include MIT’s OpenCourseWare (http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm) which provides free online materials for specific courses. The proposed system would not have to include live lectures but could instead focus solely on written information making them less distracting and easier to comprehend. The first step toward completing this supplemental bank of information should be the recording of major topics taught in introductory science and math courses. Targeting an initial release of information toward first year students may help them ease into the Georgia Tech culture while providing a firmer foundation. It also serves as a great resource for older students who wish to refresh their memories for the FE exam, GRE, or any other number of exams. If the recordings exhibit initial success, additional topics could be added on a continuing basis such that a much larger bank of knowledge becomes available. While such a resource may initially be available to the Georgia Tech community only, it could also prove extremely useful for alumni or the general public. The library might serve as a continuing education environment where others could come to learn new techniques and practices. Most importantly, it would disseminate information on work completed here at Georgia Tech to a potentially global community thereby increasing the awareness and prestige of our Institution. Such a system has the potential to make Georgia Tech the “go-to” place for learning about technology related subjects.
2. Information Systems Georgia Tech’s information systems—namely T-Square, Buzzport, and Zimbra—are some of the most heavily used tools on campus and have greatly enhanced the education process. Students use T-Square daily to access assignments, grades, notes, handouts, syllabi, and course schedules. Buzzport has seen increased traffic after its redesign, and email is the preferred method of communication. As such, a plan should be developed to ensure the continued maintenance and improvement of these resources. The T-Square user interface, in particular, is outmoded and past time for a redesign. Due in part to its counterintuitive nature, many professors still do not utilize T-Square for their class logistics or fail to adequately maintain their class site. Technology Fee proposals may introduce some improvement to the system in the near future, but a dedicated commitment towards keeping T3
Technology White Paper Student Government Association Square updated, useful, and universal is needed. This may be in the form of monetary resources or added manpower. Most importantly, we would like to see more faculty and staff trained on the proper use of T-Square so that they have the knowledge requisite toward maintaining their class pages. According to CETL’s 2009 Annual Report, there were 140 participants in 13 T-Square training workshops. While this participation is encouraging, translation into the classroom is often half-hearted or nonexistent. The culture that exists around email client usage is a complicated one. Many students prefer to use Google or other platforms with which they are more familiar. Zimbra then simply becomes a tool to forward Tech related correspondence to a more preferred location. Other students enjoy Zimbra as an email client and have commented positively on its latest improvements. We are not advocating a change to the current situation. However, greater Zimbra usage may result if its newest capabilities were better advertised to student groups.
3. Classroom Integration One of the biggest questions when it comes to technology is achieving effective implementation within the classroom and the learning experience. It could be something as simple as a student using Vlab in class on his or her laptop or responding to professors’ questions with a PRS. While some professors openly embrace these tools, others prefer more traditional teaching styles. To remain one of the premier technological institutions in the world, we must push our professors and students to take advantage of the many opportunities technology offers them. One way to promote technology within the classroom could be the introduction of a “Technology Day” to the curriculum of all or a specific subset of courses. By requiring professors to gear one day per semester toward a technology related learning activity associated with their field, a precedent could be established for technology usage. Many professors already satisfy this goal but those that do not would find encouragement to update their teaching methods. Additionally, if Georgia Tech were to switch to a trimester system and therefore carefully reexamine the curriculum for many courses, this would present a great opportunity for introducing the Technology Day concept. The consolidation of classroom related technologies currently in use is also needed. A single response system like PRS or i>clicker should be implemented so that students are not obligated to purchase both responders during their freshman or sophomore years. Some universities permanently integrate a response system into their classroom furniture. Others like Ohio State allow students to install “virtual clicker” software on their laptops rather than purchase a separate response system (see http://telr.ohio-state.edu/clickers/setup/clickers.htm). Either solution would be an improvement to the current system. Collaborative learning rooms like those that will be available in the CULC present exciting possibilities for some courses. Increasing the number of these venues across campus could be very beneficial if they prove successful. These rooms will greatly alter the learning experience and we hope more students will become exposed to their benefits in the years to come.
Technology White Paper Student Government Association 4. Campus-wide Calendar of Events A centralized, campus-wide calendar of events with filtering capabilities is a feature missing in the Georgia Tech environment. Separate calendars listing athletics or academic events are available, but no single source with appropriate functionality currently serves as a main resource when seeking event information. The Mercury system operated by Communications & Marketing provides a good foundation but could use improvement in some areas. The most desirable feature for a campus calendar is usage by every department on campus. This process has already begun with the Mercury system, but should be actively pursued until all major campus segments are integrated. With an increase in usage and the amount of information available, filtering events and topics according to the user’s preference is the next hurdle that must be overcome. Georgia Tech’s calendar does not currently offer this ability. Some users may also wish to download a specific calendar to a format of their choice such as Google or Outlook. Today, individual events are available for download but accessing a series of activities all at once is not possible. It is also our hope that student organizations will be able to submit information for the campus calendar as a way to inform the larger community of their activities. Currently, students must email one of the 274 individual users of the Mercury system their event information in order to update the calendar. Establishing an easy to use submission system so that these groups could add event details would be a huge step forward from current practices. To address these issues, we propose the formation of a Calendar Committee. Representatives from every college, the President’s Office, Provost’s Office, Registrar, SGA, the Alumni Association, Athletic Association, Communications & Marketing, etc. could meet to identify new areas of functionality and ensure information is regularly updated. Taking these steps could greatly increase the value of the campus calendar.
5. Campus Coordination of Technology Initiatives The formation of an IT Governance organization is an exciting and long overdue step to reduce the redundant efforts that can result in campus technology initiatives. We applaud the creation of such a body and hope that it will be implemented within the near future. Georgia Tech students already hold some limited involvement in the proposed system through their representation on several Institute Wide Committees which form the basis of input for IT Governance. However as it currently stands, no students will be represented above this initial input level. We propose that two student representatives—one graduate and one undergraduate—be included as part of the “Vetting Layer” or second level of the IT Governance Model. This would allow student feedback on whichever initiatives are recommended to the Decision-Making Body of IT Governance. As these initiatives will impact the entire campus community due to their broad nature, students should be given a stakeholder position in the recommendation of different initiatives.
Conclusion Several ideas have been presented in this white paper outlining technology oriented programs and improvements the Georgia Tech student body feels are important. These include an 5
Technology White Paper Student Government Association extension of virtual resources, improvement of current communications and calendar systems, development of a classroom integration culture, and coordination of campus-wide initiatives. It is our hope that these suggestions may someday come to fruition or, in turn, generate new ideas for the betterment of the Georgia Tech experience. It is by no means an exhaustive list and we continue to advocate the exploration of new initiatives as technology advances.
Primary Contributors: John Semmens Corey Boone Brenda Morales Jimmy Williams Ryan Sloan Nick Robson Amira Choueiki Anthony Baldridge James Black