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July 23, 2001

ECIT tames technology for professors

By Eric Rangus


Many of the professors Sandra Butler meets are strangers to technology. They use a computer to check e-mail, maybe for some word processing, and that’s about it. Still, technology has the power to transform everyone’s lives—at least that’s the word around campus, if not in every TV commercial or newspaper ad.

So when faculty members step into Emory’s Center for Interactive Teaching, Butler’s first responsibility is to put technology in perspective.

“We tell them that technology is only a tool,” said Butler, educational analyst for the professional schools. “It’s another method of delivery for your course materials.”

ECIT, which is part of the Information Technology Divi-sion, is located in the Center for Library and Information Resources (CLAIR) on the second floor of Woodruff Library—a right turn from the reference desk. The center consists of three areas: a series of web development stations, a digital content production suite and an interactive classroom.

Faculty members are welcome to use ECIT’s state-of-the-art equipment as well as reserving the interactive classroom.

“In the classroom we partner with faculty to experiment with teaching methods and use it to ‘teach the teachers’ about technology as a part of pedagogy,” said ECIT Director Wayne Morse.
The center provides a series of ongoing seminars for faculty interested in incorporating technology in their teaching. The center’s analysts also sit down one-on-one with individual faculty members and train them in various aspects of technology, such as digitizing audio and video files or building course-centered web pages.

“They are never left alone, which is the beauty of having a place like ECIT,” Butler said. “It’s a place where faculty can leave their office, leave interruptions and come into an environment that has not just all the resources they need—hardware and software—but people, too.”

Butler is one of seven educational analysts, each of whom is responsible for servicing a different part of the University.

“The students are the beneficiaries, because classes seem to be moving away from being solely instructor-centered to more learner-centered,” Butler continued. “The students are engaged more, and they take control over their learning when they have web-enhanced interactive modules.”

To make the creation of these interactive modules easier, ECIT utilizes a course management system called Blackboard. It allows faculty members to place materials online without needing to know HTML (Hyper-text Markup Language), the programming language for the web.

Blackboard is password-protected, giving professors a secure environment with which to conduct online testing and offer students easy access to materials that once were either remarkably difficult to obtain or frustrating to access.

For instance, an English class can view eight different versions of scenes from Hamlet, including a ballet. A medical student can see, in real time, the proper procedure for testing the flexibility of an infant’s hip bones—complete with instructor narration.

Those are just two examples. Others include digital audio and video technology allowing students access to Arabic speech and music, and a website construction project that teamed history graduate students with a university in Augsburg, Germany.

Not only does this positively affect the students’ learning experiences, but professors, too, can expand their horizons.

“What we’re looking forward to is linking all humanities courses,” said English Professor Harry Rusche. Rusche is director of Emory College Online and a longtime proponent of ECIT. “So I might have access to a history course if I need material, and vice versa.”

That plan is still on the drawing board but would be easy to implement if approved.

Rusche posts his lectures to his class site, then asks students for questions about the material. This way, a much larger amount of class time is spent on discussion rather than straight lecture.

According to Butler, this is a teaching process that is gaining momentum across campus.

“Everyday we get one or to new faculty who are interested in adding an online learning module to complement their traditional teaching environments,” she said.

No doubt about it, Black-board’s penetration on campus is exploding. At the beginning of summer 2000, 12 classes were posted online. By the beginning of fall, there were about 115. At the start of this summer, content for more than 350 classes was posted to Emory’s Blackboard site.

“In the past year we’ve had more than 200 faculty come through the center to attend a workshop or some other type of session to deal with multimedia and technology in their teaching,” said Jason Lemon, ECIT’s educational analyst for the humanities.

This summer the School of Theology, through its summer technology institute, is working with ECIT to pair up students and faculty for a three-week series of daily, four-hour sessions. It’s the first time any of Emory’s professional schools has embarked on a summer technology-training course.

The Emory College Online Summer Training Program, which the theology school used as its model, is now in its fifth year and showing no signs of slowing down.

Faculty members interested in contacting ECIT can do so by phone at 404–727–6708 or by e-mail at

The center’s website is


Back to Emory Report July 23, 2001