Emory Report
December 6, 2004
Volume 57, Number 14


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December 6 , 2004
ITD initiatives earn kudos in ECAR study

Donna price is coordinator of communications and marketing for itd

A team of researchers from the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) recently reviewed the Information Technology Division’s academic computing initiatives, with a focus on the Computing Center at Cox Hall, and found much to commend.

EDUCAUSE is a nonprofit organization with 15,000 active members representing more than 1,900 colleges, universities and educational organizations worldwide, including Amherst, Brown, Georgia Tech, Harvard, MIT, Stanford and Yale. The organization’s mission is to advance information technology (IT) in higher education through applied research, strategic policy advocacy, teaching and learning initiatives, publications, conferences, collaborative communities and professional development activities.

ECAR, one of EDUCAUSE’s major initiatives, originates and publishes scholarly, analytical research that informs IT policy-making and strategies on issues of significant concern to higher education.

This year ECAR researchers Bob Albrecht, Bob Bender and Robert Kvavik launched a case study called, “Capitalizing on Opportunity: Creating a Facility for Innovative Teaching and Collaborative Learning at Emory University.” The effort complements a former core study that collected and evaluated qualitative data on IT use, learning outcomes and educational value of using IT in higher education. For background and to develop evaluation criteria, in addition to a literature review, the researchers used a similar study done in 2003 within the University of Wisconsin system.

A key finding of the core study was “the importance of supporting faculty and students in using technology to improve learning.” Researchers focused the case study on the Computing Center at Cox Hall because “it seem[ed] to address part of this key finding by meaningfully supporting students in the use of innovative technology while leading to collaborative learning.”

The ECAR reviewers also looked at other ITD initiatives for training, increasing collaboration and supporting innovation with technology, including Emory’s Center for Interactive Teaching (ECIT), the Emory College Language Center (ECLC), and the annual Educational Conference on Academic Technology at Emory (EduCATE).

The study charts the chronology of strategic planning and decision-making behind the 2002 creation of the Cox Hall center, a project that involved the renovation and redesign of an outdated technology lab. ECLC and ECIT are cited as useful models for a “next-generation facility” and for serving as laboratories where IT staff could examine trends.

Effective practices recognized as leading to a successful project outcome were: sensitivity to serving faculty and student technology needs appropriately; faculty/staff partnerships; capitalizing on financial opportunitites; effective communication with senior administration; and intuitive thinking about the physical design of the renovated space.

“Responsive initiatives to faculty and student needs can facilitate beneficial relationships for central IT organizations,” the study said. “Faculty and students require two types of support: training and technical support, and facilities in which to work and learn. An aggressive IT organization can be instrumental in identifying such needs, refining them by listening to the constituents and initiating plans for support personnel and facilities. Emory’s ITD exemplifies how each of these steps can be carried out effectively.”

In interviews with faculty and students, the researchers heard anecdotal reports of real change taking place as a result of the teaching, training and technology resources in the Computing Center, ECIT and ECLC. On measuring attainment of key core criteria, the study concluded that “responses gathered from faculty, staff and students at Emory … suggest that the Cox Center is successful in supporting innovative teaching and student collaboration.”

Copies of this research study are available to members of the Emory community by contacting the Office of the Vice Provost for Information Technology and CIO at 404-727-7879.