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Class technology fosters learning

October 28, 2010

The availability of technology across campus has encouraged faculty to teach differently in their classrooms, said Assistant Dean of College of Education and Professional Studies Mary Wright.

All over campus, PowerPoint presentations have been utilized by professors. It is effective because it adequately presents course material, said sophomore Leeann Hitsman.

“I think that PowerPoints benefit everyone’s learning style,” said senior Joseph Saugstad.

English Professor David Furniss, said that his students make more use of PowerPoint presentations than himself. Desire2Learn, however, has become essential to his teaching method.

From posted video material to holding online discussions, Furniss said that D2L has proven to have important interactive learning functions.

“I make more use of D2L by generating discussions and now I have considered incorporating the use of a blog into my classes,” said sociology Professor Paige Miller.

Wright said that some professors in her department have included podcasting into their classes and have had the chance to teach their classes with interactive white boards.

Departments are trying to improve lessons with technology because students are comfortable with it, said Teaching and Learning Technology Student Assistant Daniel Reed.

“There is this idea that students may be more inclined to the teaching methods if they are amplified by the use of technology,” Reed said.

Specific programs have been established to help faculty members enhance the teaching and learning that goes on in the classroom, Information Processing Consultant Scott Wojtanowski said.

He added that he works with professors by way of the Online Teaching Institute which is a course review process. A faculty member review course is also made available. During the faculty member review, proper technology assessments are identified and recommended for the individual course.

These technological uses are made possible by a behind the scenes campus-wide initiative known as goal eight. UW-River Falls established this goal to further enhance the use of technology throughout campus, said Steve Reed, chief information officer and member of the Information and Instructional Technology Council.

UWRF has 10 goals established in an effort to further allocate the resources available on the campus.

These efforts are part of a strategic plan, meaning they receive special attention towards achievement, said Dean of College of Education and Professional Studies and member of the Academic Standards Committee Faye Perkins.

Currently under review, Faculty Senate has been charged with carrying out Goal 8, said Reed.

The Institutional and Learning Technology Committee is powered by the Technology Council. The Committee addresses these issues and provides feedback on how best to implement Goal 8. They also collaborate with technology services, said Wojtanowski.

The Technology Committee is working on infusing technology into classrooms Perkins said.

“We have made an effort to standardize the classroom technology so that it is seamless,” Steve Reed said.

The purpose of creating a seamless learning environment is to ensure that there is a consistency of technology between classrooms. Changes have been made to have a more universal computer system throughout the campus, Reed said.

Over the summer, room controllers were installed in some of the classrooms. Although different in appearance, these all-purpose remotes create ease for those using the given computer system, Wojtanowski said. One of the primary concerns for a professor with regards to the technology available in a classroom, is ensuring that everything works.

“We want to make sure that it works well, and it is what the faculty members are looking for,” Wojtanowski said.

The technology services that are made available at UWRF extend beyond the actual campus grounds. Services are extended over to the University’s farms, online programs and the Scotland study abroad program, Reed said.

Perkins said that the Division of Technology Services has been developed to oversee much of the efforts made to further enhance the use of technology at UWRF, which includes updating classrooms.

There is an active involvement in part for the student population. At present, there are are 72 students working for DoTS, said Student Support Coordinator Steve Meads.

Within DoTS, there are a variety of divisions that span from Customer Technology Services to TLT, Meads said.

“Keeping up with the technology is an extraordinary amount of money,” Perkins said.

According to the Spring 2010 Campus Update, $392,000 had been designated towards Goal 8. This amount of money, however, has still required budgeting.

“We have to balance what we identify as critical, even though we are going through tough times,”  Steve Reed said.

Technology services has to determine what is most important in regards to general resources, including access to D2L, public safety and dining. Without this support, learning is affected, Reed said.

“Everything we do, we have to think about the impact of technology,” Perkins said.