Carolina State University
SACS Compliance Certification
August 15, 2003
Standards: Educational Programs 3.4.12 (learning technology)
NC State University is committed to ensuring that its graduates are skilled in using the technologies appropriate to their chosen fields. Technology is incorporated into the undergraduate General Education Requirements, as the Science, Technology, and Society requirement. Technology is also incorporated into both undergraduate and graduate curricula in ways specific to each major and discipline. As this report will illustrate, we are confident that this approach achieves the objective of ensuring professional skill.
As a consequence of its history with technology, NC State University is also confident that its state-of-the-art technologies enhance teaching and learning. Direct evidence supporting this claim is provided by student surveys.
The university routinely evaluates the effectiveness of its technology training programs and the adequacy of technology access, training, and support. Surveys of incoming students provide information about students' incoming skills. The data are used to adjust curricula and to direct training and support to areas of greatest need. Surveys of sophomores and graduating seniors provide information about student satisfaction with technology access, training, and support, as well as their preparation for postgraduate education and work. End-of-course evaluations are also used to assess technology in individual course sections. Direct evaluation of student knowledge and skills is largely course-based, and several colleges also employ broader, program-wide assessments for special computing initiatives.
Other forms of evidence indirectly support our claim that our technologies enhance teaching and learning. Our faculty actively creates and uses teaching and learning software, some of which is described in the first section of this report. We contend that the increasing use of these technologies at this university and others across the nation demonstrates that they work effectively to enhance student learning.
Further, the university recognizes that to achieve its program objectives and fulfill its mission, it must provide technical support, it must provide exemplary training, and it must ensure access for all its students. The second part of this report summarizes each of these commitments on the university and the collegiate levels.
Finally, for the purposes of clarity, this report distinguishes between the two related learning processes mentioned by the standard: (1) "student learning" means developing experience with the software and hardware that are necessary for academic and professional success; (2) "training" means learning how to operate the hardware and software and knowing what to do when something does not work as expected. The former is covered in section one; the latter is covered in section two.
Program Objectives and Enhancing Learning
The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences requires all undergraduates to take either a computer science course (CSC 200: Introduction to Computers and Their Uses) or a departmental computer literacy course (e.g., AEE 226: Computer Applications in Agriculture and Extension Education). In addition, the college promotes the Handheld Initiative, which encourages students to use wireless, handled technology to work together to solve problems and to review research activities. Further, honors students use PDAs to share lab and class information and for personal and academic management.
The College of Design requires all incoming students to take a design fundamentals course (DF 101L: Design Fundamentals Lab) that develops important software skills, including using the AFS distributed file system, e-mail, web browsers, word processing, Adobe Photoshop, Wolfcopy printing, the Wolfware course management system, and scanning. The college also requires all sophomores to purchase a computer to use in support courses and in the design studios required for degree completion.
The College of Education incorporates web design and production, multimedia design and production, teaching methods with technology, and hardware and software troubleshooting into courses as needed. Each student in a teaching curriculum is required to create a technology portfolio-a collection of projects, assignments, and strategies-prior to licensure, as required by the technology standards for teachers guidelines set by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
The College of Engineering surveys its incoming students to determine their technical literacy; results indicate that almost all first year engineering students arrive on campus with knowledge of the Windows operating system and require no training on it. New students take E115: Introduction to Computing Environment, which uses a Linux platform and teaches them fundamentals of the Eos System, software and services available on the system, and network and hardware configurations. Further, the college is experimenting with a Student-Owned Computing Initiative integrating computing into the entire first-year engineering curriculum. An upper-division laptop pilot project involves using laptops in the classroom.
The College of Humanities and Social Sciences requires a one-hour computer literacy course. In addition, social sciences curricula include a methodology requirement with a major section on computer usage. Student orientation modules are integrated into courses taught in the college's computer labs.
All College of Management majors either take or test out of BUS 110: Microcomputer Applications for Management, which includes operating systems, office suite software, and other IT topics. Management courses often require students to use spreadsheet programs, the Internet, PowerPoint, digitized audio and video for presentations.
In the College of Natural Resources, students use discipline-specific software throughout their curricula. Hence, two programs require E 115: Introduction to Computing, taught by the College of Engineering. All other College of Natural Resources programs include a course in introduction to computers and general use software (such as spreadsheets, word processing and web-based information retrieval) early in the curricula.
All incoming freshmen and transfer students in the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences take PMS 100: Perspectives on Learning, which satisfies the computer literacy requirement of the GERs. Further, all undergraduate programs in the college require additional courses in computer science or courses with significant computational content.
In the College of Textiles, all incoming students take a course that introduces them to textile technologies and includes a computer component. In their major courses, students work in specialized labs with state-of-the-art technology: Digital Design Lab (with Computer Integrated Manufacturing capability), Textile Engineering lab, Color Lab, Apparel Manufacturing Lab, Apparel Design Lab, and Textile Engineering Linux Lab.
As part of their two-week orientation to the College of Veterinary Medicine, new graduate students receive a one-hour orientation that covers the basics of computing labs, Unity IDs, passwords, email and mailing lists. The college has instituted a Mobile Computing Initiative that provides handheld computing devices to third and fourth year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students. The hardware configuration allows wireless access (via WiFi) to web-based material. A number of reference works are also provided for installation on the devices. As part of the Mobile Computing Initiative, third-year students receive four hours of training in the use of the PDAs.
This list shows what each college is doing to teach basic technology skills to students. Of course, any skill can be developed through correct practice; technology skills like these are polished through academic work, as the following section describes.
That Enhance Learning
In 1997-98 the faculty adapted, offered, and evaluated more than 25 existing courses via the Web (Project 25). The goal of the project was to encourage other faculty to speed up the rate of web-based course development. In 2002-03, about 35 faculty members delivered about 45 courses online, and the number is expected to grow. In 2002-03, nearly 2,600 students enrolled in the online courses with the majority being on-campus students. Sample courses that are either wholly web-based or with significant amounts of web-based instruction include the following:
These examples demonstrate how NC State University faculty members are using the Web to provide instruction to learners around campus and throughout the world. The faculty has also designed technologies to enhance face-to-face learning in the classroom.
Traditionally, the sort of technology used in the classroom has varied according to discipline; chemical engineering requires a different set of technologies than, say, archaeology. Today, however, our faculty members are skilled in developing technologies that can be used in several disciplines or even all of them.
Professor Mike Carter's LabWrite, for example, is an NSF-sponsored project whose purpose is to improve students' lab report writing by guiding them in the larger process of writing effective reports. Most curricula require students to write reports; hence, LabWrite has broad appeal across the university. Moreover, LabWrite also enhances students' scientific literacy. Similarly, Professor Betty Black, of the Department of Zoology, is a campus leader in creating multimedia and interactive online material to improve learning for students in classroom and online courses.
Other technologies have been designed to help students to become active learners. For instance, Professor Robert Beichner of the Department of Physics developed SCALE-UP, Student Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs. SCALE-UP helps students in large-enrollment classes become active learners by creating a highly collaborative, hands-on, computer-rich, interactive learning environment. Evaluations through focus groups, interviews, portfolios, and standard testing instruments (with a pretest/posttest protocol) have demonstrated SCALE-UP's effectiveness in improving students' problem-solving skills, conceptual understanding and attitudes, and in reducing failure rates, especially for minorities and women. Course materials have been incorporated into the leading introductory physics textbook used by more than a third of all students in the country. This innovation is now diffusing throughout the campus.
Professor Robert Beichner was the winner of the first Gertrude Cox Award for outstanding innovations in teaching and learning with technology. Besides this award, the university supports its faculty efforts with an annual exhibition-EDTECH-to showcase innovative research and technology-assisted instruction used on campus. NC State University faculty and staff display their achievements and share ideas about how instructional technologies can enhance the learning experience for all students.
For their part, faculty support each others' efforts to produce and disseminate technology-assisted instruction with the monthly Teaching, Learning, Technology Roundtable (TLTR), one of 600 roundtables in operation on campuses nationwide based on a model created by the Teaching, Learning and Technology Group, originally part of the American Association of Higher Education. TLTR has been asked to advise the administration on course management systems, intellectual property, and other issues.
Other technologies also help students become partners in learning. SDIR, created by Professor Hugh Devine of the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, has developed student driven, electronically assisted learning experiences. These learning experiences have included a prototype classroom for SDIR instruction, a nationally leading program in the delivery of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a multimedia materials development laboratory, and a series of training programs for faculty and students in multimedia-enhanced teaching.
A third example of the sort of technology used to promote active student learning is the mobile computing initiative, spearheaded by the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM). CVM purchases Palm OS-based PDAs and distributes them to third year students, who carry the devices on through their clinical experiences. The devices enable collaboration with colleagues and provide interactive access to critical information, such as a drug formulary, antibiotic efficacy database, and a Spanish medical dictionary. This program is designed to train and equip students with technologies that will enable them to improve animal health care.
Likewise, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences also promotes the use of handheld wireless devices to enhance active learning in conventional classrooms. The kind of program offered by the College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences builds a dynamic learning community in which students become the active producers and sharers of knowledge.
This list of technologies has focused on tools that help students become more effective learners. Other technologies are aimed at instructors, helping them become better teachers.
So far, this report has described what the colleges are doing to ensure that students meet program objectives and what the faculty is doing to enhance teaching and learning. This section will conclude with an overview of several technology-based services offered by the university to help students succeed academically.
The Virtual Advising Center offers prospective and current undergraduate students a quick, convenient way to access academic information. Advising Central responds primarily to e-mailed questions about majors, minors and academic policies, but the staff also provides career counseling and refers visitors to other resources, such as departmental academic advisers. More than 90% of questions are answered via e-mail, usually within 24 to 72 hours. Students can also speak with virtual advisors on the telephone or meet with them in person.
The Virtual Reference Desk allows NC State University librarians to escort patrons through a web search as they chat online in real time. Virtual Reference Desk software from LSSI enables sharing a web browser, which helps librarians demonstrate to patrons-wherever they are-how to search for information through the NCSU Libraries' website, online catalog, databases and electronic journals.
Training, Support, and Access to Technology
In 2000, the Information Technology Division and First Year College initiated a basic information technology (BIT) project. The BIT project came in response to concerns that many students were entering the university without sufficient IT knowledge to be successful in technology-enhanced course work or to benefit from online university resources and services. In the past several years, the BIT project has grown into the IT Fluency initiative. This initiative promotes proficiency with technology, more than simply basic skills or "how to" training.
Training, Support, and Access
Because so many of our students come to school with computers, training sessions begin during New Student Orientation, before students even register for their first classes. All entering students attend a basic Computing at NC State training session, which provides an introduction to their computing accounts, the use of the university's online services and the academic computing environment.
At orientation, students receive a Computing at NC State tabloid, published each semester, and the NC State Computing Essentials CD, which includes links to online resources, tutorials on their responsible use, and free anti-virus software (required for ResNet users). To further orient students to the campus computing environment, ITD offered 40 hands-on workshops and drop-in question and answer sessions during the first two weeks of classes in fall 2002
As they continue at NC State University, most students find themselves in need of technical support, so the university works to provide it through the ITD Help Desk and ResNet technical help.
The university provides ongoing computing help through the ITD Help Desk. In cooperation with other computing consultants on campus, ITD supports Eos/Unity, the NC State University Unix-based distributed computing network, and its software applications (including SAS). Help is also available for local area networks, microcomputing applications for Macintosh and Intel-based computers, multimedia, and hardware and software needs analysis. Most consulting is by telephone and email. For in-depth computing questions or complex problems, students may make appointments. An online computing help desk features frequently asked questions and provides help 24 hours a day.
NC State University's residential network, ResNet, provides hands-on technical help for residential students to connect their computers to the network. ResNet's help desk is staffed by nine undergraduates who are trained to answer questions by phone and to provide field assistance for the 7,000 students living on campus. ResTechs rotate phone duty with on-call hours to deliver on-site assistance.
When on-call, ResTechs use two-way pagers and radios to ensure response to service requests, usually within 15 minutes. In a spring 2003 ResNet survey, almost 95% percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that their ResNet service had a positive effect on their ability to do course work; 87% said they used the service three or more hours a day.
Besides providing extensive support, the university also works to ensure access for all students. Access begins with computing accounts. All NC State University students automatically receive computing accounts (Unity accounts or Eos accounts) with the following extras:
In addition, the university provides enhanced access for on-campus students. Students living in on-campus housing or Fraternity Court (approximately 7000 in students in all) have "universal" (port/pillow) access to high-speed 10/100BaseT Ethernet connections to the campus network and Internet.
The university provides additional support and access to students with disabilities. In 2000, the university initiated an(AT-IT) program. The AT-IT coordinator and assistant report jointly to the office of Disability Services for Students (DSS) and the Information Technology Division (ITD). Assistive technologies (hardware and software) are now available for all students to use in Unity computing labs as well as in the DSS Assistive Technology Lab and the NCSU Libraries Assistive Technology Center.
Besides promoting equitable access to IT resources for students with disabilities, AT-IT promotes accessible/universal design for online resources. Workshops in accessible web design have been offered since 1997 by ITD; the Learning Technology Service now also offers accessible design workshops to faculty engaged in online teaching. An accessible web design regulation for the university is near completion, with plans for resources to help web developers bring pages into compliance. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is leading this process by reviewing all their websites in advance of the publication of the regulation.
In addition to more than 100 online tutorials, ITD maintains an extensive website and an online magazine. Each year, ITD produces an orientation CD ("NC State Computing Essentials," with 9000 distributed in the 2002-03 academic year). Each semester, ITD publishes "Computing @ NC State," a tabloid focusing on student computing.
Through its Distributed Support Program, ITD provides direct technical support, including desktop support, to 15 academic departments. ITD manages and supports the Unity computing labs. Computing consultants are available by appointment to assist all departments, faculty and staff with special projects or issues. ITD staff participate in or lead more than 40 technology groups and committees, including network and desktop security, software licensing and use, and others.
Besides supporting the suite of over 550 software packages available in the Unity computing environment, ITD negotiates software licenses and arranges for special educational discounts for the NC State University community. ITD also works with the colleges to coordinate software purchases.
The NCSU Libraries also plays a key role in providing access and support to students. Through the Libraries, students may request assistance in person, via telephone, by e-mail, or via Internet "chat" sessions. With the recently introduced SearchAssist service, subject specialist librarians can provide students with individual assistance and consultation on specific research topics and relevant resources.
As a pilot program, the NCSU Libraries has started a Peer Research Advisors initiative. Students who receive specialized training will assist personnel in the Research and Information Services Department in instructional sessions and at the service desk, as well as by conducting individual tutoring sessions. This program demonstrates the Libraries' efforts to make its services inviting to its clientele.
Finally, the Learning and Research Center for the Digital Age (LRCDA) plays a significant part in teaching about new technologies. LRCDA was recently opened and provides students, faculty, and staff with access to a variety of digital collections, digital services, and specialized facilities, software and equipment.
Training, Support and Access
The hardware and software used in each college are driven by disciplinary standards (e.g., Windows systems predominate in Agriculture and Life Science's programs, Macintosh in Design, open-source Linux/Unix in Engineering), hence no single computing platform or suite of software is required or preferred campus wide.
Since the colleges have varying standards, each college provides specific forms of training, support and access. Each college has an IT unit that supports technology resources for students in their curricula:
To support students who do not own computers, there are 79 general-use computing labs on campus, with 2,698 workstations. The colleges also support limited-access teaching and research facilities used by students. In addition to the software applications available campus-wide, most colleges also provide specialized software tools required to advance teaching, learning and research in specific disciplines.
Student use of the university computing resources is governed by published Computer Use Regulations, intended to protect the security and operation of the university's IT resources while also protecting students' electronic privacy and academic freedom.
Support for Distance Education Students
Distance education students need special skills, hardware, and software to be successful in their courses. Hence, the university takes great pains to provide this information in writing to distance education students in advance, when they register for their courses. These written handouts provide detailed information on technology competencies and minimum computer configurations. This practice encourages students who are unready or without the appropriate technology to wait until they are fully equipped for the demands of distance education.
Course-specific information pages are also posted on the distance education website, along with links to the campus IT department. Students with questions or in need of assistance are encouraged to call or email the NC State University Help Desk or the distance education service center.
N.C. State University