image: DART banner

Sara Tucker, Professor of History
Tim Peterson, Dean of Continuing Education

(Awarded full $300,000 3-year funding by
the WU Board of Regents, April 2003)spacer.gif

Project Goals

The primary purposes of the DART project are to: 1) create broad-use digitally accessible resources for faculty to incorporate easily into their daily teaching, whether online on in the classroom (e.g., digital versions of texts, images, audio and video recordings); 2) provide significantly expanded consultation and assistance to faculty (from beginners to "super users") to enhance teaching and learning through instructional technology; and 3) pilot new approaches for supporting the campus-wide educational use of computers and digital resources. A team of students, faculty and staff (including departmental secretaries) will be developed to accomplish the DART project goals.
Project Need
Results from the third annual "Technology and Student Success" study, published in June 2002, indicate that "faculty in both Canada and the U.S. are using web-based technology more than ever in their teaching. At the same time, faculty clearly want more training, technical support and professional development resources to learn how to truly integrate web-based technologies into their daily teaching and course delivery." Eighty-three percent of the 1,100 Canadian and 700 American faculty surveyed indicated that web-based technology is a "key contributor to student success."

An Ongoing Commitment

Washburn University has been committed to the enhancement of teaching and learning through the use of instructional technology for a long time, and one of the Board-approved University performance indicators is "the percent of faculty using computer technology to improve students’ learning." The Electronic Technology Committee (ETC) awards nearly $500,000 annually to purchase new software and hardware for this purpose. For the past four years, the University has committed significant resources to the Partnership for Learning and Networking (PLAN) project, which has led to the development of nearly 150 online courses. The University has also recently provided funding for the creation of the Digital Media Lab, where faculty may go to create new instructional resources, and for the implementation of MyWashburn, which will permit all faculty to enhance all of their courses with digital resources. The rapid growth and success of the WU online programs is illustrative of what can be accomplished with an effective combination of good software, good technical support, and the participation of some "super user" faculty who are enthusiastic about the benefits of instructional technology.

These commitments notwithstanding, many faculty still do not know how, or do not have the time, to take advantage of these increasingly important resources, thereby creating a digital divide between those who use instructional technology at WU and those who don’t.

A Growing List of Needs

For example, the University needs to develop additional online general education courses to implement the changes in the PLAN online degree programs mandated by the NCA Higher Learning Commission. Anecdotal information also suggests that online courses may be a critical factor in maintaining the number of credit hours taken by campus students (e.g., approximately 89% of the 1,800 students enrolled in the Fall 2002 online courses were local or living on campus). The majority of online courses fill quickly as an increasing number of students desire to enroll in them. Online faculty regularly report having to turn away large numbers of students each semester who actively – sometimes tearfully - petition them for admission to over-filled online courses. Yet despite the excellent technical support and funding for faculty to develop additional such courses, many faculty remain reluctant to do so. This seems particularly true in the sciences and creative disciplines. This is due in large part to the fact that some faculty, while not in theory opposed to using computer technology, see no easy way to accomplish online what they are already doing in their traditional classrooms, labs and studios.

An Abundance of Resources

Other faculty not only remain satisfied with their current instructional strategies, which they think of as "real" teaching, but also are very suspicious of the validity of any other approach. This orientation is unfortunate, because these faculty may not realize the potential value of digital resources in their traditional classrooms. Many easily learned and used digital teaching opportunities are missed simply because of the lack of up-to-date faculty computer know-how. Tattered maps are nursed along because most old-style classroom map publishers have ceased production, and because many professors "don't know anything about that new digital stuff." Students are still told to come back later when the department secretary can print another copy of the handout they missed at the previous class meeting. Yet, the new TEACH Act allows instructors to easily and legitimately harvest fair-use resources from the web or scan in all sorts of texts and images, which can then be used in traditional ways, such as printing them out as overhead transparencies for use within traditional classrooms. When they can be found or created, copyright-free images, texts, handouts, and even sound and video files can also quite easily be published to the web, where they are instantly available for student reference and study.

Time is a Critical Factor

But how important is it for faculty to be able to use such new, digital, versions of established teaching resources? Once an optional "plus" for instructors, increasingly some disciplines and instructors are finding digital images and other resources are becoming the expected standard of their field. The director of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar argues that "digital imaging does for art historians what microscopy does for research scientists;" Art professors at Smith College point out a crucial additional benefit of their use, saying that imaging technology will lead to greater "interdepartmental collaboration and open access." Changes within the academic text publishing industry also suggest that prudent instructors and institutions should be prepared to have to find new sources for more and more kinds of once-easily available "traditional form" teaching resources.

The catch is that, as of the present, not all digital resources are easily acquired, and many of the most desirable copyrighted ones cannot be used at all once the faculty member exits his or her traditional or online classroom. But increasingly, the most ambitious and innovative faculty are not satisfied to accept these limits. They want to make crucial study resources freely available to their students by placing them on the open web. Some faculty also want to go further, and make use of the web as a new kind of "publication" place to showcase Washburn accomplishments to the general public. They believe that the web represents a great new opportunity to earn continued support from those we hope will continue both to provide us tax support and send us future generations of students. One example of this is Sara Tucker’s current World History Teaching Resources website project, in which she has begun assembling increasing amounts of maps and teaching images, both copyright limited (for use only on-campus) and fairuse, intended to be made freely available to the public via the internet.

Unfortunately, acquiring and using digital images cannot always be done with just a few mouse clicks. Many web-available resources are not clearly copyright free. Even when funding is available to pay for usage rights, the fee for use of a particular image is frequently less costly than the time it takes to secure such permission. Other times, no fairuse image or soundfile is available, and so one must be created from scratch – something often not difficult for the technically skilled, but an insurmountable barrier to most faculty. Ensuring that digital resources, once acquired, are also accessible to disabled students is another challenge most faculty are not prepared to undertake. Just how does one provide "alt text," many faculty ask. "Can I use an animated image, or is this forbidden for fear of medical harm to viewers with, say, epilepsy?"

This is where even relatively minor increases in available ongoing technical support can make a real difference in the number of faculty making effective use of current technology. Sometimes faculty are willing to learn a new software skill, but only if they are sure that such a skill will be really useful, and not too-time consuming to master. Other times, only a few such resources are needed, and a skilled support person could quite quickly give interested faculty all needed resources. Yet other times, such skills could be fairly easily taught to either students or departmental support staff. The time has come both to provide technologically willing instructors with more department secretarial and student worker support for their new labors, and to entice other faculty to seriously consider the real benefits of using digital resources.

Task Evolution

Word processing technology has greatly changed what most faculty need to ask of their department support staff. Where once they looked to secretaries to type and file, most faculty now create and control their own documents – documents that have multiplied greatly, and the upkeep has consequently become a greater and greater burden on technically active faculty. Thus today’s need is increasingly for secretarial support to take over responsibility for inserting updates into existing online courses, websites, PowerPoint presentations, and other such digital documents. Even more basically, many faculty have a large number of print versions of text or images that might become effective digital resources, but only after they have been scanned and cleaned up in digital format. Unfortunately, only a small number of existing campus secretaries know how to do such things, and even for those interested in learning, time-stressed faculty rarely have the time to show them how (assuming the faculty know themselves).

Finally, faculty super-users increasingly feel "maxed out" on what they can continue to accomplish on their own initiative. Despite excellent ITS introductory help with the mechanics of software programs, increasing numbers of the more technically advanced faculty are now looking for ways to progress towards more advanced, sophisticated use of teaching digital technologies. For example, PowerPoint users say they would welcome not only advanced PPT technical skills, but also in-depth discussion of the teaching pluses and minuses connected with using animated bullets, giving students topic outlines, and deciding how and when to make presentations available online. Increasing numbers of candidates who interview for available faculty positions are curious about how Washburn is helping faculty develop these new teaching abilities.

Project DART is intended to address these concerns among faculty by creating digitally accessible resources for teaching and by helping faculty (and secretaries) across campus learn how to create, edit, and use them both online and in the classroom. The project will begin by surveying all WU faculty on: (1) their current use of instructional technology; (2) the content they teach that could be improved by DART; and (3) their preferred methodology for learning how to use and keep current on instructional technology.

Project Scope and Impact
What is most needed to accomplish all of this is, simply, that resource which is usually scarcest among Washburn faculty: experts who are available to spend significant time consulting and helping faculty. Despite the very great help provided generally by ITS User Services, and specifically to online faculty by the webtechs, these staff are: 1) not experienced faculty who can diagnose and suggest new ways of carrying out established instructional goals; and 2) have very little available time to construct large amounts of instructional materials or teach advanced workshops.

The Project Team

The DART project team would be housed in the new Digital Media Lab, under Brenda White's direction. It would be spearheaded by two faculty, each with two courses of reassigned time a semester. Ideally each would also be paid for one course's worth of time during the summer. Needed skills: extensive online and digital classroom teaching experience plus significant technical computer know-how, both Windows/PC and MAC. Quite possibly one would be the more technical expert, and one would have more extensive and varied computer-based teaching experience. Two faculty with some reassigned time seems more feasible than one faculty member released full-time. Also with two faculty, the project would continue even if one were ill - or left WU. These faculty would work closely with the IMS production coordinator who manages the Digital Media Lab, and they would recruit and supervise four Student Technology Assistants (STAs), an approach modeled loosely after a program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. A half-time assistant production coordinator would also be employed for the duration of the project so that production coordinator could devote full-time to this initiative.

Technical Assistance and Skill Development

Subsequent to the initial WU faculty survey, the DART faculty experts would seek out and interview colleagues who might be interested in expanding their use of digital teaching resources, and they would identify existing digital resources that could be expanded (e.g., Sara Tucker’s World History Teaching Resources collection). They would also consult with current online faculty to see how their courses might be enhanced in light of the new TEACH Act, and they would provide support and funds for gaining approval to use copyrighted materials that could not be obtained under the fair use provisions of the law.

As they work with faculty, and discover the most common computer-related problems and needs, the project team (i.e., the faculty experts, the ITS production coordinator, and the STAs) would begin offering faculty development workshops for those topics not regularly offered by ITS. Examples include Advanced PowerPoint, Quick and Easy Netscape Composer, Quick and Easy Soundfiles, Quick and Easy Image Editing, etc. They would also offer on-going one-on-one consultations and work with the Instructional Media Services staff to establish "digital faculty development hours" in which the lab would be available exclusively for faculty use. These dedicated faculty lab hours could include monthly faculty lunch meetings (currently often discussed, but not organized) for users of PowerPoint, DreamWeaver, Photoshop, WebCT, etc., or other project-related venues (e.g., dyads of faculty, staff or STAs working on digital resources for specific courses).

Faculty and department secretaries would also be encouraged to learn new skills for preparing and updating digital teaching resources. This would be done by offering secretaries, with departmental approval, the opportunity to take the same or similar workshops as the faculty. Upon demonstrated mastery, faculty and secretaries would receive a one-time Skills Acquisition Bonus (SAB) of $200-500, depending on the complexity of the skill acquired. Mastery would be demonstrated both by achieving a sufficient score on a basics test and production of a satisfactory "masterpiece" created via the relevant software. The DART team would be responsible for creating both the workshops and mastery mechanisms, and they would partner with ITS staff as much as possible.

Project Evaluation
The project will be evaluated on the basis of: (1) the number of digital resources that are created; (2) the number of faculty who use the resources and who participate in the project; and (3) surveys of both faculty and students to determine the impact of these resources on their teaching and learning.
Project Timeline
Year 1