by James L. Morrison and Carole Barone // Vision
Editor James L. Morrison interviews Carole Barone about her Vision for creating new, technology-infused learning environments. As vice president of EDUCAUSE and director of the National Learning Infrastructure Initiative (NLII), Barone spearheads efforts to promote "fundamental, wrenching change" in our assumptions about what constitutes good instruction. For Technology Source readers, she expounds on the 10 key themes of the NLII and describes how the READY toola unique decision engine developed to measure institutional readiness for expanded technology usecan foster critical thinking and trust among campus leaders. Barone also comments on the role students will play in educational transformation should the administrative vision prove too limited. Discerning readers won't want to miss her informed view of the challenges that face higher education and her sound advice for using technology to meet them head-on.
by James I. Penrod // Vision
As higher education institutions respond to the technology revolution, the importance of realistic planning becomes paramount for long-term success. In his Vision feature, James I. Penrod discusses the crucial position of the chief information officer (CIO) within this context and reviews the six major stages of information technology (IT) planning. Penrod notes that the CIO must not only be a flexible mediator between administration and IT staff, but must also ensure that the institution's broad mission translates into specific objectives for individuals and teams. By outlining professional conduct principles for every CIO and institutional factors critical to any IT mission, the author provides a valuable road map for administrators formulating their own technology initiatives.
by Leslie P. Hitch and Pamela MacBrayne // Commentary
Leslie Hitch and Pamela MacBrayne acknowledge the positive effects of realistic IT initiatives on teaching and learning. But the authors of our first Commentary also argue that complementary support services for both students and faculty members receive inadequate attention. Through structural change in these areas, Hitch and MacBrayne predict that the gap between students and efficient servicesand between administrative processes and the virtual classroomwill narrow. They promote a three-part model for robust e-learning programs that includes (1) a flexible yet solid technological infrastructure; (2) one-stop student services that mirror those found on campus, but that are delivered more cohesively and conveniently; and (3) creative faculty and academic development support that enhances learning. The authors also propose a central mechanism for all three elements: call centers where the staff, backed by an integrated system of resources, would maintain automated student services and respond to individual queries with highly personalized assistance 24/7/365.
by Bob Moul // Commentary
In our second Commentary, Bob Moul focuses more specifically on the issue of integrating multiple, formerly separate technologies within a single IT infrastructure. Moul argues that applications that support course registration, tuition payment, access to grades and records, student services, and online learning should be designed so that data received in one area will be updated automatically in all other areasthereby allowing for a seamless, efficient flow of information throughout the system. While acknowledging the potential problems of such a system, Moul proposes that it would reduce the inconvenience of students, trim the labor time of administrative staff, and in general enable institutions to serve their constituents more effectively. Readers who seek a holistic approach to IT in education will find this argument compelling, and perhaps all too relevant for their own institutions.
by Holly Blackford // Commentary
What does it mean when all the elements of a successful online coursea motivated and creative professor, content that can be distributed and discussed online, institutional support for technology-infused instruction, and a nontraditional student population that finds e-learning attractiveare present but the classroom community never gels? Holly Blackford raises this question in her Commentary on the challenges of teaching an online children's literature class within a continuing education program. Blackford relied on virtual interaction, supported by a message board and synchronous chat, and she provided a richly developed Web site that linked students to biographical information on authors, related popular culture sites, and original works of literature. While these resources helped to flesh out the context of assigned readings, the overlapping enrollment schedule of the course, as well as its distributed compensation structure, made it particularly difficult to sustain a productive community of learners. Blackford describes problems specific to online humanities courses and proposes several ways to promote greater communication, collaboration, and continuity in the e-learning process.
by Phillip G. Clark and Laurence Shatkin // Commentary
Increased demand for courses that foster career development has resulted in a stronger emphasis on need-specific knowledge, or competencies, as a rubric for learning. In their Commentary, Phillip G. Clark and Laurence Shatkin argue that this trend creates the need for competency asset management services: programs that allow professionals to measure their current skills as assets and that help them make informed, strategic decisions about how to expand their skill sets. After outlining the four main stages of competency asset management, Clark and Shatkin consider the ways in which educational institutions can play a part in this process. The authors then address the major challenge that remains to be met: the creation of a comprehensive, flexible online resource that would allow learners of all ages to evaluate specific learning tools, designated job skills, and course offerings using a shared taxonomy of competency standards. By meeting this challenge, the authors suggest, higher education can become a truly revolutionary vehicle of lifelong learning.
by Diane Chapman and Todd Nicolet // Faculty and Staff Development
Because the early planning stages of online instruction are crucial, Diane Chapman and Todd Nicolet propose a "project approach" to course Development: a formal, team-based operation that makes use of consistent standards, trackable processes, standardized tools, and structured communication to facilitate technology initiatives of all sizes. At the University of North Carolina's School of Public Health, this approach has made course development more efficient and the end product more predictably successful. Chapman and Nicolet provide valuable examples of the project charters, module templates, and reporting system that anchor the project approach. For IT specialists interested in scaling course design while protecting the quality and integrity of the courses themselves, this article is a must-read.
by Stephen Downes // Spotlight Site
In his Spotlight Site review, Stephen Downes introduces Technology Source readers to elearnspace, a Web site designed to support the innovative use of information technology in online instruction. Encompassing a wide range of topics, elearnspace offers guides, resources, models, and informative discussions from leading practitioners in the e-learning field; visitors can also provide their own contributions by submitting to the site's weblog. The underlying vision of the site, Downes observes, gives precedence to the innovations of individuals and small groups over large-scale, centralized e-learning initiatives. As a result, elearnspace fosters localized, grassroots efforts by instructors and designers while providing a community where they can share the results of their work.