California State University, Long Beach
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Academic Technology Center Supports Traditional Instruction

Published: December 1, 2011

There is a quiet revolution taking place on the CSULB campus and the Academic Technology Center is leading the charge.

Located in room 120 of the Academic Services Building, formerly the east wing of the University Library, the center is home to a multitude of state-of-the-art instructional technology and support that is open to faculty, staff and students.

“The center is meant to support teaching and learning from a technology- and learner-centered perspective, so it’s a consolidation of a myriad of technical support,” said Leslie Kennedy, director of Instructional Technology Support Services. “The center includes the Technology Help Desk and a ‘geek squad’ (actually called the Tech Squad), who are always ready for anybody who drops in. Instructors drop in with questions and work with the Tech Squad at our ‘genius bar’ (called the Collaboration Bar), designed to provide quick responses to simple and complex technology questions. We also take appointments. Our Tech Squad can be deployed to the classroom or to a faculty office if a workshop is not convenient. Additionally, there are two faculty who are provided release time and who utilize the technologies to work as peer mentors. In August, we facilitated boot camps and one-on-one sessions for faculty getting to know the new BeachBoard.”

“The center is not designed to replace traditional instruction but to supplement and enhance it, to bring faculty up to speed in terms of utilizing instructional technology to the greatest possible effect and improve student learning outcomes,” added Roman Kochan, University Library dean and interim associate vice president of academic technology services. “Students are way ahead of the curve in expecting to find things online. They expect to go to something like BeachBoard and communicate with their fellow students and faculty members. We try to do anything possible to assist faculty.”

The names of the instructional/learning software and hardware available to the CSULB campus read like a grocery list from Google — Scantron and Parscore, Respondus, Elluminate, iClicker, Wiki, iTunes U, BeachBoard, YouTube — but they all serve a very real purpose.

For instance, iClickers are wireless handheld devices that transmit individual student responses to an instructor’s laptop to record and share class feedback to the students.

“iClickers are very popular in the classroom because they engage the students as the instructor is lecturing,” Kennedy said. “The instructor can stop the lecture at any time and ask questions to see how the students comprehend the information. A lot of instructors start their classes with an iClicker quiz to check for understanding based on homework assignments and to encourage on-time arrival to class.”

BeachBoard is the university’s online learning environment and it recently migrated to an alternate platform called Desire2Learn (D2L). BeachBoard provides tools such as a discussion board, content storehouse and online assessment. Student feedback indicates they appreciate these tools as well as the flexibility of online access to course materials and the use of a drop box, which allows students to submit written assignments electronically.

Collaborate (formerly known as Elluminate) is equally popular with a real-time virtual classroom environment designed for both distance education and online collaboration.

“Collaborate is a web conferencing tool that has a video component,” Kennedy explained. “It’s embedded in BeachBoard, and an instructor can use it to interact with students virtually when teaching an online course, for office hours, for lectures, guest speakers or if they’re teaching a hybrid course where one day they’re meeting with students and another day they’re meeting online. Lots of instructors use it to bring in the international world, such as guest speakers at universities abroad or to collaborate on international research projects.”

Digital storytelling is also making headway as part of the learning experience, contributing to the vital skills of problem solving and critical thinking. Faculty assign students to write a story or essay based on the material they are studying and depict it in a digital format.

Supporting the Future of Learning
Walter Gajewski (l) with Leslie Kennedy and Roman Kochan.

“We’ve seen a steady increase of courses adopting digital storytelling to enhance their curriculum,” commented Kennedy. “It depends on the instructor and if they feel comfortable with students creating their final product in this manner. Those that do find that the students are engaged at a greater level of higher order thinking and expression. The students are actually creating and developing information based on what they’re learning.”

Along with providing workshops to faculty about the use of digital storytelling in the classroom, the center offers assistance to the students for writing a script; storyboarding; finding images, video and music; addressing copyright; and compiling the project using free movie-making software.

The Academic Technology Center even has its own video recording room, complete with eco-friendly lighting, “prosumer” digital video cameras and green screen.

“One of the things we’re proud of is that we did not want to compete or overlap some of the services already on campus like Advanced Media Productions (AMP),” said Walter Gajewski, multimedia services coordinator for Academic Technology Services. “So where AMP has large studios and big cameras and lights that generate heat, we wanted to have a situation where a faculty member or students could come in and do a five-minute presentation they could produce for free and immediately put the finished product online.”

The Instructional Technology Support team has gone to great efforts to standardize equipment across the campus and incorporate audiovisual components into upgraded classrooms and newer buildings such as the Hall of Science. And in compliance with CSULB’s Accessible Technology Initiative, the center’s hardware and software meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.

“We don’t contract with anyone who doesn’t meet ADA requirements,” stated Kochan. “iClickers, for example, provides a Braille pad. Or there’s a web version that allows a user to click and poll using a laptop. Collaborate’s web conferencing tool has a feature where you can add captioning. BeachBoard’s software is ADA compliant. Videos are captioned as needed.”

Kennedy is pleased with the Academic Technology Center’s acceptance on the campus. “Since it opened, we have worked with approximately a third of the instructional staff and look forward to supporting more,” she said.

“We are poised to support instructors interested in experimenting with and incorporating technology into their courses,” Kennedy added. “Sometimes, it requires a bit of a paradigm shift and it also requires rethinking how one teaches. One of the statements from faculty when beginning to use iClickers, Collaborate or even BeachBoard is, ‘Wow, this is going to make me rethink how I teach!’ So then we say, ‘Great! How we can support you?’”

For more information, visit the Academic Technology Center website.