On Teaching: Provost's Awards Help Bring Technology to Classroom Mike Field ---------------------- Staff Writer Three university projects that will apply new technology to the art of pedagogy have received funding from the Provost's Office. The grants, totaling $85,000, represent the first Provost's Educational Technology Awards, meant to encourage innovation and leadership in the techniques of teaching. "As we move into the information age, one dimension of our efforts concerns the infrastructure," said Provost Joseph Cooper. "Obviously, we need a comprehensive network with high bandwidth to provide a first class platform from which to operate." Much of the effort and discussion about technology in the past five years has concerned these hardware-related issues. "But there is another dimension and that is applications," Cooper said. "It is not sufficient to have just the technology; the use and application of that technology is no less important. I believe these new technologies will profoundly affect how we teach and do research across the university. That's why I think it is necessary for us to assume a leadership role in developing appropriate applications. We don't want to let this lie dormant." The three awards were made from a number of proposals submitted after the Provost's Office sent out a letter to the deans asking for possible projects to fund in the coming year. "We're really at the front end of this whole process," said vice provost for academic planning and budget Stephen McClain. "There are so many faculty doing interesting things with the new technology that we set only two boundary conditions on these awards. First, we want to spread them out among the divisions and not localize the money. Second, we were looking for proposals that are in some way prototypical, that will have potential applications beyond the immediate project." One such venture is an effort under way at the School of Public Health to redesign three of the school's most popular courses to enable them to be taught in a distance learning format. "We have a very successful part-time program centered in the Baltimore-D.C. corridor, but we would like to reach out beyond that," said professor of biostatistics and senior associate dean for academic affairs Scott Zeger. "Because most of our Washington-based courses are taught by our full-time faculty, these courses have come to involve a lot of travel. At some point it becomes impractical to expand further without some sort of distance learning component." The term distance learning often suggests two-way television interaction between an instructor and students. In fact, there is a range of possible technologies that can be employed, Zeger said, and finding the right combination is the key. "Research shows that distance learning must be more interactive to be effective," he said. "We want to entirely redesign these classes so we don't end up with a talking head on TV. We will be considering videotape, interactive audio and video as well as interactive computer technology. If you just sit a student down in front of a TV they are going to lose interest." The school initially plans to redesign its Introduction to Biostatistics, Biological Basis of Public Health and Epidemiology courses to encompass the new teaching technologies. "We will be using the new two-way audio and video connection between the Columbia Center and the new Maryland Distance Education Classroom now under construction at 2024 East Monument St.," Zeger said. "Our plans are to have faculty at Columbia and some students here in East Baltimore, although some classes may be taught from both locations." The provost's award will cover part of the projected $119,000 cost of the project. The remainder will be raised through the private sector and foundations, Zeger said. A second award was made to the Department of History of Science, Medicine and Technology to mount a new undergraduate course, The City, which will employ a multidisciplinary team approach utilizing faculty from Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Public Health and Medicine. "This course is not an effort to replicate print resources in electronic form, but to develop resources based upon the strengths of the new technology," said Todd Kelley, librarian for information technology initiatives at the Eisenhower Library. Kelley has been tapped by Robert Kargon, the Willis K. Shepard Professor of the History of Science and course designer of The City, to do software development and production of a special home page on the World Wide Web. Kelley was selected because of his prior work with the prototype for the course Evil from Greek Tragedies to Gothic Tales, offered through the School of Continuing Studies. "We want this course to be a real-world experience with technology," said Kelley of the course, which will be aimed primarily at freshmen. "We want to encourage the students to immerse themselves in it so they'll learn early on how to use these tools. This is how they'll be working in the future." A final award was made to the Information Systems Coordinating Council Subcommittee on Electronic and Distance Education. The money will be used to fund a special pool established to give mini-grants ranging from $5,000 up to $15,000 to faculty who want to implement on-line instruction as part of their regular course program. "Our general idea is to foster small, innovative electronic educational projects with start-up money to get them up and running," said Candice Dalrymple, associate dean for external programs at the School of Engineering. As chair of the ISCC subcommittee on electronic and distance learning, Dalrymple stressed that the mini-grants are to be made available on a merit basis to faculty in any division. "From the pilot project initiated at the School for Continuing Studies earlier this year we have discovered that the activity to create a World Wide Web site for a class is very labor-intensive," she said. "Documents don't just hop on line themselves and to do this properly requires sitting down with the instructor and carefully designing a home page that is useful and appropriate. We see these efforts as a preliminary step in developing the electronic education center called for in the C-21 report issued last year." "These awards are a welcome initiative," said Benjamin Caballero, associate professor of international health at the School of Public Health. Caballero chairs Public Health's committee on information technology, which is charged with strategic planning for the school's information infrastructure. "How do you take a course that is taught the normal way and make it appropriate for these new technologies? That's what this money will help do," he said.
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