DRAFT: 8/24/1998

Technology Priorities and Goals

University of Oklahoma

Information Technology Council

1998

Executive Summary

The Information Technology Council of the Norman Campus of the University of Oklahoma recommends the following goals and priorities for the use of technology on our campus. The goals are statements of purpose for a comprehensive university of the twenty-first century. The priorities are broken into broad categories. Due to the inter-related nature of technology support, all categories must be addressed simultaneously.

Goals:

  1. The University of Oklahoma must provide the skills, including learning skills, for its students, faculty, and staff to be productive in an information-based economy.
  2. The University of Oklahoma must provide the technological resources for faculty, students, and staff to pursue cutting-edge research and instruction.
  3. The University of Oklahoma must provide the services to students, faculty, and staff that are competitive with peer institutions.

Priorities:

Library:

  1. The library must provide anytime/anywhere access to electronic resources.
  2. The library must be involved in campus network infrastructure decisions.
  3. The library must train the campus in effective use of electronic information sources.

Training and Support:

  1. An office for the support of educational technology should be established.
  2. The use of technology in courses should be encouraged, particularly in large, lower division courses.
  3. Campus advanced application support should be provided using campus experts.
  4. Basic technology information and training should be more accessible through use of current orientation programs and online resources.

Campus Infrastructure:

  1. The university must maintain Internet 2 standards.
  2. The university must provide better off-campus access to the network and basic services to all students.
  3. The university must set standards for classroom technology, including use of computer-based material in all classrooms.

Individual Hardware and Software Needs:

  1. Hardware and software site license programs should be administered centrally.
  2. Upgrading campus technology resources through external funding should be encouraged through matching.
  3. Basic technology needs for faculty and units should be provided through equipment grants.
  4. The university should establish student computer ownership requirements when computers are an essential element in the curriculum.

Central Data Services:

  1. A comprehensive campus database structure must be created to provide services to students, faculty, and staff.
  2. Sufficient training, hardware, and software support for the implementation of the campus database structure must be provided.

Institutional Changes:

  1. The distance and electronic educational resources of the College of Continuing Education must be made more readily available to the rest of campus.
  2. Sharing of resources and expertise across campus must be encouraged.
  3. Communication between the various groups involved in information technology on campus and with users must be improved.
  4. Incentives for departments to support use of technology in the classroom must be developed.
  5. Budget priorities for technology on campus must be changed to reflect all areas of need outlined below.

 

 

Technology Priorities and Goals

University of Oklahoma

Information Technology Council

1998

The dramatic changes in computer and network technology that have occurred since the early 1980ís, the "Information Revolution", have brought about new ways of working, playing, learning, communicating, and performing the standard tasks of everyday life. People with the skills to create and use digital information are in high demand. In order for higher education to remain relevant in this new economy, it must meet the challenge of incorporating new tools and skills that extend the traditional curriculum. The complexities and costs involved in maintaining a state-of-the-art infrastructure, training people in new skills, and providing the services expected by students and employees require careful guidance of campus decisions. While it is impossible to predict precisely the changes that technology will bring, a clear set of goals is needed to make successful decisions regarding the deployment of technology on campus.

The Information Technology Council has undertaken the task of setting priorities for the Norman Campus of the University of Oklahoma relating to information technology. Three fundamental goals have been used in making the recommendations below. These should drive the technology decisions made by the University.

    1. The University of Oklahoma must provide the technology training and opportunities necessary for the members of its community to compete now and in the future. With the constant change in information technology, the ability to learn new tools and manage change is the most important such skill. Also vital is the critical thinking necessary to evaluate the large amounts of information now easily accessible.
    2. The University of Oklahoma must strive to provide the resources that will make its faculty, students, and staff competitive now. The creation of new knowledge through research and creative activities almost always requires modern technology. New means of instruction that radically change where, when, and how learning occurs are becoming ever more common.
    3. The University of Oklahoma must provide the services to its members that are competitive with other institutions. Students, faculty, and staff should have access to institutional records and information when it is required. The University must use technology to meet the demands for better responsiveness and efficiency of its students and employees. At the same time, the security of institutional information is vital.

There are several important considerations that can help direct the technology decisions of the University. Technology must not be an end in itself; the distinction between information and knowledge must always be maintained. Decisions must be made that provide the best tools for specific problems facing the campus. There must also be available the training and support for users to take advantage of new tools. This can represent a significant cost of a new technology, but without this support the tools are worthless. The costs of upgrading and maintaining computer and network infrastructure are large, making it impossible to satisfy the desires of all members of campus. Priorities must be set that focus on the three goals stated above. In particular, efforts should support and expand on the strengths of the University. At the same time, there must be a commitment at all levels of the University to support the costs of maintaining a state-of-the-art campus. This will require continuing funding of infrastructure and training efforts. Finally, the goals and priorities outlined below must be revisited regularly by the Information Technology Council and the rest of the campus.

Priorities

The information technology needs of the University of Oklahoma affect all areas of campus and all missions of its personnel. It is impossible to isolate single areas for improvement because of the strongly inter-dependent infrastructure and support needs. The priorities below are grouped by type: Library, Support and Training, Campus Infrastructure, Personal Equipment, and Central Data Services. All of these areas are vital. Effective change and growth requires that needs in all areas be addressed. Within each of these groupings, items have been prioritized by their impact on the three main goals outlined above.

Library: The library impacts all academic pursuits on campus. The nature of a modern research library is being changed by electronic communications. The University of Oklahoma must have a state-of-the-art library to be competitive.

    1. The library must take advantage of advanced technology to broaden the scope of its holdings and increase access, in both time and place, to its customers. This should be a priority in the current program of library growth. We applaud recent efforts to increase access to electronically provided material and to establish the electronic reserve system.
    2. The library must be involved in decisions relating to the campus network. Their efforts to expand services will place a large burden on the network. DCTS must understand the library needs for the future and must work closely with the library to meet those needs.
    3. With electronic information search and retrieval, the burden of evaluating the validity and importance of information is shifted away from the library to the users. The library must play an integral part in the training of the campus in such critical evaluation and the use of information technology. This should be coordinated with efforts to increase the use of electronic data retrieval and analysis in classes. Computer classroom space for this sort of training must be created.

Training and Support: The University of Oklahoma must be committed to the training of students, faculty, and staff in the tools needed to learn and work efficiently. Support for these training efforts should be a significant portion of the technology budget on campus. Technology without training will not be effectively used.

    1. The University should establish an office for educational technology to support the use of information technology for learning. This office will provide technical support for faculty in course production and, more importantly, expert advice in pedagogy. The staff of this office must be experienced in proper, effective use of technology in support of learning. Because many different centers for educational technology support are available throughout the campus (ITS, CCE, ECN, etc.), this office should also be a coordinating body to focus this expertise on curriculum development projects. This office should enable both individual course development and departmental curricular change. Its prime effort should be to encourage widespread student use of technology in learning. Significant impact will be obtained by developing materials that can be incorporated into large classes, or materials that aid the development of critical thinking in a wide range of classes. Because of the focus on learning and pedagogy, this office should work closely with the Instructional Development Program.
    2. Departments and programs should be encouraged to develop courses that require students to develop technology skills. This might be done through a change in TIP funding and through distribution requirements. Adding an electronic technology component to campus distribution requirements may be necessary due to recent requirements from the Oklahoma State Regents of Higher Education. More importantly, departments need to consider how new information technologies fit into their curricula. Such courses must include components of information creation or retrieval, analysis, and reporting through technology. Development of freshman and sophomore classes with technology components will have the greatest impact on studentsí use of technology throughout their university careers and beyond.
    3. Advanced user support for high level or unique applications, such as statistics, graphics, or mathematical software, should be available for faculty, students, and staff. This support should be provided by University units with experience in the applications. Incentives for units providing this application support could include joint appointments of technical staff , additional graduate student support, central funding, or inter-unit charging for support services. Such a structure should be organized centrally through either Research Administration or the Provost's Office.
    4. Training in basic software applications is currently available through short courses sponsored by DCTS. Although this training is excellent, it should be expanded in several ways. Courses should be available on demand through the web. Students in Gateway to College Learning classes should obtain an introduction to the campus network and the basic services and applications available. New faculty and staff should get similar material through orientation programs.

Campus Infrastructure: Members of the University of Oklahoma community will not widely incorporate information technology into their efforts if the basic infrastructure will not support their needs. The basic tools for people to do their jobs must be readily available and reliable.

  1. The University of Oklahoma must make the commitment to remain in the top echelon of schools for network infrastructure. The maintaining of Internet 2 standards will keep the University competitive, and must be a goal.
  2. The majority of the campus community lives off campus and does not have reliable access to the network while not on campus. The OU modem pool must be re-organized to meet the highest priority needs for this scarce resource. Charges on modem usage beyond a set level should be established, with the resultant funds being dedicated to increasing off campus access. The University must work with private industry and local government to provide efficient, cost effective alternatives to the modem pool. Costs of externally provided services should be subsidized so that ability to pay is not the factor determining access. In addition, non-traditional students (e.g., Liberal Studies, Advanced Programs) must be provided reliable access to the campus information resources needed to pursue their degrees.
  3. All centrally scheduled classrooms on campus should be upgraded to have network access and the capability to display computer generated material within the next 2 years. Departments and colleges should be encouraged to provide a similar service in the classrooms they schedule. The responsibilities of individual units and DCTS for maintaining and upgrading classroom technology must be made clear. Classrooms being built or renovated should include power and network access at student desks. The technology needs of a class should be a routine consideration in classroom scheduling. Computers must be made available to faculty for long term (one semester or longer) loan to aid efforts to bring technology to the classroom.

Individual Hardware and Software Needs: The University must help members of the campus community obtain the resources needed to perform their work. Any program to increase the level of technology on campus must take into account maintenance and upgrade costs. The University must reach a level of technology funding that will keep it competitive.

    1. Purchasing and DCTS should coordinate hardware and software purchasing programs and site licenses on campus. These programs must remain up-to-date and competitive, and include consulting services to help individuals make informed technology purchasing decisions. The members of the campus community must have easy access to information regarding existing programs and the means of easily establishing new programs. There should be administrative help to coordinate the paperwork and arrange payment of license fees. The determination of how site license agreements should be funded (centrally, by users, or some combination) should be made with the ITC.
    2. Matching of external grants aimed at purchasing unique, advanced technology for research or teaching should be a priority. Such a program should target programs with a strong potential for recognition. Those writing external grants should be encouraged to include funding for the maintenance or upgrade of the technology used. Inclusion of budget lines for maintenance and upgrade can be encouraged through matching by University funds.
    3. Support for faculty to obtain basic computer hardware internally should continue and be through equipment grants rather than cash grants. Such grants should provide a few basic choices of equipment to cover the diverse needs across campus. This will provide economies in purchase, ensure the equipment obtained is compatible with the campus network, and provide cost-effective support.
    4. The University should work towards a student computer ownership requirement. This is becoming increasingly common among Universities. With an ever greater percentage of students coming to OU with computers (70% in 1998), requiring computers will eliminate disparity in resources among students and the requirement will enable students to use financial aid for the purchases. Unique ways of easing the cost of such a requirement, such as mass purchasing and leasing should be explored. Such a requirement should be established when there is significant need to access course and library materials electronically.

Central Data Services: The University of Oklahoma must improve its underlying data structure to provide the services expected by students, faculty, and staff from a modern university. In particular, such an improvement is necessary for simplified, rational access to the data people need to perform their duties at the university.

    1. The campus data systems should be designed to easily allow such operations as on-line enrollment, registration, add-drop, one-stop or on-line advising, on-line credit checks, immediate access to personal data, and on-line access to up-to-date university accounts. This system should allow easy online processing of budgets, expense transfers, and personnel history files. The various campus databases used for payroll, budgets, purchasing, student records, financial support, etc. must be integrated.
    2. In creating an upgrade program, the issues of training, upgrading hardware, and maintaining the new technology resources must have the top priority. Users of the database system must be involved in its implementation, and be provided necessary and continuing training in the campus database system. Some units on campus do not have the technology necessary to connect to a modern database system, and the cost of bringing them up to the necessary level must be considered. Finally, the computing staff necessary to maintain the database system and promptly solve problems as they arise must be supported.

 

Implications for University Units

There are several important areas of the University organization that the changes outlined above will impact. The institutional issues involved will need to be addressed and resolved in order for progress to be made towards more efficient use of technology on campus. Increasing efficiencies will require organizational changes that encourage collaboration between units.

Distance Education: The use of technology in higher education blurs the lines between traditional classroom instruction and "distance education". Both the production methods and the delivery medium are the same for electronic material presented in classrooms, to traditional undergraduate students studying in dorms, and to learners thousands of miles from the University. This is the new paradigm of "Distributed Learning", a convergence that makes the current division of instructional technology responsibilities between the College of Continuing Education and the rest of campus inefficient. A new relationship is needed that will give faculty at the University ready access to the technology and expertise at CCE. At the same time, units within the University that identify opportunities for delivering courses or programs to off-campus students should be encouraged to do so through technological and administrative support that is thorough and immediate. This support would best be provided through collaboration with CCE.

Resource Sharing: There is a significant amount of redundancy on campus in support services for users, while some members of the University are not having their needs met. Several of the recommendations made here involve providing campus wide support through sharing of resources and personnel. Such support models will require the administrative structures be developed for inter-unit hires of technologists and inter-unit charging for services. The natural reluctance of units to engage in collaborative efforts that might deplete scarce resources must be overcome. This will probably require some cost sharing from central funding sources to get these support structures established.

Communications: It is vital for the success of any campus-wide support effort that there be clear and consistent lines of communication between users and those providing the service. This is equally true for network infrastructure, training, and hardware and software support. The University of Oklahoma has a somewhat unique need in this area because of the administrative structure of campus technology support. In a recent poll of Chief Information Officers of 100 colleges and universities, fewer than 20% had the technology support efforts report solely to the administrative or financial Vice President. This structure leads to the perception of many on campus of priorities skewed towards administrative computing at the expensive of academic and research efforts. To overcome these perceptions, user input and interaction must be an important aspect of the efforts of DCTS and any other technology support effort on campus. In addition, all support groups should be subject to periodic review to ensure optimal response to users needs.

Incentives: Incentives for faculty such as, tenure, promotion, evaluations, award nominations, and raises, are all initiated at the departmental level. Therefore, a significant proportion of the incentives to improve the use of technology on campus must be aimed at departments. For research efforts, the provision of matching funds to encourage bringing technology resources to campus and supporting once they are here will send a clear message. For instruction, establishing incentives through the TIP program, through the establishment of departmental or college information technology distribution requirements, and through funding technology development fellowships or positions will be needed. Internal grant programs should continue to be used to aid individuals and groups who are using technology in new ways for research and teaching. Although these programs will probably only impact a small number of innovators, they will help raise the general awareness and use of technology around campus.

Funding: Currently, technology at the University of Oklahoma is funded in three ways, centrally through E&G funds and student fees, in the colleges through student fees, and in individual units through external and internal grants. The current M&O funds are completely inadequate for supporting state-of-the-art technology. Several of the most important priorities listed above for new support services will need to be funded from redistribution of the current technology funds. These services must have an equal priority as the network infrastructure. Wires without content to send down them are useless. Without sufficient funding, these efforts will fail along with comprehensive technology use on campus.

 

Implementation Timeline

The following is a suggested timeline for the actions that the University should take to implement the recommendations listed above. Given are the suggested times necessary to complete the most important goals.

0 - 6 mos.: Re-organize the OU modem pool.

Establish site-license and purchasing program.

6 - 12 mos.: Establish equipment grant programs for basic technology.

Establish educational technology support.

Establish advanced application support.

Coordinate technology training with Library efforts.

1 - 2 yrs.: Establish advanced TIP funding for technology based courses.

Establish technology distribution requirements.

Establish comprehensive web-based technology training courses.

2 - 3 yrs.: Complete technology upgrades to classrooms.

3 - 5 yrs.: Establish requirements for students to own computers.

Complete upgrade of institutional database structure.

 

Technology Issues with an Impact

on Campus Decision Making

 

Campus

 

State

 

National and International

University of Oklahoma

1997 Technology Development Survey

Summary of Results

In the spring semester of 1997, faculty at the University of Oklahoma, Norman Campus, were asked to complete a brief survey on technology use for instruction and research. The survey sought to identify hardware available to faculty; the types of computers and operating systems in use; software use in instruction and research/creative activities; training aspirations; current availability of various forms of technology; user views of the importance of various technologies in the future; and, barriers to technology adoption. About 750 questionnaires were sent to faculty, with a follow-up reminder to fill out the survey. Two hundred and seventy-five usable responses were received, for a completion rate of 37 percent.

Principal Findings

The survey results yield the following principal findings:

  1. A very high percentage of OU faculty have desktop access to a personal computer in their own office (96.4%). Laser printer access is also high as is access to a local area network. CD-ROM drives and scanners represent somewhat of an unmet need.
  2. While IBM-compatible computers make a sizable proportion of the types of computers used, Macintosh personal computers comprise about one-fourth of desktop units. About another one-fourth are 486 or lesser machines, which may not operate well with future operating systems.
  3. Word processing and e-mail are heavily used technologies in both instruction and research/creative activities. Spreadsheets/databases, the Internet and world-wide web access also receive heavy or occasional use. Other technologies such as presentation software, CD-ROM based materials, authoring software, and web site preparation/maintenance are used to a lesser extent.
  4. In general, a low need was expressed for additional training in almost all of the examined technologies. The major exception was web site preparation and maintenance, where almost one-fourth expressed a desire for additional training.
  5. Current availability of various forms of technology was evaluated as moderately strong or strong for many important types, including word processing, spreadsheets, e-mail to distant colleagues and to students, and worldwide web access for research and creative activities. To a lesser extent, additional strength in current availability was identified in web access as an information resource for students and as a source for materials. Several technologies were identified as particularly weak or non-existent, including delivering a course through the Internet, delivering distance education through television, authoring software in various guises, and discipline specific software.
  6. Significant among the findings regarding importance for future use are a variety of Internet technologies, including e-mail, worldwide web access for faculty and students, for discussion groups, and as a source for materials. Among technologies not now in widespread use, important technologies for the future as seen through faculty eyes include illustration and presentation software, distance learning, course delivery, CD-ROM materials, statistical analysis, authoring software, and discipline specific software.
  7. Among identified barriers, lack of technologically equipped classrooms and lack of availability of computers for students were seen as principal deficiencies. Over 50 percent of respondents indicated that these two deficiencies represent insurmountable barriers or serious handicaps. Availability of time was seen as a serious handicap or insurmountable barrier by two-fifths of the respondents. Fear of technology or lack of interest does not appear to play a significant role. In fact, only five percent of respondents stated that "interest on my part in use of technology" was a serious handicap.

Technology Forecast

The opinions of faculty on the importance of various technologies in the future provide an implicit forecast of where the University of Oklahoma should be placing concentrated effort. This implicit forecast is obtained by subtracting the percent of responses stating that a technology has strong current availability from the percent who predict future use to be very important. For example, word processing is expected to score low on this measure because the technology is in wide use now and is expected to be in wide use in the future. Discipline specific software, on the other hand, has low current availability, but is expected to be very important in the future. Faculty are predicting, then, increased importance for this form of technology. The differentials between future importance and current availability yield the following rank ordering (1=High Priority):

 

Rank

Technology

1

Discipline-specific software used in instruction (such as that used for music, languages, writing, engineering, etc.)

2

Obtaining and using ancillary supporting materials on CD-ROM

3

Worldwide web as a source for information for my students

4

Presentation software for direct in-class presentation

5

Worldwide web access as a source of materials (illustrations, lessons, exercises) for my classes

6

Authoring software for creating my own multimedia presentation for class use

7

Drawing, drafting, graphing or illustration software for producing graphics for classroom use

8

Mastering statistical or numerical analyses software packages

9

Worldwide web access: as a resource for research/creative activities

10

Authoring software for allowing students to create their own multimedia presentations for class use

11

Delivering a course through the Internet of world wide web

12

Desktop publishing for producing class notes and handouts

13

Authoring software for creating tests and examinations to be accessed and taken by students via computer

14

E-mail to help me be more accessible to students in my classes (include both local and distant learners)

15

Email for involving students in on-line class discussions and/or group projects

16

Word processing for producing class notes, handouts and/or overheads

17

Delivering distance education through television

18

Internet access to discussion groups for obtaining information at a distance

19

Spreadsheets for managing day-to-day classroom activities such as grade calculations

20

E-mail: for obtaining information from other colleagues at a distance

Respondent Characteristics

Faculty were asked to identify their college, gender, age class, rank and years at OU on the survey. The shares of respondents by college appear in rough approximation to actual shares by colleges. Two-thirds of the respondents identified themselves as male, but 7.2 percent did not respond to this item. The modal age group responding was 45-55 years of age with 35 percent; 31 percent of respondents fell in the 35-45 years of age category. Faculty with the rank of Professor represented 38 percent of respondents; Associate and Assistant Professors represented 28 and 29 percent of respondents. About 30 percent of respondents had 0-4 years at OU while 29 percent had 5-9 years at OU.

Conclusions

Technology use has been proliferating throughout the campus. Several important, productivity enhancing, technologies are in widespread use. Faculty indicate little fear of technology and few barriers to adoption. Principal problems lie in the use of technology in the classroom. Faculty skills in using presentation technology definitely seem to be ahead of hardware availability. This is an area that, in all likelihood, general agreement on future directions can be found. Availability of computers in labs is another area of concern, but this is being remedied. In addition, the declining price of computers is bringing forth the day when a very large share of the student body will have their own equipment in their home or dorm room.

Several forms of technology are identified as rising in importance relative to current availability. The indicated directions appear to be reasonable interpretations of present trends . Indeed, the results of this survey seem to be supportive of the contention that much information on future technology directions lies in the knowledge of faculty. There is possible value in annual repetition of surveys on technology use and future directions.