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Minnesota State University, Mankato

Minnesota State University, Mankato
Office of Institutional Planning, Research and Assessment

Technology Assessment

Page address: http://www.mnsu.edu/planning/masterplan/campuswide/tablecontents/edutechassessment.html

The educational technology environment at Minnesota State University, Mankato may be viewed as having three primary components: Classroom Technology, On- Line and Web-Based Instruction, and Facilities and Infrastructure. This section reviews existing systems, plans and initiatives, and facilities conditions related to educational technology. Here is a brief summary.

Classroom Technology

  • Existing implementation is incomplete and inconsistent.
  • Use by faculty is mixed, evolving, and facilities-dependent.
  • Use of computers relegated to special-purpose spaces.

On-Line/Web Instruction

  • Existing implementation is incomplete and inconsistent.
  • Use is inconsistent and dependent on the discipline, i.e. graphic/web design, or individual faculty.
  • Evaluation of an institution-wide platform is on going, to be complete in Spring 2001.

Infrastructure

  • Technology impacts space utilization: requires larger Net Assignable SF allocation per student for classroom planning and design.
  • Off-campus network access is essential to networked learning/distance learning opportunities. Minnesota State University, Mankato is deficient today.
  • The Wireless Initiative is only one facet of a comprehensive, hybrid campus network.
  • Media-rich network resources/content will require ever more bandwidth.

Organization

  • The University has reorganized its technology units to create a comprehensive information and technology operation.
  • Existing implementation is incomplete and inconsistent.

In higher education, classroom technology has become a mission-critical component in the delivery of education services. Increasingly, faculty and students avail themselves of digital media tools such as PowerPoint, video, and high-resolution graphics to illustrate concepts, examples, assignments, and so on as core components in the instructional process. Access to computer-based applications or web-based resources, once the domain of special-purpose labs and classrooms, is now a desired or even necessary aspect of every lab and every classroom. Integrating educational technology into the classroom in an effective manner is a complex process, with implications well beyond the acquisit ion and installation of electronics in a particular space.

At Minnesota State University, Mankato, the current state of campus technology implementation is inconsistent at best. The following photos illustrate the variance in systems available to instructors on the Minnesota State University, Mankato campus.

In an era where digital communications tools are critical to delivery of educational services, both on and off-campus, an institution-wide standard is essential. Such a standard will:

  1. Enhance the teaching and learning process by lowering the learning threshold for faculty band students,
  2. Provide a robust, reliable, consistent technology platform,
  3. Reduce training and technical support costs.

In fact, it is useful to draw a parallel between implementing network technology and implementing classroom technology. A network relies on standard protocols, technologies, and user interfaces to function effectively. An effective classroom technology environment must exhibit the same characteristics.

Use by faculty is mixed, evolving, and facilities-dependent.

Interviews with faculty and academic staff clearly indicate that the use of technology in the classroom is growing and becoming more sophisticated as individuals gain experience and confidence with the necessary tools. At this time the primary impediment to increased use of electronic presentation and networked resources is availability of appropriately outfitted classroom facilities. A new technology capabilities baseline is required for instructional facilities on the Minnesota State University, Mankato campus.

Use of computers relegated to special-purpose spaces.

To assess computer usage in the classroom at Minnesota State University, Mankato is to take aim at a moving target. Significant change is in effect – the College of Business has implemented a mandatory, student-owned laptop initiative that is the first wave of what is likely to become a campus-wide transformation. However, at this time the use of computers as instructional tools is largely relegated to special-purpose facilities outfitted with the requisite machines and network connections.

Web-Based and Online Instruction

Existing implementation is incomplete and inconsistent.

At this time there is no comprehensive program in place to develop and offer curriculum, train instructors, or otherwise facilitate the delivery of virtual classes at Minnesota State University, Mankato. However, the last quarter of 2000 will see a concerted effort to evaluate several software technologies, including Blackboard, WebCT and IntraCal, and eventual agreement with at least one of the vendors.

Use is inconsistent and dependent on the discipline, i.e. graphic/web design, or individual faculty.

At Minnesota Statue University, Mankato some classes are offered with significant on-line or web-based components. These are the result of individual faculty efforts to understand and implement new technologie s due to personal interest or because the course itself requires the technology. As can be expected, the student experience varies widely. Some students interviewed had literally no experience with web-based instruction, while others were fully engaged and extremely confident with the technology.

Evaluation of an institution-wide platform is ongoing, to be complete in Spring 2001.

At this time the University is evaluating three software platforms, WebCT, Blackboard, and IntraKal, for development of on-line courses and as a supplement to normal class activities and materials. A recommendation is expected in April 2001. Faculty training is expected to occur over the summer of 2001 in preparation for implementation in Fall 2001.

Infrastructure

Technology impacts space utilization.

Technology makes new demands upon the classroom and laboratory for adequate sight lines to display screens, to enable student use of computing devices, and to accommodate other types of technology for networked and/or distant learning. One outcome of this is a requirement for larger Net Assignable SF allocation per student for classroom planning and design. Existing classrooms will typically accommodate fewer students once technology is properly integrated. Most classrooms at Minnesota State University, Mankato were not designed for use of digital media systems or portable computers. Existing conditions range from functional to poor.

Off-campus network access is essential to networked learning/distance learning opportunities. Minnesota State University, Mankato is deficient today.

As networked-based applications for e-learning, university services, and university operations continue to grow is scope and sophistication, demand for access to the university network from users off-campus will also grow. At this time Minnesota State University, Mankato is ill equipped to support off-campus users. The University's modem pool is under-sized and underpowered. Access by distant users is difficult and problematic. This fact was observed by numerous interviewees and confirmed by the University's Computer Services personnel. Additionally, the University has outgrown its current Internet access capability, consisting of four T-1 lines, and is researching service alternatives. Additional capacity will be essential not later than September 2001.

The Wireless Initiative is only one facet of a comprehensive, hybrid campus network.

Minnesota State University, Mankato has begun a comprehensive program to implement a campus-wide wireless network. As of September 2000 most campus buildings offer users opportunity the access the university network and the World Wide Web using industry-standard wireless connections. The wireless network offers huge potential for teaching, learning, and delivery of a host of campus services. A comprehensive campus network consists of a set of technologies, carefully structured to provide appropriate performance where required. At this time the campus network is solid and increasing in performance and reliability. Upgrades during the second half of 2000 will provide each desktop with a 100 MB switched connection, improve backbone performance, and provide consistency in network electronics.

Media-rich network resources/content will require ever more bandwidth.

The continued convergence of telecommunications, computing, and "content" will place increasingly greater demands on the University's network. Emerging applications such as streaming media and voice over IP will force network performance to a new level. Increasing numbers of users will also contribute to demand for a faster, more powerful network. While significant campus-wide improvements to the network have been made recently, they should be perceived as steps along the path and not as a destination. At this time the network is capable of supporting current campus activity, however regular, ongoing investment is essential to maintain performance.

Organization

The University has reorganized its technology units to create a comprehensive information and technology operation.

The revised and reorganized Information and Technology Services group is ideally positioned to assist Minnesota State University, Mankato move forward in the era of technology convergence. At this time certain key staff and support positions remain open. Other initiatives are underway to improve technical support for the campus community and to develop new sources of recurring revenue dedicated to improving the University's technology environment.