2017 Initiative Summary

The Educational Technology Initiative Advisory Committee (ETIAC) provides feedback and guidance to UCI’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) regarding eTech@UCI decision-making.  ETIAC comprises 4 students, 4 faculty, 3 staff, and 2 OIT representatives and is chaired by the CIO.  The ETIAC met three times during the 2016/17 school year.  Additional meetings of OIT staff and ETIAC members inform and contribute to plenary meetings of the committee. Further campus communications and consultation are provided as needed through one-on-one consultations with student representatives, student and faculty online surveys, and emails sent via the eTech@UCI feedback page (http://etech.uci.edu/share-idea/) or directly to eTech@uci.edu.

Ongoing Operations

Ongoing Operations includes staff costs and immediately supporting operational expenses for the Electronic Educational Environment (EEE) course management system, used in virtually every UCI undergraduate course, classroom technology and instructional labs.  In addition to preserving the hard-pressed base that existed prior to the eTech@UCI initiative, these fundamental resources have been enhanced over the past few years with staff that have joined the “ongoing operations” category. At the same time, roles have been adjusted in keeping with changing needs.  These staff are developers (working to maintain and to extend existing functionalities in an environment that now includes both homegrown and third party systems, with increasing reliance on the latter and focus on integrating the various systems), an instructional technology specialist (helping instructors select and effectively use both campus resources and third-party offerings), and a position supporting new types and levels of technology in classrooms which facilitate active learning.

Classroom Technology

UCI’s 131 general assignment SmartClassrooms are equipped with an assortment of technology used in instruction: projectors, audio systems, computers, document cameras, and other devices. OIT staff monitor the state of equipment through regular reviews, consultations, help desk records, and surveys.

OIT addressed high priority improvements in certain rooms and developed a five year refresh cycle to upgrade all classroom technology, roughly following the original renovation/construction schedule. eTech@UCI has also supported new SmartClassroom conversions in 5 spaces to date as a result of campus space reallocation.

2016 was the last year of the first 5-year cycle, which saw the final 20 of 131 rooms raised to a new tech baseline. This includes digital inputs & outputs, widescreen images, and a variety of other user and management enhancements. Seven computer classrooms received similar improvements. Special consideration was given to MPAA 320 & 330, priority rooms for Education which were being renovated to include a partition wall as part of a small capital improvement project.

Summer 2017 will see OIT refresh technology in several classrooms that were initially improved in 2012. Not all technology is end of life after 5 years, but there will be high value enhancements to projectors, computers, and switchers where we are truly meeting new standards, as well as numerous secondary improvements. In consultation with Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning (OVPTL), additional rooms will be enhanced to allow for active learning, including wireless presentation, and collaboration from mobile devices. New models for instructor lecterns will be explored. AIRB 1030 will become a new half-time SmartClassroom with upgraded technology. SST 220A and 220B will be built out as two SmartClassrooms with major assistance from a small capital improvement. These renovations and technology upgrades will help meet the need for “pedagogical renewal” of classrooms as proposed by the Learning Space Advisory Report to the OVPTL and support the campus’s strategic goals.

Instructional Computing Labs

OIT maintains 12 Computer Labs with a total of 453 computers: 7 instructional labs (270 computers) and 5 “drop-in” labs (183 computers).  (Complete information about these facilities can be found at http://www.oit.uci.edu/labs/.) The 50 PCs in the Instructional Computer Labs in MSTB 210 will be replaced to meet the demands of current classroom use. The units replaced will be deployed into drop-in labs to take the place of even older systems. Additionally, the heavily used Student Center B109 and C138 drop-in labs will get a previously deferred refresh of 20 iMacs.

Canvas Learning Management System

After extensive “pilot” use, broad consultation with faculty and students, and careful consideration of alternatives, the campus is beginning full scale deployment of Instructure’s cloud-based Canvas Learning Management System (LMS).  This is a multi-year endeavor during which time the locally developed (since 1995) EEE Legacy course management system will continue to be fully supported. Throughout the transition, Academic Web Technologies will be transitioning to a dynamic ecosystem of instructional technology tools, with EEE+ Canvas at the center. Maintaining a high standard of support responsiveness and quality is a critical component of this endeavor, as is enhancing and expanding training and support options. The complexity of Canvas and integration services has significantly expanded the volume and complexity of support inquiries. “Ongoing support” (see above) includes  staff dedicated to helping faculty, teaching assistants, students, and staff through the transition process.

Detailed information on the process through which Canvas was selected, plans for full deployment, and the continuing availability of EEE may be found at http://sites.uci.edu/canvas/ .

Etech@uci.edu funds 80% of the annual costs of the Canvas system; the remainder by other OIT funds to cover use of the system beyond that by undergraduates.

Classroom WiFi Wireless

Wireless upgrades in classrooms are based upon systematic surveys of coverage and reports from faculty and individual students.

During Q1 of 2017, upgraded access points, new access points, and network switches were added to increase wifi coverage in more than 30 classrooms, including: Humanities Hall first floor, Social Science Lab first floor, MSTB, DBH, PCB, HSLH, and EH. These classrooms total 2,262 seats.

The next phase of enhancements has been approved and is due to be completed in 2017. This includes more than 30 additional rooms such as: AIRB 1030, BS3 2130, HG 2nd floor, ICS, MSTB computer labs, RH, SSL 2nd floor, SST, and SSTR. At the same time, a new wireless network feature is being looked at for deployment in active learning classrooms. This allows for the creation of local wireless networks within a classroom, enabling instructors and students to wirelessly present and collaborate.

Virtual Computing Lab

Availability and use of Virtual Computing Lab (VCL) services continues to grow. The VCL provides concurrent user “seats,” each of which allows UCI student access from any network-connected computer to the licensed software available in UCI’s “real” computer labs. Software available (weighted to interest and use in the social sciences) includes Eviews, SAS, SPSS, Stata, MATLAB, and ArcView/GIS.  Comparing Fall and Winter quarters this academic year with the previous one, total hours used grew by 27% and the number of distinct users grew over the previous year’s use by 47% for the Fall quarter and 13% for the Winter quarter.

Captioning

Captioning videos and related capabilities involving textual representation of audio content (e.g., transcripts and subtitled translations) are important ways of extending the value of instructional materials to multiple audiences including those with hearing disabilities and those those with limited facility in the speaker’s language. The ability to see (and search) textual representation of spoken words can also be a valuable aid to learning students for whom neither hearing disability nor language is an issue. This funding will support initial exploration of cost-effective avenues for providing these capabilities for students funding the eTech@UCI initiative.

Accounts and workflows have been set up with multiple vendors to evaluate different ways of providing easy captioning solutions for the campus. Select existing UCI Replay hosted videos with ongoing significant numbers of views have been completed. OIT and DTL (Division of Teaching and Learning) are involved with captioning some active Spring Quarter courses. Future courses with captioning needs are being identified in consultation with the Disability Services Center.

Connected Small Group Active Learning Spaces

Recognizing the importance of small group (4 to 8 people) active collaboration in learning as exemplified, for example, in SE 101, the UCI Libraries and OIT have jointly developed a proposal for changing existing group study spaces into connected small group active learning spaces by adding communications tools for remote collaboration and consultation as well as the types of technologies used in SE 101 to facilitate active, participatory learning within small groups.  The communications tools will allow both participation at a distance by additional students as well as instructor availability, when suitably scheduled, for “office hours” or class activities similar to those for which SE 101 is configured.

While a principal initial use of these spaces is an enhanced form of the study/learning activities small groups of students already engage in, the space’s communications capabilities open the possibility of connecting several of them, on a scheduled basis, into a combined classroom.  The Libraries will assume responsibility for scheduling and for monitoring and logging use. The Libraries and OIT will jointly conduct surveys and interviews of students using the facilities.

The pilot phase of this project has begun with locations currently active in Gateway Study Center 2108 and 2109, and Education 2008. Additional locations are being planned within Langson Library and the Ayala Science Library, and other options for expansion include the Anteater Learning Pavilion, Student Center, Campuswide Honors Program study spaces, and spaces in residential housing.

Academic Unit Proposals

Last November, Assistant Deans were offered the opportunity to provide input to the pool of proposals being considered for eTech@UCI funding. Eighteen responses were received from nine units including the Libraries and one proposal jointly submitted by Engineering and ICS.  Units submitting multiple proposals indicated their relative priorities.

This year as last year, three of the proposals were deemed “outside of the scope” of what the eTech@UCI initiative can appropriately fund based upon the information supplied in the proposal. Two more represented wireless and computer lab related requests that could be addressed within the scope of wireless and computer lab support cycle covered above.  One other request remains pending identification of appropriate matching funds.

Funding is recommended for all the remaining, revised proposals based upon their merit, relevance to the eTech@UCI initiative’s charter, and indication of unit commitment, including (in some cases) matching funds.  While the full text of each proposal is available at the ETIAC site given above, the following synopsis provides an indication of the considerations behind the recommendations.

This year units have requested and are receiving eTech@UCI support for online services such as Adobe Creative Cloud in School of the Arts and Humanities and WeVideo in the School of Education.

The School of Education is using eTech@UCI funding to equip a room (EDU 2010) in its space as a “SmartClassroom,” in line with those on campus. The School of the Arts has received funding for a technology refresh to MAP 125. ICS is receiving funding for computer monitors in heavily scheduled and heavily used labs associated with both undergraduate lecture courses and general computer access.

In response to a joint request from Engineering and ICS, eTech@UCI funding supports campus licensing of MATLAB software installed on student owned systems.  Physical Science’s request of eTech funds for undergraduate student licensing of ChemDraw was granted based upon the school providing the matching funds that made this licensing possible.

eTech@UCI support for the UCI Libraries’ critical contribution to undergraduate student access to technology continues by supporting computer refresh in Langson Library 228 and a self-service laptop checkout kiosk with 12 laptops.  As with other proposals, matching funds from the Libraries complement eTech@UCI support of the proportion of resource use related to the basis for eTech fees.

The DTL-OIT collaboration is receiving eTech funding for two proposals that deserve more detailed mention.

The first is to equip AIRB 1030 “to allow instructors and students to participate in pilot use in regularly scheduled classes of various classroom configuration and technology decisions … [to] evaluate emerging technologies and pedagogical strategies… focusing not just on current needs, but on the capacity of the room to support a variety of future technologies.”

A second DTL-OIT proposal being funded by eTech is to support “faculty proposals for modest funding (initial estimate is to fund proposals in the range $50 to $250) to acquire some service, software or equipment that the faculty will use as part of one or more specified undergraduate lecture course.  This proposal also includes support for “the expanded use of the Zoom conferencing service, whose value (e.g., office hours, on-line participation in class meetings) has been established at various UC campuses, including UCI, during the current academic year.”