2015 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 student, 4 faculty, 3 staff, and 2 OIT representatives and is chaired by the CIO. The ETIAC meet quarterly during the 2014/15 school year. Additional meetings of OIT staff and ETIAC members inform and contribute to plenary meetings of the committee. Further campus communications and consultation is provided through one-on-one consultations with student representatives, student and faculty online surveys, student focus groups, the eTech@UCI feedback page, and email 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 as part of the initiative, including more general support for technology-enabled instructional innovation.

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. In addition to addressing “hot spot” issues, OIT maintains a five year cycle keeping these rooms as close to “current” as budgetary constraints allow, roughly following the original renovation/construction schedule, refreshing oldest rooms first. We are in the fourth year of this cycle. Over the first three years, 87 rooms were refreshed. This year’s plans concentrate in the Engineering and ICS portion of the campus, with some work in the areas of Physical Sciences and Social Sciences, as well as one special case each in Biological Sciences and Humanities.

Instructional Computing Labs

OIT maintains 12 Computer Labs with a total of 560 computers: 6 instructional labs (355 computers) and 6 “drop-in” (205 computers). (Complete information about these facilities is available online.) The 99 systems in the Instructional Computer Labs in SBSG 240 and SBSG 241 are five years old. Replacing these with new ones will also allow them to be productively redeployed replacing even older systems in “drop-in” labs: 55 in SST 107, NS1 3116 and CCC 122 that are eight years old and 30 in Student Center C138 that are six years old.

Campus WiFi Wireless

Based upon systematic surveys of coverage and reports from faculty and individual students, 54 classrooms have been identified where WiFi wireless coverage was not up to the normal (moderate) level of campus coverage. These classrooms range in size from 25 to 300 seats, with a total of 3,320 seats.

Canvas Learning Management System

While UCI’s locally developed EEE course management system continues to be used in virtually every undergraduate course and very used in almost every undergraduate course, it has become clear that UCI should explore a more current and more broadly supported Learning Management System (LMS). Based upon studies of LMSs within UC and here at UCI, Instructure’s cloud-based Canvas service has been selected as the most logical LMS for UCI to deploy in a “pilot” set of classes. The UCI Canvas Pilot includes a comprehensive assessment effort, training and workshops, as well as systems integration efforts. Beginning in Fall 2015, the pilot will allow instructors to create their own “Canvas Course Spaces.” A full, regularly updated description of the UCI Canvas Pilot is available.

Virtual Computing Lab

The initial “pilot” deployment of a Virtual Computing Lab (VCL) service has proven to be such a success that it is being expanded from a very modest base to a somewhat larger, but still relatively modest capacity. 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. This “pilot” for possible broader VCL facilities at UCI has been developed in consultation with staff and students selected by the School of Social Sciences. The software includes SAS, SPSS, Stata, MATLAB, and ArcView/GIS.

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 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.

Innovative Classrooms/Learning Spaces

UCI has over 130 General Assignment classrooms and a substantial number of departmentally assigned classrooms, but few incorporate any classroom design aspects that are well suited to modern “flipped/hybrid” pedagogical models. The ability to create multiple teaching “clusters” (where groups of students interact) with distributed display, audiovisual and computer technology, and something as simple as movable seats and whiteboards are not currently available for instructors.

While this technology is well-developed commercially, UCI has not developed institutional expertise with this type of classroom environment on either the instructor or supporter side. As UCI considers creation of new classrooms and new classroom buildings, gaining experience and such expertise is essential information-gathering and preparation for use of new facilities.

Combined with other funds, eTech support is creating small (40 seat) “flipped/hybrid/alternate”designed classroom using distributed display, audiovisual (AV) and computer control, AV devices, movable whiteboards and other collaboration tools.

EEE Development

The Electronic Educational Environment (EEE), UCIs home-grown online course management system, was founded in 1995, well before commercial vendors providing any similar products.

Ongoing and pending projects include continued exploration and integration of third party tools and services, including the Canvas Learning Management system discussed above, and various enhancements in response to campus requests.

Academic Unit Proposals

In November 2014, Assistant Deans were offered the opportunity to provide input to the pool of proposals being considered for eTech@UCI funding. This was the second year such proposals were solicited. Twenty-two responses were received from ten units, including the Libraries and two proposals jointly submitted by Engineering and ICS. With some adjustments, it was possible to provide support for all proposals within the scope of what the eTech Initiative can appropriately fund. These proposals fell into four general areas: Instructional Lab Computers, WiFi Wireless Coverage, Software Licensing, and Classrooms & Other Learning Spaces.

Instructional Lab Computers for Humanities, ICS, the Libraries and Pharmaceutical Sciences serve much the same fundamental purposes and clientele as OIT managed labs. They complement use of those labs and, like those labs, are not limited to a subset of the student population determined by any factor other than course enrollment. Refreshing the technology in such labs as is done with OIT managed labs is an excellent and necessary investment. Additionally, this year some very modest of funding is included in for laptops the Libraries will “check out” to students. This is very much in keeping with trends in student use of technology in campus computing labs which see use of laptops integrated with and complementing use of equipment provided in those labs.

The proposals for WiFi wireless represent needed improvements in established areas of heavy student use (Gateway Study Center and parts of Student Services II) and the provision of service (in Biological Sciences labs) at a level required by all students simultaneously using web-based Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) software. This software has distinct advantages for coursework, represents the type of tool now common in professional use, and is less costly for students than traditional lab notebooks previously used.

The Software Licensing proposals receiving eTech@UCI support represent two different approaches for student software access. Arts, Humanities, and Pharmaceutical Sciences have requested support for software licensed to run on campus owned systems. The proposal for MATLAB on student systems offers a different approach that will benefit the entire campus and is especially important as part of initiatives in Engineering and ICS to promote the use of student-owned systems.

The Classrooms & Other Learning Spaces proposals receiving eTech@UCI support include equipping or upgrading both general assignment classrooms and spaces within various academic units. Engineering and ICS have jointly requested the power outlet upgrade for DBH 1200 and DBH1300 as part of a longer term initiative which integrates personal computers in their curricula in a manner keeping with post-graduation professional practices. Arts, Biological Sciences, Nursing Sciences, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Physical Sciences are receiving eTech@UCI support for proposals specific to spaces within their units.

Past Year Summaries