2014 Initiative Summary

The Educational Technology Initiative Advisory Committee (ETIAC) was convened in fall 2012 to provide 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.  It met a total of 4 times during the  2013/14 school year.  This document summarizes the projects and activities funded during that year.

In reviewing  activities and projects proposed and undertaken, ETIAC considered feedback from one-on-one consultations with student representatives, student and faculty online surveys (including the Winter 2012 eTech Feedback Survey – Download results summary), student focus groups, and emails sent via the eTech feedback page.

ETIAC and OIT continue to solicit and review campus feedback as these initiatives move forward and future eTech projects are considered and planned.

Ongoing Operations

Ongoing Operations includes support for the Electronic Educational Environment (EEE) course management system used in virtually every UCI undergraduate course, as well as classroom technology and instructional labs. It also includes more general support for technology-enabled instructional innovation both from the Office of Information Technology and from a position within the Division of Undergraduate Education.

Classroom Technology

UCI’s 131 general assignment SmartClassrooms are equipped with an assortment of technology used in instruction, including 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 third year of this cycle. Over the first two years, 63 rooms were refreshed, starting with the Humanities Quad area. The 24 rooms scheduled for summer 2014 are in the area of the campus shared by Engineering, ICS and Physical Sciences.

Instructional Computing Labs (Gateway Study Center)

The UCI Libraries Gateway Study Center has 90 computer systems to be refreshed. This continues the close collaboration between the UCI Libraries and OIT, which has utilized eTech Initiative funding in previous years for WiFi wireless improvements as well as for new PCs replacing 7 year old systems.

Campus WiFi Wireless

Based upon surveys of coverage and reports from individual students (often emphatic and via various channels including email to etech@uci.edu), 25 classrooms have been identified where WiFi wireless coverage was not up to the normal level of campus coverage. While this normal level of coverage is sufficient in most classroom situations, a separate item below (“High-Density/Capacity WiFi”) addresses exploration of classroom instructional approaches requiring a different level and type of coverage.

Canvas Learning Management System

While UCI’s locally developed EEE course management system continues to be used in virtually every undergraduate course and very widely appreciated, it has become clear over the past year that UCI must start to explore a more broadly supported Learning Management System (LMS) as well. Based upon studies of LMSs within UC and here at UCI, Instructure’s cloud-based Canvas service is the most logical LMS for UCI to deploy in a “pilot” set of classes.

A formal proposal to pilot Canvas and explore how Canvas and EEE might work in conjuncture to provide a more robust overall learning management environment for the campus has been submitted for eTech Initiative funding with strong backing from the Division of Undergraduate Education, Office of the Campus Writing Coordinator, Composition Program, Program in Academic English, Distance Learning Center, University Extension and OIT.

Virtual Computing Lab

The Virtual Computing Lab (VCL) service will provide 50 or more concurrent user “seats,” which allow any UCI student access from a computer at any network-connected location to the licensed software available in UCI’s “real” computer labs. This “pilot” for possible broader VCL facilities at UCI is being developed in consultation with staff and students selected by the School of Social Science. The software includes SAS, SPSS, Stata, MATLAB, and ArcView/GIS.

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.

UCI has not yet 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, getting experience and such expertise is essential information-gathering and preparation for use of new facilities.

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

High-Density/Capcity WiFi in Large Lecture Halls

As described above (“Classroom WiFi Wireless”), UCI regularly updates WiFi wireless capabilities to provide normal level of service.

Recent instructor experiments with popular web-based tools for in-class engagement and assessment have illuminated the need for reliable, high-speed WiFi service in large classrooms beyond the base-level service expectations of previous years.

Instructors in various disciplines (Chemistry foremost) have been vocal in outlining the need for WiFi service in PSLH 100 and BS3 1200 of an adequate capacity/density to support services for large classes in those areas and this proposal expands WiFi density/capacity in two or three large lecture halls.

As with the proposal above for “Innovative Classrooms/Learning-Spaces,” this will provide UCI with essential experience and expertise both as it creates new facilities and as it makes immediate, productive use of them. “If you build it, they will come” is guidance for a field of bad dreams unless the would-be players already have experience with the game.

EEE Development

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

2014 EEE development projects included:

  • EEE Mobile: Grades
  • MessageBoard hidden identities
  • Direct transfer of scores from Quiz to GradeBook

Ongoing and pending projects include continued exploration and integration of third party tools (potentially including the Canvas Learning Management system, as mentioned above) and various enhancements in response to campus requests (700+ feature requests are outstanding).

Academic Unit Proposals

In December 2013, Assistant Deans were offered the opportunity to provide input to the pool of proposals being considered for eTech Initiative funding. Ten units, including the Libraries, submitted proposals. 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 ICS, Nursing Science, Social Ecology and Social Science 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.

WiFi Wireless Coverage proposals in three areas represent needed improvements in an established area (the Libraries), the provision in departmentally assigned classrooms of service comparable to that in General Assignment classrooms and the provision of service (in Chemistry Labs) at a level required by all students simultaneously using web-based Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) software. This software has distinct pedagogical advantages, allows better use of instructor time, represents the type of tool now common in professional use and is less costly for students than traditional lab notebooks previously used.

Software licensing proposals represent two different approaches for student software access. For students in the Arts (and those who make use of open labs jointly supported by Arts and OIT), Max 6 software is leased with eTech Initiative funding matched by license donations that quadruple the number of systems covered. Adobe Creative Cloud is similar, but with the added feature an optional web-based component. 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.

Classrooms & Other Learning Spaces proposals range from a modest investment complementing a significantly larger investment by Social Ecology near its Counseling Office to equipping Winifred Smith Hall for its use as a classroom with the same technologies found in General Assignment classrooms. (Arts is funding a portion of the cost representative of the non-classroom use of the space.) The Engineering/ICS proposal provides power-outlets in classroom sufficient to support student computer use for the duration of extended length classes. How necessary such configurations will be in other and newer facilities remains to be seen, but this proposal allows faculty and students to learn in and about classrooms which support extended in-class use of student-owned systems.

Faculty Instructional Innovation Support

In 2014, an eTech funded position facilitated 5 interactive workshops, 4 panel discussions, collateral companion media pieces, 2 research reports, 2 conference proposals, and sustained the momentum/interest in innovative instructional strategies. The position is also a key contributor to the informal Online | Hybrid | Tech-Enhanced email group, with 350+ faculty and staff participants from across the campus.

  • Key Topics: Hybrid & online learning best practices & research, flipped classroom resources, active learning techniques, media use & integration, instructional strategies, online discussions, course & program development, assessment strategies, service learning, community & civic engagement, open education resources (OER), cross-campus collaborations, copyright & fair use, FERPA, digital citizenship/academic honesty, ePortfolios, mobile devices & iClickers, maker movement, quality metrics, etc.
  • Media & Devices: UCI Replay, UCI Google Apps, Camtasia Studio, Fuse App, Piazza, Google Hangouts on Air, Google Communities, LinkedIn, Captivate, EEE, Doceri, MediaSite, iClickers, iPad, Mobile, Kahoot!, Canvas, Lab Archives, Poll Everywhere, Learning Catalytics, iClicker Go/REEF, Skype, Wikipedia, etc.

Facilitating this active interest in hybrid/online learning has produced opportunities for instructors to recalibrate: learning objectives, instructional strategies, formative/summative assessment, and course/curriculum alignment. Interestingly, these topics correlate to key elements in WASC accreditation, as well as, strengthening student engagement.

As faculty individually explore various technology-enabled innovations in their courses, individual consultations become an avenue both for helping faculty integrate their use of non-UCI services with campus resources and for learning how these services work in tandem. By providing workshops and forums, faculty can share ideas, experiences, concerns and successes which is essential to increase the appropriate use of newly available educational technologies.

Past Year Summaries