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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Using Technology in the Classroom

Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 38 - August 13, 1998

(Editor's note: Following is an open letter to Virginia Tech faculty members from the Course and Curriculum Issues Workgroup of the Computer Requirement Support Task Force.)
Technology is clearly changing the way many faculty members do their research, teach, interact with their colleagues and publish their findings. Not only is technology changing our profession, it is changing the work environment of our students. The university is committed to prepare our students for a successful future. To do this, our educational mission must include computer literacy and information retrieval skills as a key to their future success.
The university is a proponent of diversity and innovation in its educational mission and college life. Diversity and innovation contribute to quality teaching and the use of technology in instruction is part of this diversity. The university is also committed to make its resources, including faculty members, more accessible to students and alumni. The diverse ways in which technology can help us achieve these goals will be encouraged and supported.
The increased use of computers, especially in education, has spawned many myths and misconceptions. While the university recognizes the advantages of technology-enhanced education, the university wants to assure faculty members that not all instructors will be required to use technology in the same way for teaching, and that not all faculty members teaching the same level course will be required to use technology in the same way. How technology is integrated into teaching your course is a personal choice.
If you chose to integrate technology into a course:
Its use must be consistent with the purpose and objectives of the course. Different courses will have different objectives, especially if they are general introductory courses or upper level courses, and whether they are major or non-major courses;
You have a professional obligation to be proficient in the software you require your students to use. Further, the software you are using should be comparable to the software the students are required to use. Updates of the software required for student machines will be available for faculty members. University user-support systems will be kept up to date on new software and different versions of software so the students and faculty members can get appropriate assistance;
You are obligated to keep on-line course materials updated and accessible by students;
You will not be held knowledgeable for software packages for different computer systems, and different versions of the same software; and
You should provide an alternate source for class materials, such as handouts or materials on reserve at the library, for at least the first two weeks of the fall semester until freshman have their computers functioning properly. Introductory classes often have upper classmen and currently, they are not required to have a computer. An alternate source of class materials should be available for these students until all students have entered under the new computer requirement (the class of 2005). Transfer students may also need an alternate source for class materials until they are online.
Students have asked for information on how technology is being used in their courses, e.g., is the course available on line or if it is technology-enhanced, at what level is it enhanced? To best communicate this information, a common data base is being developed for all courses taught at Virginia Tech. The goal is to have this information available from one data base, but distributed through several venues such as on-line course profiles, the timetable and a class ticket.
As part of this data base, departments will be required to post an abbreviated course profile on line for every course taught each semester. An on-line form is being developed to bring uniformity to the data base and facilitate ease in submitting this material. This form is an expanded version of the form distributed for the Fall 1998 Timetable. The faculty member and department will be responsible for making sure this information is posted in a timely manner.
No computer requirement would be complete without providing support and training to both students and faculty members. The university is committed to providing adequate resources to assist students and faculty with hardware, software and service provider problems.
Several on-campus facilities can assist with software and hardware problems. We will develop or obtain training tools so students can become proficient in the basic software we recommend for their computers.
The university has a long standing commitment to training its faculty in the use of computers in education. The Faculty Development Institute has trained the majority of the Virginia Tech faculty in the software required of our students and the use of computers in teaching and communication. This on-going training will continue. The university has over 600 computers in 12 campus facilities so students have immediate on-line access from anywhere on campus and will have the use of a computer if their computer is not available (e.g., students who live off campus). These computer facilities will be maintained.
Members of the Course and Curriculum Issues Workgroup of the Computer Requirement Support Task Force are Arthur Buikema Jr. (chair), Dianna Benton, Corrine Goldman, Len Hatfield, Arthur Keown, Timothy Luke, John Moore, Cosby Rogers, Mary Beth Rosson, Crandell Shifflet, Mary Sproull, Nicholas Stone, and Brian Ward; with additional input from John Husser, Jerome Niles and Jay Stoeckel.