Report From: Office of Information Technology >>

New committee examines technology for classroom

By Alan Cattier, director of Academic Technology Services | Emory Report | Dec. 27, 2011

With the multiple governance groups that look at IT issues across Emory, a natural question arises, what about the teaching and learning mission? How do IT initiatives that relate to that specific mission get vetted? Given the institutional precedent, the appropriate way would be through a faculty subcommittee of IT governance.

As a result, the Instructional Governance Committee is a freshly convened group of faculty organized to examine current technology use in Emory's classrooms. Representing every Emory school and discipline, this highly engaged committee is comprised of exceptional teachers interested in how technology is transforming teaching and learning. They have held three meetings, most recently on Nov. 30.

Early technology adoption was not the only criterion for selection to the committee. On the contrary, it became important to have a range of abilities and perspectives on instructional initiatives, as the committee's aspiration is to educate its members so that they can make informed decisions. Gordon Churchward, professor of microbiology/immunology in the School of Medicine, is the committee chair.

"It has been an interesting experience and an exciting opportunity," says Churchward, "largely because the group is drawn from such a broad range across the institution, focusing on increased exposure to varied technologies and future technology growth."

"This committee ensures that reactions from the primary users are heard before particular instructional technologies are put into use," says Steve Everett, who heads the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence (CFDE). A strategic partner in engaging these technology questions, the CFDE also co-sponsors presentations, programs and lectures with Emory’s Center for Interactive Teaching (ECIT).

The committee also has three non-voting members: Jose Rodriguez and Alan Cattier, from OIT, as well as Frances Maloy, director of the Services Division of the Woodruff Library. Maloy helps give the group a window into what technologies are coming down the road.

View the group's mission statement and full list of members.

 As Everett alluded, a main task of the group is to review and approve business cases for new IT services before they go to the steering body. As with other committees, any IT work effort that is over 80 hours or $20,000 is subject to review.

Down the road, the committee will seek to build a consensus on how Emory should align itself with future technological issues, as well as investigate the day-to-day technologies that can make a difference in the classroom.

Example topics include questions like: What capabilities need to be present in Personal Response Systems that the University investigates? Or, when can upgrades to Blackboard be made without disrupting the instructional life of the university?

When considering the technologies that have been university mainstays, this Committee represents an ideal venue to review Emory’s current repertoire and to begin to plan its future. Doing so is like peeling the layers on an onion: As you peer past the outer layers of the older technology, you can see the potential for new and more innovative approaches. More than ever, the creation of this subcommittee is an opportunity for a fresh examination of instructional systems and practices.

Whether considering touch technologies, the speed and reach of wireless, intelligent assistants, massive mining of reference materials, or new models for interpreting and analyzing data, all of these are large and deep questions regarding teaching and learning. It is Emory’s great strength to have this committee poised to explore these areas as they emerge and to act as a representative forum with the instructional focus of the institution.