This week, UVA Today put out an article discussing the decision to incorporate technology-enhanced teaching tools into more of our University’s classrooms. With the support of President Sullivan and the Faculty Senate, a review committee will choose at least five courses within the next couple of weeks to give specific faculty a $10,000 grant. With this, they are hoping to expand changes to the way learning has been traditionally approached and exercise new ways to keep students engaged and excited about their academics. After this has been implemented for a semester, UVA instructors and faculty from different research centers around UVA will measure the learning outcomes through student feedback and multiple observation times. The faculty members I interviewed regarding this subject were:
George Cohen: Professor, School of Law
William Guilford: Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering
Marva Barnett: Professor & Founding Director, Teaching Resource Center; Department of French Language and Literature
Here are some of their responses:
WUVA: How do you see these technology-enhanced teaching tools positively affecting the University?
WUVA: How do you think this change will affect the attention span and influence in students’ learning experience?
WUVA: Do you foresee any negative outcomes with implementing these teaching tools?
WUVA: Do you foresee any controversy from students, faculty or parents around the desire for grants being better used within the University?
WUVA: Do you ever foresee classrooms at UVA solely ran by technology in the future? Such as professors teaching via computer screens?
Barnett: Given U.Va.’s long history of professors and students working together to forge new learning and ideas, I do not foresee many courses being taught to U.Va. students solely through technology.
WUVA: Do you think this implementation with the support of President Sullivan will help smooth out the concerns from the Board of Visitors that discussed UVA’s lack of participation in online education.
Barnett: The Fall 2012 Challenge for Newly Hybrid Technology-Enhanced Courses is an exciting new initiative from the Faculty Senate with funding support from President Sullivan. It is helping draw attention to the fact that many U.Va. faculty are already highly expert in using technological tools to help students learn for the long term. Discussion around the Challenge is also helping clarify the different meanings of “on-line education,” a term that includes both the multiple varieties of instructional technology (both inside and outside the classroom) and distance-learning courses in which students take a course from a university they do not attend in person. Both types of courses can be proposed for this initiative.
WUVA: Do you worry that in needing to “keep up” with the technological change in our society we are losing the intimateness of the traditional classroom setting?
Cohen: We need to be judicious about how we implement technological change. We should not be adopting changes just because they are trendy or make use of the latest technological advances. We need to focus on technological advances that truly improve the educational experience. Student-teacher interaction in the classroom remains a very valuable educational experience and I don’t see that going away. In the business world, face-to-face meetings are still valued because of the opportunity for the efficient interchange of ideas and the ability to react not only to arguments but also body language and social cues.
WUVA: How much impact is going to be given to the results of students’ feedbacks as far as the longevity of this technological advanced classroom system?
Cohen: I expect that student feedback will be crucial in helping to evaluate the effectiveness of any technological innovation. Students in my experience are not shy about expressing their views about what helps or hinders their education. Faculty may not always agree, but student opinion is certainly an important consideration.
WUVA: Are there any ideas or personal suggestions towards which classes or subjects will or should be the experiment for this academic change? If so, which ones and why?
Cohen: The purpose of the challenge is to give the faculty a chance to be creative and think about new possibilities. I think we should wait to see what emerges from the process without imposing any preconceived ideas about what we should be doing.
WUVA: As a law professor, do you see this advancement directly impacting the success of law students? If so, how?
Cohen: Law faculty, like many other faculty, already make use of technology in a number of ways. For example, I record all my classes, which makes it possible for students who miss a class, say for an interview, to listen to it later. It is also very helpful for students whose native language is not English. Of course, students could take advantage of the class recording to skip class entirely. I tell my students at the beginning of the semester that if I start to see a significant number of students not showing up, I will stop recording the classes. So far, I have not had a problem. I also make extensive use of my course webpage. Other faculty members use video clips of things like trial testimony.
It seems that many instructors hope that these Web-based and digital technologies, such as blogs and telepresence, will position UVa as an advanced and innovative university in the 21st century.