Birth of a Proactive Instructional Technology Center: A Case of System Change

L. ROGER YIN, Multimedia Specialist Instructional Technology Center and DR. ROGER F. KRENTZ, Associate Professor University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Whitewater, Wisc. The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is a leading regional comprehensive university of over 10,000 students and about 600 faculty and academic staff. In order to meet the University of Wisconsin system's emphasis on instructional technology, Library and Learning Resources at UW-Whitewater in 1993 explored the possibility of merging its Learning Materials Center (LMC) and the Instructional Technology Service (ITS) into an integrated Instructional Technology Center (ITC). The Learning Materials Center supported the teacher education program and enhanced learning in the College of Education by providing a variety of print and non-print collections and supporting equipment. The Instructional Technology Service provided services on circulating audio-visual and other small media equipment, maintaining small equipment and computers, producing video and photo/ graphics resources. Planning of this organizational change was accomplished by a special Task Force appointed by the Dean of Library and Learning Resources. This task force was charged to study the merger's feasibility and recommend means of implementation. They addressed issues of staffing patterns, staff training, physical renovation, hardware and software acquisitions and then gave recommendations for a change process. Problems and Solutions Staffing From the beginning each unit's (ITS and LMC) staff members were assured no one would lose their position in the restructuring process. All staff positions in ITS would remain the same: 2 computer technicians, 1 small equipment maintenance person, 1 video production person, 1 telecommunications person, 1 film & equipment person. The LMC staff retained 1 computer specialist, 1 public service librarian and 1 library services assistant. The LMC reference librarian transferred to the main reference desk and 1 cataloging library assistant was transferred to the cataloging department. Through an internal search, a head for the Instructional Technology Center was selected to be responsible for administering the ITC's operation, budget, and staffing; and overseeing a variety of technology services for university instructional purposes. Staff Training and Development A major two-fold element in successful consolidation was the one-time initial training as well as continuing commitment to faculty/staff development. Since the new ITC was adopting an innovative approach in providing media support services to faculty and staff, the task force strongly recommended ITC staff possess the knowledge of, and skills for, the most current technologies. A significant one-time (93-94) expenditure plus a continuing annual allocation was recommended. Six ITC staff received initial training at an intensive three-day multimedia workshop at Northwestern University; one person attended a two-day workshop at UW-Madison. When a multimedia specialist was hired [co-author Yin], he also provided a series of ongoing inservice training workshops for ITC staff plus teaching faculty on presentation and authoring tools. Space and Physical Renovation Developing a sense of cohesive operation is critical to the success of any consolidated service unit. The task force believed the ITC's operating efficiency would be increased by an integrated work space. Locating the offices of technical services and multimedia development staff as close to each other as possible would help create a "team" atmosphere in providing unified services to the university community. Obviously the LMC had to be dismantled and services and collections had to be merged with the main library. Hardware/Software Acquisitions Hardware and software needs of the ITC were not addressed in the task force's report. However, based on faculty computing patterns, it was decided that the ITC should support both DOS/Windows and Macintosh platforms. Observations indicated about 75% of faculty/staff used DOS/Windows with the remaining preferring Macintosh. This dichotomy spread over the four academic colleges, administration offices, Computing & Information Technology and the Library & Learning Resources. Through the GPR budget and laboratory modernization funds, the multimedia specialist recommended the purchase standards of a Quadra 840AV for the Mac platform and a Gateway 2000 Pentium-based (90MHz) P5-90XL for the DOS/Windows platform. Each workstation would be supplemented with a variety of multimedia peripherals (CD-ROM drive, color flat-bed scanner, laser printer, S-VHS VCR, 16-bit wavetable sound card, stereo speakers, video capture card, removable Syquest cartridge drive, videodisc player, etc.). In 93-94 the UW System provided UW-Whitewater with $106,000 for upgrading classroom technology. We earmarked this funding for seven mobile multimedia workstations (three Quadras and four Gateway 2000s). Each mobile unit consists of computer, monitor, speakers, CD-ROM drive, LCD video/data projector, etc. Four classroom buildings serving the instructional needs of the general-education curriculum received these mobile units, one of each platform (one building already had a Mac). Software was addressed by a separate campus committee and funded through a UW System grant proposal originating in the College of Letters and Sciences. The ITC's head and multimedia specialist were members of this committee, which evaluated and selected software that met the needs of faculty teaching general-education courses. Ease of use, cost-effectiveness, dual-platform compatibility and site licensing were major criteria during the evaluation process for campuswide standardization (see Figure 1). Figure 1: Multimedia Software for Development in UW-Whitewater DOS/Windows Macintosh Presentation Astound 1.5B Astound 1.01 Authoring Multimedia Authorware Pro Toolbook 3.0 Version 2.2 Director 4.0 HyperCard 2.2 w/HyperGasp HyperWriter! Version 4.1 Director 4.0.3 Graphics CorelDRAW 5.0 Illustrator 5.5 Image Adobe Adobe Processing Photoshop 3.0 Photoshop 3.01 Digital Video Premiere 4.0 Premiere 4.0 Sound Wave 2.0 SoundEdit 16 Our Vision of Integrated Instructional Technology Services It was envisioned that this merger would coordinate the leadership in the use of technology in the teaching and learning process for the university. The mission of ITC includes four different functions: Provide teleconferences (e.g. satellite downlinking) and related services as programs are available or requested. Support faculty and staff in design and development of multimedia-based presentations and courseware via training workshops, consultation, and production services with a team approach. Maintain and repair computer and non-computer equipment for instruction. Create appropriate instructional graphics, computer-based or flat visuals. Organizational restructuring brings together the staff expertise of these separate service-oriented units, providing a "one-stop service center" for traditional media as well as new computer-based technologies. In addition, ITC serves as a center for partnerships with faculty in evaluating and adopting new technologies to enhance both teaching and learning. Proper Use of Multimedia Is Key After the merger that gave birth to the Instructional Technology Center was done, a new Multimedia Development Center (MDC) was created within ITC. A multimedia specialist was hired on a tenure-track, faculty rank to "work with" instead of "work for" teaching faculty and staff. His role is that of consultant and project manager, not writer or producer of hypermedia/ multimedia products. He assists in the planning, selection, upgrade enhancement, replacement and installation of appropriate instructional technology hardware and software in classrooms, student labs, faculty development areas, faculty offices and in the MDC. In essence, the multimedia specialist acts as a "change agent." In the new MDC, it is believed that the evolution of technology is based on good common sense. A new technology will expand existing ones, rather than replace them. Our needs and endless curiosity drive the technology, not the converse. Major functions of the Multimedia Development Center include faculty training, project development and multimedia resources management. Faculty training is the first step to achieve any significant change. Continuous and consistent training and support on campus is crucial, and it must be carefully planned and conducted. Piece meal efforts usually don't work well. Training workshops for faculty and staff (first-time and advanced users) have been conducted on campus focusing on software tools, multimedia hardware, and courseware design and authoring. At least 70 faculty members from every college, especially those from the College of Letters and Sciences teaching core courses, have attended one or more hands-on workshops. Small group and individual training sessions on how to operate multimedia hardware are held in the MDC's lab. After introducing the tools to faculty, the next step is to assist them in designing and developing their own instructional materials. Empowering the faculty to author their own multimedia programs has really made the difference at our campus. For instance, a geography professor incorporates maps and animations to depict the USSR before and after its dissolution using Astound, and two professors in political science have co-authored American Government courseware using Multimedia Toolbook. Implementing a New Core Curriculum Simultaneously with establishing the MDC, the university embarked on a substantial revision of its undergraduate General Education program. At the heart of the new program is a set of six one-semester interdisciplinary courses that every student will take. These classes are brand new, deliberately interdisciplinary in character, and each one is taught by faculty from several different departments. Since these courses are new and interdisciplinary, few teaching and learning materials exist that specifically suit both their content and perspective. In particular, suitable hypermedia and hypertext are rare. The available materials tend to be oriented toward a particular discipline. UW-Whitewater decided to implement its six new interdisciplinary general education courses with hypermedia and hypertext to create an integrative learning experience for the students. Collaboration between ITC and the General Education program built a bond between ITC staff and the core course faculty. In particular, the multimedia specialist has been working as a team member and resource person for presentations and courseware development for each core course. Meshing subject matter and technical expertise forms a strong tendency to share resources, knowledge and experience, plus increases collegiality, in the university community. The ITC has become an integral partner of the General Education program at UW-Whitewater. Conclusion and More ITC was born from an organizational change and has become a strong, equal partner in the dynamics of instructional technology and the multimedia movement at UW-Whitewater. Establishing the ITC and the MDC was a major first step. The university next unified Library & Learning Resources and the Division of Computing & Information Technology. This new higher-level merger consolidates all the information computing and instructional technologies on campus under one jurisdiction. This new merger was completed in July of this year. At UW-Whitewater, we are creating an effective and efficient infrastructure to implement those information and instructional technologies that meet our needs to become a premier comprehensive regional university for the 21st century. n Check out the MDC's "Hypermedia Central" Web pages at: www.uww.edu/mdc/homehypr.html L. Roger Yin is the Multimedia Specialist and Coordinator of the Multimedia Development Center at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. E-mail: yinl@uwwvax.uww.edu Roger Krentz was the Head of the Instructional Technology Center and is an Associate Professor in Technology and Information Resources at the university. E-mail: krentzr@uwwvax.uww.edu Products mentioned in this article: Astound!; Gold Disk, Inc., (800) 982-9888 Authorware Pro, Director, SoundEdit 16; Macromedia, (415) 252-2000 CorelDRAW; Corel Corp., (800) 772-6735 HyperGasp; Caliban Mindwear, (800) 269-0660 Illustrator, Photoshop, Premiere; Adobe Systems, Inc., (800) 833-6687 HyperWriter!; Ntergaid, Inc., (800) 254-9737 Multimedia Toolbook; Asymetrix Corp., (800) 448-6543 Wave; Turtle Beach Systems, (800) 645-5640

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/1995 issue of THE Journal.

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