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Enriching the Teaching/Learning Process with Computers: Spreading the Word on a College Campus

Ohio Dominican College (ODC), a private, four-year, liberal arts institution with about 1,800 students, established its Dominican Learning Network (DLN) with the help of a U.S. Department of Education Title III grant from 1994-1999. Each faculty and staff member received a computer and printer. Three state-of-the art computer classrooms were built in the library and science buildings. Several banks of computer stations were constructed for student use, and classrooms and offices across campus were equipped with data ports. Finally, the network's operating and office systems were brought up and running -- thereby linking the entire campus in cyberspace.

The college's mandate for the DLN clearly focused on using computers to facilitate student learning within the college curriculum and on increasing the number of faculty who utilized technology in instruction from 10% in 1993 to 80% in 1999. Faculty and staff attended on-campus training sessions on topics such as Word, e-mail, HTML and search engines. They also participated in campus-wide discussions about student learning styles and the competencies students would need for living and working in the 21st century.

Small groups of faculty visited other college campuses to see their computer networks and applications first hand, though some of these visits did not yield much useful information because of more extensive support services available at the other colleges and significantly different student demographics. Other faculty members read books and articles and visited Web sites about the use of technology in college teaching. The interest level on the part of most faculty and staff was high.

Problem Lies in Lack of Sharing

Faculty and staff members began to try various computer applications in their classrooms and offices. However, few faculty were aware of what their colleagues, even those in their own departments, were doing with technology to facilitate student learning. Further, faculty had no way of easily and systematically obtaining this information short of questioning their peers on an informal basis. Faculty also lacked information on a variety of instructionally useful yet easy-to-implement applications.

Solution: The ODC Ideabook

A committee of faculty members created the ODC Technology Ideabook: A Sourcebook of Faculty/Staff-Tested Ideas on Using Computers to Promote Student Learning and Make Life Easier.

The Ideabook is actually not a physical book, but rather a Web site that is reached quickly and easily from Ohio Dominican Collegeís home page. It is designed to disseminate ideas originated by ODC faculty and staff across the entire campus. Using this vehicle, faculty and staff can conveniently exchange workable ideas with one another, use each other as resources and mentors, and in general become aware of how the community is using the DLN for educational purposes.

Six faculty members in education, philosophy, history, psychology and English, in addition to the Director of the Library, obtained ideas for the Ideabook. The Network Administrator provided the necessary technical assistance.

This committee designed a standard format that was used to record the details of each idea submission. Sections included:

  • Title of idea;
  • Type of application;
  • Course in which idea was used;
  • Description/ purpose;
  • Student learning objectives;
  • How to implement the idea;
  • Evaluation;
  • Comments;
  • Suggestions for variations/follow-up; and
  • Contributor information.

 

To begin the project, the committee targeted potential contributors who represented a cross-section of the campus community. Contributors were contacted by phone and half-hour interviews were conducted with them to record their ideas. Contributors were also offered the option of filling in the form themselves, but most opted for the interview. In addition, a "Technology Roundtable" discussion was scheduled and open to all interested individuals. Ideas were culled from this session. Further, a print invitation to contribute was put in each faculty mailbox and several people even phoned to volunteer their ideas.

Committee members clarified, recorded and edited the ideas and made sure that non-technical language was used whenever possible. Instructionally valuable yet relatively straightforward and easy-to-implement applications (i.e., little or no technical support was required) were identified. Contributors were given the opportunity to read and correct the drafts before the final copies were entered into the system.

Ideabook - The Charter Version

A total of 43 ideas submitted by 27 contributors (including one team that submitted three ideas) made up the "charter version" of the ODC Technology Ideabook. But the committee sensed that this initial group represented a relatively small portion of faculty and staff who were actually using computer applications on a regular basis. It was apparent that there were many more good ideas already in use, just waiting to be "captured."

The resulting Ideabook Web site was designed for faculty and staff only. They enter the site by using their normal user name and the number on their college IDs. The Web environment, designed by ODCís Network Administrator, is a "no-frills," working site that will be enriched and updated every semester. It uses only one graphic (a light bulb), very little color and no motion. It can be accessed either on or off campus via the ODCís Home Page -- under the heading of Academics.

The ideas offered represent a wide range of instructional areas and approaches to promote student learning. For example:

  • A psychology faculty member uses an existing Web site to teach her students to cite references APA style; in addition, she has created several online case studies to teach statistical analysis skills.
  • A humanities faculty member uses e-mail to give feedback on students' first drafts of their term papers.
  • A chemistry professor uses simulation software to teach his students about the effects of pollution on the environment.
  • Another science faculty member uses simulation software to teach concepts in physiology.
  • A history professor uses the Web to stage a "Political Scavenger Hunt."
  • A communications professor uses PageMaker to enable his students to create brochures in his media design course.
  • A language professor links her students with e-mail pen pals at another university to promote their writing skills.
  • And faculty from many departments (business, education, sociology) have their students create and use PowerPoint presentations to analyze and present course-related material.

All of ideas are explained in sufficient detail so that other faculty members can adapt them to their own unique needs, if they so desire. A hyperlink to each contributor's e-mail enables folks to ask questions, request handouts (available for some of the ideas) or to ask the contributor to make a "house call" to help with a particular type of application.

A few individuals contributed non-instructional but useful ("Make Life Easier") ideas. For example, a math faculty member contributed an idea on how to use Excel to create a gradebook. An English professor put together one guide to computer classroom etiquette and another that explains how to use the computer as a chalkboard. And a language professor explained some computer "shortcuts" she had found useful in some programs.

Most ideas were submitted by individuals, but several came from a team. With a growing emphasis at the Ohio Dominican College on collaboration, it appears likely that as time g'es on more entries will be submitted by teams of faculty or staff members.

Search Capabilities

The Ideabook can be easily searched in a variety of ways, as noted on its "Welcome" page. First, by hitting the Contributor link, one gets an alphabetical list of contributors with their department/office and idea name.

Second, the Ideabook is searchable by the Department (or office) of the contributors. In this way, faculty can find out how colleagues in their own department or related disciplines are using the DLN. They can also see what technology-related activities their majors are experiencing in their general education courses.

Third, one may examine the Ideabook by Application and generate a list of ideas that involve e-mail, PowerPoint, Internet/Web, etc. Many ideas include two or more applications and therefore appear in more than one category. Several features ñ even though they are not exactly "applications" in the same sense -- are searchable in this way in order to provide information about their function in the DLN. It was surprising to the committee to examine, for example, the nine ideas that utilized e-mail. Although several had some similarities, on the whole the ideas represented quite different and creative uses of this feature.

The last feature is a Key Word search. One or two words may be used to identify ideas that involve such things as student portfolios, case methods or presentation techniques.

Future Implications

This set of 43 ideas is just the beginning. The Ideabook Committee plans to add 25-30 new ideas each semester and to update and remove existing entries as needed. Those interested in contributing can use a submission form that may be copied from the Web site. They can also contact a committee member for a brief interview.

The Ideabook attempts to facilitate collegiality on a college campus in learning about and sharing computer technology expertise in a non-threatening, grassroots way. It can help bring current, new and adjunct faculty up to speed on technology and, hopefully, stimulate them to try new ideas of their own.

The Ideabook is a readily available reference tool that overcomes barriers to time and space. The cost of this project has been minimal (small gift certificates from a local media store were given to contributors); faculty and staff have willingly contributed their time and energy to this enterprise. The Ideabook has generated a personalized pool of ideas that have been tailored specifically for the Ohio Dominican College curriculum and are designed to meet the unique needs of its student population.

It is our hope that the Ideabook is a valuable, renewable resource that will be well used in the years to come. It is a concept that can be easily replicated at other colleges or educational institutions wishing to spread the word about how technology can be used to enrich the teaching and learning process.

Note: The ODC Technology Ideabook is a site restricted to faculty and staff members of Ohio Dominican College. Please contact the author at dardigj@odc.edu who will be pleased to share forms, sample materials and further details of how to set up a similar site.

 

Jill Dardig, a professor of Education in the Division of Education and Physical Education, has been teaching special education at Ohio Dominican College for the past 19 years. She is the originator of the Ideabook.

E-mail: dardigj@odc.edu

The author wishes to thank Sr. Joan Franks, Dr. Ann Hall, Dr. John Marazita, Dr. Kate Riley, Ms. Michelle Sarff, Mr. Arron King and all the contributors for their enthusiastic work on the Ideabook project. Thanks are also due to President Sr. Mary Andrew Matesich and the ODC Administration for their support and encouragement.

This article originally appeared in the 12/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.

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