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The attached MLA "Guidelines for Evaluating Computer-Related Work in the Modern Languages" offer a starting point for our Department's dialogue on the matter. These guidelines constitute a gathering of useful suggestions -- not the definitive prescription -- for arguing how one's computer related work contributes to teaching, research/creativity, and service. As technology and its applications evolve, so will the means of presenting and evaluating how faculty apply that technology in their professional lives. Current guidelines will no doubt give way to future guidelines revised and renewed to reflect evolving standards.

At the moment, however, how do faculty present and evaluate computer related work in our discipline? First, one can only rely on parallels with judging more traditional means of teaching, research/creativity, and service. In each area faculty are asked to provide evidence of how their efforts produced salutary results in the classroom, in research and/or creative efforts, and in service to the University and profession. In short, faculty must make the case that computer related work has produced demonstrable results. Among other things, faculty must show how computer related work enhances students' learning, extends their scholarly and/or creative efforts, and promotes service.

In some areas, these parallels with conventional modes of teaching, research and creative production, and service prove particularly useful. For example, making the case for the quality of a publication in an on-line journal which relies on referees to make editorial choices ought to be relatively easy. However, other areas, such as contributions to on-line discussion groups and listserv postings, provide less obvious parallels and thus require further documentation and explanation by the faculty member. In general, the newer the technology and its application, the more challenging the task of articulating their usefulness to the profession. It is incumbent upon the faculty member to present a coherent and persuasive case.

In fact, the MLA guidelines emphasize that the individual faculty member is obligated to explain the theory, usefulness, and intellectual rigor of his/her computer related work -- and to provide evidence of the same. This is nothing more than what is asked of faculty members working with more conventional means, but it will require faculty to present this information -- some of which may be technical -- to a faculty audience with various levels of computer expertise.

Guidelines for Evaluating Computer-Related Work in the Modern Languages

MLA Committee on Computers and Emerging Technologies

in Teaching and Research

(Source: October, 1996)

The Statement on Computer Support, adopted by the Modern Language Association in 1993, highlights the importance of new electronic technologies for the humanities and provides the basis for departmental and institutional support of modern language faculty members who use such technologies and integrate them into their work. As the statement notes, Generating, gathering, and analyzing texts electronically is becoming a necessity for all education, especially for the contributions made by the humanities." As a supplement to the 1993 statement, the following guidelines address means of evaluating the scholarship, teaching, and service of faculty members who study, develop, and use electronic technologies in their work.

Because the role of computer technologies in the study of language, literature, and writing is evolving, departments wishing to hire and retain faculty members centrally concerned with the application of these emerging technologies to the humanities need to consider the tasks, support, and evaluative procedures involved. And faculty members who pursue computer-related work as part of their formal assignments should be prepared to make explicit the results, theoretical basis, and intellectual rigor of their work, as well as its relevance to the discipline. The following guidelines, which deal with both the hiring and promotion processes, are designed to help departments and faculty members build productive working relations, effective evaluation procedures, and means of disseminating the results of computer-related work.

Guidelines for Search Committees and Job Candidates

When departments seek candidates with computer expertise or when candidates wish to have such work considered an important part of their positions, there should be an initial understanding of the recognition given to computer-related work and of what electronic facilities are available or planned.

Departments should ensure that computer-related work can be evaluated within their tenure and promotion procedures. In particular, search committees should be prepared to discuss the following with all candidates

As candidates discuss the teaching, scholarship, and service responsibilities of an academic position, it is important that they ask questions, such as the following, about the role of electronic technologies in the department and the university: Are technical support staff members available to the department's faculty members and students? Does the department plan to undertake initiatives in the use of electronic technologies? What access do faculty members and students have to computer facilities and resources?

Guidelines for Reappointment, Tenure, and Promotion Reviews

Computer-related work, like other forms of scholarship, teaching, and service, should be evaluated as an integral part of a faculty member's dossier, as specified in an institution's guidelines for reappointment, promotion, and tenure. Faculty members are responsible for making a case for the value of their projects, articulating the intellectual assumptions underlying their work, and documenting their time and effort. In particular, faculty members expecting recognition for computer-related work should ensure that their projects remain compatible with departmental needs, as well as with criteria for reappointment, tenure, and promotion. Periodic reviews provide an opportunity to assess the match between a faculty member's scholarly and pedagogical development and the department's needs and expectations.

Because appropriate roles for computer technology in the study of language, literature, and writing are still emerging, faculty members should be prepared to explain

Documentation of projects might include internal or external funding, awards and professional recognition, and reviews and citations of work either in print or in electronic journals.

For subsequent evaluation of professional service, faculty members should maintain a record of the duties involved in activities such as organizing and managing a lab facility,increasing the meaningful use of electronic media in instruction, training student aides or faculty colleagues, and moderating an electronic discussion group.

Pedagogy and scholarship involving technology often entail collaborative or interdisciplinary work. Departments need to find appropriate ways to evaluate the faculty member's role in such work. This process may include finding evaluators with expertise in both specific disciplines and computer technology; these experts are best qualified to evaluate and translate accomplishments in a rapidly changing field. Sources that may help departments choose appropriate evaluators include the editorial boards of computer-related journals (e.g., CALICO Journal, Computers and the Humanities, Computers and Composition, Hypermedia), the committees focusing on electronic technologies in appropriate scholarly and professional organizations (e.g., the MLA, CCCC, ACTFL, the AATs, NCTE), the courseware review sections of modern language journals (e.g., CALICO Journal, Computers and the Humanities, Computers and Composition, Foreign Language Annals, French Review, Hispania, IALL Journal, IDEAL: Issues and Developments in English and Applied Linguistics, Language Learning Journal, Literary and Linguistic Computing, the Northeast Conference Newsletter, the Institute for Academic Technology's Newsletter and Research Reports, TESOL Journal, Tongues Untied, Unterrichtspraxis), Humanities Computing Yearbook (Oxford UP), and the latest edition of the CALICO Resource Guide (Durham: CALICO).


Statement on Computer Support

(Source: October, 1996)

Computer technology is quickly becoming indispensable for teaching and research in language, literature, writing, and linguistics. Electronic media are already essential for the representation, storage, and transmission of knowledge generally and for knowledge in the language-and text-centered humanities particularly. Computer technologies make possible ways of learning, teaching, writing, and conducting research that have never before been available. Specific types of text-based research and literary and linguistic analysis rely on computers for concordances, searches, statistical analysis, modeling, and access to literary or linguistic databases. Computers with speech and interactive-video capability are increasingly useful for the language laboratory, as are classrooms with word-processing and text-sharing capabilities for the teaching of writing. The increasing availability of electronic texts and of dramatic literature in videodisk format makes the computer equally useful to the teacher of literature. In addition, word-processing facilities both for scholarship and for the preparation of teaching materials are no longer a luxury, since the computer greatly facilitates manuscript preparation, including the creation of indexes, bibliographies, and camera-ready copy. Insofar as resources permit, colleges and universities should recognize and support these changes.

Guidelines for Access and Support

1. Personal computer and printer. A shared computing facility is usually not an adequate substitute for a personal computer or workstation in the office. Faculty members in language, literature, writing, and linguistics also require connections to international networks and easy access to nearby printers. Routine maintenance and replacement of outdated equipment in a timely and cost-effective manner are essential.

2. Choice of hardware and software. Faculty members should play a major role in decisions about equipment and software purchases. The hardware and software configuration should be in line with the state of the art and appropriate to the needs and preferences of the faculty member. Among the tools that humanities scholars may need are high-performance computers, scanners, digital and optical storage devices, audio devices, and special software and hardware suitable for multiple languages or specialized applications.

3. Technical support and training. Faculty members and students need access to basic training and support in using electronic technologies. Institutional support should go beyond strictly technical training. As Brian Hawkins suggests, This means providing support by people who understand both the technology and the methodologies and disciplinary content of a given faculty member. This would constitute a new kind of support person in most of our computing organizations (31).

4. Computer networks. All members of the academic community, from undergraduates to senior faculty members, should have access to computer networks, which facilitate use of electronic text repositories, library catalogs and materials, databases, electronic mail, and professional bulletin boards.

5. Integrating technology into teaching and learning. Where possible and appropriate, colleges and universities should begin designing, implementing, and preparing for routine administration of electronic classrooms, including multimedia classrooms, starting with equipment that can be wheeled into a traditional classroom for the teaching of language, composition, and literature. Students deserve to be taught using the technologies widely available outside the university. Just as important is equitable student access to the computer facilities necessary to course work.

6. Development of educational materials and tools. Because faculty members are in the best position to know what software tools are appropriate for humanities education and research, colleges and universities should actively encourage them to participate in the development of computer-based educational and professional materials. Integral to the development process should be a realistic assessment of the human and other resources required.

7. Recognition of contributions by faculty members. Faculty members who develop computer-based educational applications and scholarly works should be recognized for their curricular, pedagogical and scholarly contributions. Electronic material should be evaluated as other comparable materials would be, through external review by experts as part of the review process. Colleges and universities should develop a written policy concerning the evaluation of electronic publications in the tenure and promotion process so that faculty members can make decisions about appropriate ways to distribute their research (see Burstyn). In addition, if faculty members are expected to provide computer support within the department, they should be appropriately compensated or rewarded.

8. Responsibility for graduate student training. Graduate students should be trained in the potential uses of electronic technology as an aid to teaching and research, including (as appropriate) desktop publishing, database and spreadsheet programs, computer-assisted language learning, authoring systems and tools, hypertext, telecommunications, and access to the networks and to databases. Such training should also include the use of electronic technology as a tool for language and text analysis.

Generating, gathering, and analyzing texts electronically is becoming a necessity for all education, especially for the contributions made by the humanities. Therefore, while immediate implementation of all these recommendations may not be feasible at small colleges or a schools facing financial difficulties, all institutions of higher education should develop long-term plans for working toward these goals.

Works Cited

Burstyn, Joan N., ed. Desktop Publishing in the University. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1991.

Hawkins, Brian L. Preparing for the Next Wave of Computing on Campus. Change Jan.-Feb. 1991: 24-31.

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Last revised February 6, 1997