The Epiphany Project
Survey Results: Challenges Creating a Culture of Support 4/5
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 1997 10:57:05 -0500
From: (Dickie Selfe)
Subject: long-large U. challenges of TWT

These sets of statements about challenges were collected at the Jan. Epiphany institute in Washington DC and I think are very important. I've added some comments from time to time, but there's much more potential here than that. What I hope happens is that some of youse/y'all/you folks will elaborate on individual comments with further explications of the problems we face AND with possible solutions!

We might also try to pull common concerns and solutions out of these comments and create summaries for future TWT travelers.

We could also tie these comments to the social theories we find useful. The practices we see here will challenge those theories at the same time the theories offer us new ways to think about the problems.

I'm also assuming that the Epiphany crowd is picking these posts up and shaping them for their web pages. That means that these confessionals will become public. For that reason, and because I understand personally how statements of challenges can "get back", in unexpected and uncomfortable ways, to colleagues and administrators at an institution if you put your name to them, that I have left out all names and institutional affiliations. If you don't recognize your contribution, feel free to write me at <> to get a copy. Anyway here we go again.

Tomorrow I will try to send out the challenges mentioned by small colleges.



* 24,000 students, 1/2 undergraduates, very diverse: a dozen computer labs run centrally and 15 in departments, 8 high-end lecture rooms.
- so many classes in labs, students don't have easy access for out-of-class work
- making it easy, it's coming but ...
- email and discussion list need to be easier [to set up? to use?]
- web page & hypertext authoring more "intuitive"
- widely accessible hardware
- more support staff (some student, more professional)
- time for professional devel. with tools and pedagogy
- prepare for future
- multimedia, especially sound and graphic annotated texts (MM term papers)
- wireless and portable communication devises
- proper mix and integration of face-to-face, self study, collaboration, and use of distance learning technologies in our courses.
* Large Urban U., colleges and schools are independent
- Each unit operates separately on most issues => frustrating, esp. when selecting hardware and software: little consistency
1) time to learn, get exposed to, new technology. I'm eager to see what my options are but feel "out of touch". Coming to this institute introduced me to new software programs. Now I need time to learn how to implement the new tech.

2) Finding someone to support financially what I want. Luckily, our dean has supplied us with state-of-the-art equip, but software selections are vertically dictated. The $ needs to be justified by a larger group than 1 dept.
[Comment by Dickie: In this one set of challenges we are made aware of both the attractiveness of departmental autonomy (and thus distributed computing models) AND the frustrations of a totally distributed computing system.]
* State institution, Ph.D. granting, 19,000 students, strong Lit., Linguistics, Rhet/Comp programs.
- Lack of participation of contract faculty and tenure [and TT?] faculty in training, incorporation, or interest in how technology can enhance their teaching.
- understanding on administrators' parts of why the *right kind* of hard/software is so important to TWT. For example, upper admin. would prefer equipping one university lab with updated computers than to *update* a number of labs with memory upgrades, software, or other less drastic/less obvious equipment that is genuinely needed in that lab.
- Quite honestly, [one challenge is to establish] harmony between our very small computers and writing community in establishing goals, action plans, and workshops hoping to get our programs going.
* Urban community campus, Ph.D. granting, 26,000 grad. and undergrads; 80% of students work over 20 hrs per week; mix of traditional and nontraditional students: returning, adult working, and 1st generation students.
[comment by Dickie: we might now want to reverse definitions for nontrad. and traditional students. That change could mean substantial change in the direction of computing and investment in infrastructures.]
Challenges include:
- my own time to learn new technology, developing curricula, lobbying for software purchases, & training comps. teachers to teach with technology
- limited lab facilities for teaching in networked classrooms
- differential in student access to computing & the potential of discrimination against less privileged students if we infuse techn. throughout the composition curriculum.
* Midwest State Institution, 20,000 students, Ph.D. granting, primarily focused on teaching. Great interest voiced by administration in techn.
- Too often the above voiced interest = support for hardware, some software; support for university-wide secretarial staff; support for faculty development nonexistent
- Administrative support for initial & on-going training thru release time, $, recognizing a) it's important, and b) the initial efforts might produce some measure of chaos, discomfort & then less-than-glowing student eval.
- Some faculty very comfortable with TWT; most willing to learn, but don't know enough to start; a few absolutely resistant.
[comment by Dickie: we might want to stay away from the word "training" since we are hoping to do more than just train. We want commitments to explore, collaborate, and even rearrange content and the delivery of material, .... I suppose that could be called training, but it's not what most folks (administrators) think about when they hear that word.]
* West coast state technical university, 15,000 students, 1/2 male/female; many masters degrees; flagship institution with very good students: primarily white, middle-class, moneyed.
[comment by Dickie: we can spend too much time look at sites of institutional resistance and not enough time analyzing our personal dilemmas. This is a great set of introspections.]
1) overcoming my own fears of not being able to figure out the techn.
2) since I'd rather read (novels, poetry non-fiction), I'm afraid my interest for learning this new technology won't hold.
3) what if I get sucked in and give up reading (and writing)?
4) how will I keep up in this field when I have so little time as it is?
5) institutional support is not a problem; more important is personal commitment.
6) do I really want to change the way I do things?
Institutional challenges:
- few courses in Eng. (or humanities) taught with computers
- humanities very traditional--feel besieged by the technical
- little incentive for change in humanities
- campus has heavy teaching loads on quarter system: 12 units per quarter
* large state U., largely commuter
- getting departments from top down to recognize value of and rewards for using techn. Getting chairs and top admin. to be proactive
- Helping faculty overcome fear of breaking out of traditional methods of teaching and getting them to enhance traditional teaching.
- overcoming faculty fear of failure [fear of flying too?]
- getting departments to allow faculty to experiment and sometimes stumble w/out fear of losing chance to get tenure.
- overworked faculty finding time to learn and use new techn.
* 20,000 Midwestern U., urban, working class, undergrad/grad. w/ Ph.D. in Rhet/Comp.
1) Getting faculty to be invested, knowledgeable, excited, committed to integrating tech. into their teaching & research. Clearly a difficulty & long-time goal. One key problem: the most powerful & influential faculty on campus are often the older ones and are also most resistant to change, particularly technological change.
2) creating a [an institutional?] structure which promotes cooperation and communication among technical people, faculty, administrators, and students.
3) As a research Univ. with a strong teaching mission, we have to find ways to implement technology to satisfy multiple and conflicting purposes.
4) Cost. trying to figure out the most economical way to purchase soft/hardware.
5) staying ahead of the curve, myself.
* University in a bedroom community of a major metropolitan area, limited ethnic diversity, but wide range of cultures represented, laptop program, majority of students are non-traditional, older with full-time jobs.
- Universities and colleges, by and large, seem to operate as places that are separate from the communities that surround them. U. faculty are often well behind the community and local businesses in use of techn. How do we make connections with folks outside our little niche?
- How do we broaden our conversation & the people we feel the need to talk with? Seems to me that our limited vision of who we seek out to talk to is a micro version of the "trying to do it all yourself" syndrome & is related to our ability [or inability] to realize a holistic culture of support.
[comment by Dickie: Excellent questions and comments! From my perspective, isolationist tendencies are one of the great failings of post-secondary institutions and also one of the most dangerous for our longevity!]
* 28,000 students in urban commuter campus, average age 28, many part-time & returning students, majors of all kinds and many grad. programs.
- TRAINING: Many of our TR courses are taught by part-time faculty, some with other full-time jobs. Thus the problems become funding a time for the training, offering enough options to fit many schedules, and determining their needs. While we have technical support, it is not very adventurous
support. I want to find a way to support our creative teachers as they begin to explore the web and conferencing. One other problems with training is finding time for one of us to do the training in the midst of all our other responsibilities.
* Same U. as above
- finding ways to reward and compensate P/T faculty for attending developmental workshops. Our faculty are great, but when we can pay them so little there's a limit to what we can require or to what they'll find inviting.
- we have little access to labs for most of the year [for teacher workshops] since they are booked with classes.
- the labs have bolted tables in rows and much of the hardware is unreliable enough and some of our student consultants are unprofessional enough that teaching in the labs is getting a bad reputation among teachers. I hear more complaints about equipment failure than I hear excitement about teaching there.
[comment by Dickie: I agree that maintaining hardware and professional attitudes, and a reputation for support are essential, BUT aren't we, even when we succeed in our efforts to provide TWT sites, going to hear complaints more often than success stories? I often find myself hanging out in the lab during class sessions or when people are working on their own projects to make myself experience the visceral, positive teaching/learning practices that make it all worth while, and which I will NEVER hear about otherwise. What I need to start doing is sharing those observations with consultants and teachers so that they too will hear something other than complaints and break-down information.]
* Westcoast land grant U. of 17,000 students, 1200 fac. in a very small town. Students from 107 countries.
1) consumer-unfriendly Information Technology unit.
2) top-down technology provision - people who don't teach provide what THEY want teachers to have.
3) time for development
4) $
5) getting faculty to think as carefully about *instructional* computing as they do about research-oriented computing.
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