Through diverse experiences and studies, I have acquired skills that have proven beneficial to each subsequent service rendered. Perhaps most fortuitous was the opportunity to work with the pioneers of modern technology in higher education at the Institute for Academic Technology (IAT).
An IBM grant enabled Bill Graves, Jim Noblitt, and Diana Oblinger to create this think-tank to attract and inspire forward-thinking technologists and educators to explore new ways in which to leverage learning and understanding through multimedia computer technology, just a few years before the Internet became a household word.
I was privileged to work with Jim Gogan, Alan Blatecky, Doug Short, Ladnor Geissinger, and Mariea Noblitt along with other pioneers and visitors often traveling from distant campuses to participate in technology briefings and courseware authoring workshops. When the need arose to support our clients who needed to integrate technology into physical classroom space, I found myself in the right place at the right time.
After three years at the IAT, the time came to find a way to apply the theoretical ideas about learning space that I had accumulated. The opportunity to pursue a proof-of-concept arose when I was invited to head up the classroom operations at the University of North Carolina.
From the moment I arrived at Carolina’s campus, I was committed to finding ways to make teaching and learning with technology effortless and trouble-free. My work focused on the development of systems, processes and interrelationships in three key areas:
- Instructional support. Protracted funding cycles for new technology made it essential to understand our constituents’ needs and trends in instructional technology. Our predecessors invested heavily in field-of-dream technologies that often committed us to costly, trouble-prone systems that were difficult to maintain. Furthermore, many of our constituents felt that such luxuries were designed for an elite few, creating inequities in access to technology. I was committed to finding ways to make instructional technology affordable and user-friendly, thereby making it universally accessible. To begin this quest, we had to engage faculty and be good listeners. Moreover, when glitches occurred, we had to be adroit first-responders.
- Planning and design. It is insufficient simply to acquire an understanding of learning objectives and technological requirements. At the IAT, we discovered that, while many institutions were able to articulate this perspective, the cultural bridge between academics, IT and Facilities was not sufficiently robust to support the successful development of hybrid learning space. I set about to ensure that we arrived at the project table with the data to support our proposals, as well as knowledge and nomenclature needed to articulate the vision to any audience with credibility.
- Organizational development. Long before “enterprise computing” became a buzzword among campus IT, many of us recognized the passing of the git’er done, mom-n-pop-shop way of doing things. In the wild west days of campus technology, we simply “did what needed to be done” in a moment-to-moment existence. Seldom did we take the time to document what went wrong or how we fixed it. Often, we had to re-discover last week’s solution through a time-consuming regimen of trial-and-error. Such homespun technical support may have been adequate (and in some cases appreciated) for the elite few, but it would never scale as we approached universal access. I set about to develop in-house skills; document and refine best-practices and business processes; establish working relationships with campus service units and vendors. I helped to establish advisory committees for classrooms and student-centric technologies.
The following sections provide examples of authorship, research, and teaching from past projects.