Note: This entry continues my discussion of the need for a CUNY Center for Innovative Technologies and Learning.
E. Technology Evaluation and Testing
In a previous blog post, I wrote about the veritable “sea of instructional technologies” out there vying for attention, research, testing and funding. Offices throughout CUNY given the charge of supporting technology on campus are hard-pressed to systematically review the many vendors in just one category of instructional technology, from among the dozens of categories. This situation is prevalent throughout academia, as generally slow-moving institutions of higher education attempt to make sense of a plethora of new technologies, seemingly being introduced daily.
For an institution as large as CUNY, it would be advisable to have some central oversight in testing and vetting the most common instructional technologies. For example, Penn State has “hot teams” that are selected to review a specific technology category like student response systems. The team for this intensive review process consists of IT professionals and key stakeholders impacted by these instructional technologies. At the conclusion of the inquiry, they make a public report of their findings for specific stakeholders to consider. It should be noted that their suggestions are not mandated on departments, but instead, are used for information purposes only.
Last year, I convened a group of instructional technologists throughout CUNY. One of the recurring themes in that meeting was the need for support in sorting out how best to spend limited IT dollars for instructional technologies. Currently, CUNY has an ad-hoc group of technologists that meet occasionally for this purpose. “Skunkworks,” the name for this group, is well-intentioned, but under-resourced. It would be very appropriate to have a small group dedicated to this “Consumer Reports” function for new digital tools for teaching and learning.
F. Grant Opportunities for New Technologies
There is also a need for a centralized office to explore, coordinate, write, submit and oversee grant applications for university-wide technology initiatives. Whether the grant concerns creating digital learning objects for STEM courses, creating a program-sharing network among CUNY CTL Centers, planning a remediation online program in writing, or a myriad of other concepts, there needs to be one central point to coordinate these activities. It is asking too much from campuses to pursue such funding without active support from the central office.
I believe there is untapped potential for CUNY to secure technology grants that currently is not being explored. Grant- funding organizations are often looking for cross-campus collaborations to extend the impact of any project. With over twenty campuses, CUNY has a built-in collaborative structure for leveraging grant proposals. Unfortunately, most of the technology grants awarded to date are campus-specific. Not enough thought and planning is going into innovative, institutional funding opportunities. A CUNY office like the one I’m proposing, can go a long way to planning and coordinating such grant application.