Instructional Technology at DePaul

Winter 1998 Update




  1. Introduction
  2. The institutionalization of instructional technology is a long, slow process consisting of cultural and practical change. Development and implementation of instructional technologies affords the opportunity to rethink what is done in the classroom, as well as to redefine "the classroom." Technology in higher education can provide improved learning experiences and increased learning opportunities for students. These enhancements come at significant cost, for they require a technological infrastructure that is up-to-date and well maintained, human resources to assist with the development, implementation, and evaluation of technologies and their impact on learning, and innovative faculty willing to trade time for sometimes dramatic classroom rewards.

    Academic Technology Development (ATD) at DePaul University is a department within Information Services with three specific objectives. First, ATD offers faculty development programs that focus on good pedagogical use of instructional technology. These programs range from two-hour seminars to twenty-week courses to two-day conferences. Second, ATD designs and develops software tools and environments that will enhance learning both on campus and off campus. Third, ATD designs research programs to evaluate the effect of developed or adopted technologies on learning. Generating a software product is only an intermediate goal. Increasing students' ability to work and learn through innovative tool development and use is the true goal. Working in close partnership with faculty, ATD research staff and instructional designers seek to answer the question: "What is the specific measurable result of this product?"

    This document provides a brief update on the activities of Academic Technology Development department. Information on product utilization, tools and environments under development, faculty development endeavors, and upcoming research plans is provided. Current information on all products and projects can be found on the ATD web site at:


  3. Learning and Communication Tools

Learning and communication tools are critical elements necessary to support any instructional environment, whether the environment is an on-campus course or a distance course. To this end, a suite of tools has been developed or adopted for broad use at DePaul University.

    1. Utilizing Tools
    2. To be able to determine how important instructional technology has become to the teaching goals and mission of DePaul University, it is important to compare current use with past use. In January, 1996, very little instructional technology was in use. Faculty in certain schools were using PowerPoint to present lecture notes and outlines in their courses, but that was largely the extent of common use. Today, the picture is quite different. The table below summarizes major sets of tools that have become available to faculty and students in the last two years and measures of their use.


      January 1996

      February 1998

      Student e-mail

      Only students with courses requiring a hawk account and those who subscribed to DePaul Online had e-mail through the University.

      As of May, 1996, every student is eligible to receive and use a DePaul e-mail account, free of charge.

      Group Communication Support

      Usenet news was the only group electronic communication support tool installed at DePaul for use of out-of-class discussions and small group work.

      HyperNews and Majordomo were installed in Spring 1996. In Fall, 1997, these two electronic communication systems provided group communication support to 92 courses.

      Course Web Pages and Syllabi

      Only a handful of faculty used the World Wide Web to make syllabi, course notes, and other information available to students.

      266 syllabi for Winter '98 courses are available on Condor, DePaul's main web server.

    3. Supporting Increased Utilization
    4. The table above shows utilization of baseline technologies to support teaching and learning at DePaul. These baseline technologies are provided as common tools of which almost any faculty member can take advantage. While availability of these baseline tools is important, faculty need assistance in effectively selecting and incorporating these and other tools into their curriculum and teaching style. To provide such assistance, Academic Technology Development launched a seminar series that is repeated each quarter in December, 1997, called Making the Most Of… The Making the Most Of… series is designed to help faculty identify pedagogical problems in their classes and make appropriate technology decisions that will mitigate or completely solve those problems. The series does not teach faculty how to use the technologies discussed (workshops provided by Customer Technology Services fills that role) but, rather, focuses on the pedagogical aspects of the technologies and strategies for their effective use. Since December, 1997, over eighty DePaul faculty have attended one or more of the seminars in the series. Currently-offered seminars include Making the Most Of: Electronic Communications, Presentation Technologies, Course Web Pages, and Electronic Rosters. Additional seminars in the series will be added when new tools are developed and/or adopted.

    5. Developing New Tools
    6. In addition to the common tools discussed above, ATD staff are constantly developing new tools and models that can be used across disciplines in the institution. The development process for all new tools is a joint process between faculty, ATD instructional designers, and ATD technical staff. Extensive research into the discipline and technology literature, as well as products currently on the market, is completed prior to all development. Two new tools are currently under development: Annotations (due for full release in April, 1998); ExamMaker (due for full release in July, 1998).

        1. Annotations
        2. The Annotations application is a web-based peer/expert critique environment that enables faculty to model the expert review process through commentary and allows students to practice that process. Annotations accepts plain and HTML text, as well as multimedia objects. Each paragraph or object is paired with a commentary input box where faculty and/or students enter annotations about the object being shown. This project, originally requested by the Writing Center to support off-campus writing assistance, is currently being tested by Writing Center faculty. In the spring, faculty from Fine Arts, Music, Commerce, and SNL will use the application in its first, full-release version. A demonstration version of the Annotation application can be found at Login as guest and use the password guest.

        3. ExamMaker

      The ExamMaker application will support faculty creating, administering, and grading exams over the web. Exam questions are stored in a database for easy manipulation and reuse by authenticated faculty. Tests are generated from questions in the exam bank, and delivered to authenticated students over the web. Student responses are stored in a secure database. When possible, as with multiple choice, true-false, and fill-in-the-blank questions, tests are graded immediately by the ExamMaker's reporting engine. Questions that cannot be auto graded are formatted for easy print out by the instructor. The reporting engine produces descriptive statistics including item analyses and measures of central tendency. The ExamMaker application was requested by faculty in several departments as a means of doing online testing for both campus-based courses and distance courses. Faculty in Commerce, SNL, and LA&S will beta test the ExamMaker application beginning in May. A full-release version of the product is anticipated in early July.

    7. Researching Tool Effects
    8. Although utilization data is valuable, it only vaguely speaks to the usefulness of a specific tool, not to the tool's effect on learning. For this reason, ATD has developed a significant research plan that involves two individual studies to be carried out and completed by July.

        1. Effects of Communication Tools
        2. The first and largest study, set to begin in the spring quarter, examines the measurable effects of Majordomo and HyperNews on learning and classroom quality. Anecdotal evidence says that student work is of a higher quality in classes where rich collaboration opportunities are available outside of class via these two communication support tools. Additionally, faculty report that classroom time is more focused and worthwhile because lengthy topical discussions have already occurred outside of class. Data will be collected from five course sections using HyperNews and Majordomo and compared with five identical course sections not using these technologies. Student work in these sections will be evaluated blindly, then compared to determine what, if any effect can be attributed to the communications technologies.

        3. Effects of Virtual Tours

The second study to be conducted this spring examines the effects of virtual tours for CS 361. Virtual tours will be made available to a randomly assigned group from the class. These tours will be available for these students to use at any time during the quarter. A second randomly assigned group will have the opportunity to go on a real tour of the same site shown in one of the virtual tours. The field trip group will not have access to the virtual tours. The third group will go on the actual field trip and have access to the virtual tours. Midterm and end-of-class evaluations will be constructed to determine what effect, if any, the real tour, the virtual tour, and the combination of the two had on learning.

  1. Development of Learning Environments

Learning environments, in the electronic world, are comprised of rich, multimedia content, learning tools such as demonstrations and simulations, and support for collaboration between students, teachers, and professionals in the field. Learning environments, at their best, are learner-centered (not teacher or expert centered), provide a rich set of virtual activities to motivate and engage the learner, and offer communication opportunities with many different kinds of people. A learning environment is not a "course in a box" or "Doc in a box". Doc-in-a-box-style courses are completely teacher centered (there is some expert telling you what you need to know) and use the same pedagogical strategies found in traditional, lecture-style classrooms. Research indicates that while all learners benefit from a student-centered learning environment, it is those students who are unable to succeed in the traditional classroom who gain the most from learner-centered environments. Thus our primary direction in the development of courses to be delivered all or in part online is to develop learner-centered learning environments. The sections below highlight four of the twenty-five learning-environment development projects currently going on in ATD.

    1. 361 Project
    2. ATD is working with faculty from a variety of schools and departments in the development of learning environments to support traditional campus-based learning as well as distance learning. A model learning environment has been developed via the CS361 project. This project, designed to provide ancillary supports for an on-campus course, at first, with the ultimate goal of offering the course completely online later on, contains rich content and links to other sources on the web, simulations and demonstrations that enable the learner to interact with abstract principles and concepts in a way that makes them real, and collaboration tools that will link students with practicing professionals in the telecommunication and data networking industry. The 361 project makes use of virtual tours and virtual interviews to provide students with field trips and guest speakers via the web. The simulations, demonstrations, interviews, and tours, are all components that will be used in other learning environments under development. The 361 project is scheduled for completion in June, 1998. You can view the current project pieces at:

    3. Video in the Corporation
    4. ATD is working with Will Johnston, faculty in SNL, on an online course called Video in the Corporation. This course critically examines how video is produced and exploited in corporations for customer and employee training, advertisement, and corporate communication. Virtual interviews and tours will be a large portion of this project, as well a simulation that enables students to plan and set up a video shoot, working within budget and physical constraints. This project is due for completion in August, 1998.

    5. Geography of Chicago
    6. Professor Don Dewey (Geography) is working with ATD staff to transform this Saturday-consuming course into an online course that will enable students to prepare for actual site visits to geographically important locations and buildings in and around Chicago. By using virtual tour technology and on-line data collection worksheets, students will be able to study critical aspects of a site and organize their data collection needs prior to visiting the site. This project is due for completion in July, 1998.

    7. Early American Archives

Ellen Eslinger, Associate Professor of History, is working with ATD to develop pictorial archives of early American culture in an effort to give students authentic experience in historical analysis. By examining the material possessions of a family or town, students will be able to make informed judgments about the era, the relative wealth, and the cultural values of the inhabitants. Expert interviews with American historians will model the analysis process for students to follow. This project is due for completion in July, 1999.

  1. Faculty Development

In addition to the Making the Most Of… seminars described above, two groups of faculty are currently involved in intensive development efforts to reshape the way they teach on campus and begin thinking about the way they could lead an online-only class.

    1. The Faculty Institute
    2. The Faculty Institute, sponsored by Academic Affairs and ATD, is a twenty-week course in the design of online learning environments. Faculty from Commerce, LA&S, Theatre, and SNL make up the fifteen participants of this first institute. Faculty applied to the institute through a formal application process that included the articulation of a project to be completed by the end of the institute. Faculty are learning about development tools for web-delivered courses as well as theories and strategies for effective use of instructional technologies. Faculty projects will be highlighted at the spring instructional technology conference on May 15th and 16th, 1998.

    3. The SNL Faculty Institute

The SNL Faculty Institute, sponsored by SNL, Academic Affairs, and ATD, is a close copy of the standard faculty institute, except that issues unique to SNL have been incorporated. Discussions and development of competence-based/outcome-based learning environments is planned, as are tools for measuring competence in a given area. The SNL Faculty Institute runs through the end of June, and all ten faculty participants are to have completed a module or entire course for online delivery.

  1. Conclusion

The activities described in this report indicate two clear characteristics about DePaul University. First, through leadership, support, and resource provision at the executive level, DePaul has come a long way in a short while. The use of communications technologies is steadily rising and more and more faculty are taking part in the Making the Most Of… seminars to learn how to effectively incorporate these and other tools available at DePaul. Second, faculty interest in and commitment to the development of learner-centered learning environments through the two faculty institutes and ATD two-day conferences suggests that the pattern which emerges at other schools is also emerging here; early adopter faculty, when given the chance to showcase their products and share their stories, lead their colleagues into these new areas. ATD is committed to supporting DePaul faculty in this exciting growth period, ensuring that real learning gains are the result of everyone's efforts, and setting our sights on the future of education at DePaul.