A New Focus on Technology in Teaching and Research

A New Focus on Technology in Teaching and Research

By Sean Smith
Chronicle Editor

The University will establish on Oct. 1 a new department to better assist faculty in using technology for teaching and research, including in the area of media development.

Known as Academic Technology Services, the organization will work with individual faculty as well as the University's technology consultants to help professors obtain hardware, software or other technology-related materials and assistance. It will consolidate services provided through Information Technology and the Center for Media and Instructional Technology, formerly the Office of Audiovisual Services.

ATS, which will report to the academic vice president, also will collaborate with a soon-to-be-created Academic Technology Advisory Board and existing groups such as the Faculty Microcomputing Resource Center and Academic Technology Committee.

"Our goals for this new organization include providing improved technology support for all faculty members," said Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculties John J. Neuhauser. "We want faculty to have the support they need to effectively incorporate digital technology into the classroom and their own research. We will also work diligently to create an organization that transparently provides technology support. Heightened collaboration with Information Technology will be absolutely essential for the success of this venture."

Associate Vice President for Student Information Systems Rita Owens, the new organization's acting director, said, "The idea is to provide seamless and streamlined support for faculty. Whether it's Web needs and resources, working with streaming video, utilizing a statistical analysis package, we want to encourage faculty to make use of technology inside and outside of the classroom. Even faculty who have considerable experience with technology may be unsure as to how they can best integrate it into their teaching and research.

"This new organization should help faculty at all levels of expertise more easily find what they need."

Executive Vice President Patrick Keating said, "The concept of the Academic Technical Service organization is a sound one. The fact that an organization exists to support faculty in their instructional and research endeavors is important. Equally important is the fact that faculty will have significant influence over the direction of this organization through the Academic Technology Committee and that under the direction of Rita Owens, the group reports to the academic vice president.

"Technology will play an increasing role in the life of our faculty. This organization will see to it that technology is an enabler for those activities. Our Information Technology group will work closely with this new organization to insure the proper infrastructure and network services are in place to ensure success."

Information Technology Director Mary Corcoran said, "IT is a full partner in this initiative. We're committed to supporting the academic mission of Boston College in any way possible, and the Academic Technology Services department represents what we think is an innovative means of meeting that obligation."

Assoc. Prof. Michael Connolly (Slavic and Eastern Languages), who assisted in designing the new organization, said ATS offers an opportunity for faculty to cultivate the technological support essential for teaching and research activities.

"The technology consultants do a fine job in the area of desktop and field support," said Connolly, coordinator of the Faculty Microcomputing Resource Center. "But a faculty member needs someone who can help answer the question, 'How do I use this stuff to do my job?' It can be difficult to see a connection between the University's strategic planning for technology and the day-to-day, week-to-week use of those resources in instruction and research. Ideally, ATS can serve as the operative link in that process."

This semester will be a formation period for ATS, said Owens, who will work primarily with Ted Gaiser, director of Information Technology's Research Services department, Center for Media and Instructional Technology Director Yoshio Saito and Technology Consultants Manager Raymond Rivera.

"We'll be creating the organization, sorting out roles and responsibilities and, more important, soliciting comments and suggestions from faculty," said Owens.

In a related move, Owens said, an advisory board for ATS also will be formed this fall. Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael Smyer will chair the board, which will establish policies and standards for academic computing support as well as advise Owens and her staff in the development and operations of ATS. The committee's members will be announced shortly.


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