Information Technology Services Annual Report 2013
Learning Spaces

New learning spaces at leading universities use spatial arrangement and the latest technology to promote a pedagogical shift toward “active learning,” a term that describes a form of instruction using student-student and student-teacher collaboration, increased information access, non-traditional forms of student assessment and updated instructional delivery. Such a space might have round tables that seat four to nine students, each with its own network port and power supply, a teaching station at the center of the classroom and interactive whiteboards within reach of both students and the instructor. Research shows that when instructors adapt their pedagogical approach to new spaces by intentionally incorporating these techniques student learning improves.

Case Western Reserve is participating in an initiative to enhance students’ learning environments by remodelling a few select classrooms according to the active learning model in a way that will have a significant impact on how faculty teach and how students learn. This new learning model seeks to transform classroom spaces, not just to enhance the comfort of students, but also to promote a more active form of learning and the use of technology in everyday classroom situations. Two showcase rooms, 310 Nord Hall and 125 Mather Memorial, underwent significant renovation during the summer months and will be used by faculty and students during the new academic year. The rooms offer participants flexible seating options and ample table space for mobile devices. Writeable walls, dry-erase boards and touchscreen LCD monitors facilitate group collaboration and discussions. Both spaces are equipped with software and robust network connectivity that enable collaborators to wirelessly share or extend their screens on a group display.

To learn more about active learning environments, visit the classroom redesign blog and watch the video below.

Active Learning Fellowship

Because active learning requires more than technological innovation, 12 Case Western Reserve faculty members immersed themselves in updated pedagogies, new teaching methods and modern academic technologies for three weeks during July. They were selected from more than 20 highly qualified applicants for the first Information Technology Services Active Learning Fellowship. The recipients were:

  • Megan Holmes, Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences
  • Bernard Jim, SAGES, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Chris Cullis, Department of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Fey Parrill, Department of Cognitive Science, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Daniel Tisch, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Medicine
  • Hillel Chiel, Department of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Kim Emmons, Department of English, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Ron Hickman, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing
  • Sree N. Sreenath, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Case School of Engineering
  • Jennifer Carter, Department of Material Sciences, Case School of Engineering
  • Elizabeth Tracy, Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences
  • Long Longs Painter, Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences

Fellows designed or completely remodeled their course with techniques that require active involvement by the students and the instructor. Technology played a supporting role and enhanced learning without hindering instruction. The adoption of 21st-century teaching methods remains a cornerstone of Case Western Reserve’s strategic plan, which also champions the creation of active learning environments at the university.

Sponsored Program Application for Research Tracking and Administration (SPARTA)

The implementation of SPARTA is part of the university’s strategy to improve research activity and make its supporting administrative responsibilities more efficient. SPARTA will be implemented in order to improve the accuracy of proposals submitted and increase faculty and staff productivity by making information reusable and readily available when creating or updating proposals. For more information see: research.case.edu/Prop_Dev/Sparta.

Enhanced network maintenance services

The strategic vision of ITS is to generate capacity within the division to allow for innovation. To that end, there is a project in place to explore the possibility of outsourcing the maintenance and service to the network equipment and connections, which will allow internal resources to focus on new services for the university community. The project also will assist our other vendor and campus partners by decreasing the need for service desk support and improving response time.

Blackboard Learn upgrade

Blackboard Learn will be upgraded to Service Pack 11, which will result in some new and enhanced features for faculty and students:

  • A cleaner, more modern look, though the layout with which you are familiar will remain the same
  • A new Global Navigation menu that provides one-click access to all of your Blackboard sites
  • A new “My Blackboard” panel, accessible from the Global Navigation menu, that allows you to view your posts, grades, upcoming assignments and calendar from one place
  • An improved content editor to allow easier formatting, pasting of content and creation of math formulas
  • The new Video Everywhere feature that allows users to record video directly from their webcam and embed the clips into the content editor
  • A new Retention Center, which replaces the Early Warning Dashboard and allows instructors to monitor their students’ progress and performance within the course
  • New inline grading of assignments that eliminates the need to download submissions before grading them and allows instructors to view, provide feedback and grade assignments from within the browser
  • Streamlined discussion forums that are easier to read since all discussion threads are better organized and can be opened in one area

For more information on the Blackboard Learn system, go to case.edu/its/training/blackboardmain.html.

Enterprise Web content management (WCM) tool

Websites are essential to the communications and operations of organizations. The case.edu domain hosts thousands of Case Western Reserve websites managed by hundreds of individuals in decentralized offices, departments and organizations. A centrally implemented WCM tool frees up technically talented individuals from entering content on the Web, allows for easier and quicker content changes, keeps online content fresh, and affords the opportunity to gather metrics, all while helping our Web presence look and feel cohesive. In fiscal year 2013, ITS worked with colleagues across the university to investigate and make a recommendation for an enterprise content management solution. In fiscal year 2014, implementation of the system will begin. A common template will be created to provide a unified look across the university.

Enhancements to MediaVision Courseware

Exciting new changes to MediaVision Courseware will be available to the community in fiscal year 2014, including an integrated synchronous student response system and learner analytics that will track students’ use of video. Both of these features will allow faculty to better understand how their students are using MediaVision Courseware videos and better determine its value to them.

Creating a FISMA-compliant research environment

Case Western Reserve participates in research activities that require compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA). A FISMA-certified environment that hosts information and information systems is needed by the university to accomplish its assigned research mission, protect its assets, fulfill its legal and contractual responsibilities, maintain its day-to-day research functions, and protect individuals’ privacy and safety.

Case Western Reserve’s goal is to protect and ensure the integrity of data collected by researchers who work with human-subject data. As federal policies evolve to ensure the protection of personally identifiable information (PII), ITS will address these rules through the drafting and enforcement of information-security policies that apply to Case Western Reserve’s information and information systems.

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