BVU education connected to latest computer trends

Monday, December 6, 2004

With the distinction of having the first wireless computer system in the United States, Buena Vista University of Storm Lake continues at the forefront of technological advancement.

That's what BVU adjunct faculty learned at a faculty development conference recently. Adjunct faculty from BVU's 15 centers around the state attended the conference which included workshops on assessment, technology use, classroom management, research, and teaching methods.

The Buena Vista Centers operate primarily with adjunct faculty who generally are either community college faculty or professionals who work outside academia and share their expertise by teaching in the BVU Centers program. Attorneys, accountants, and psychologists are among those who teach in the centers program.

It is BVU's technology, though, that makes the university stand head and shoulders above other institutions of higher learning. As a pioneer in distance learning, BVU has been at the leading edge of technology for the past several decades.

Matt Wagner, director of Teaching and Learning Technology, gives technical assistance to staff on campus and at the centers. Wagner's department supports such technologies as the Blackboard on-line learning program, burning CDs, assistance with Power Point presentations, and other instruction design technologies. Wagner said one of his major goals as director is to strengthen technological support for center faculty.

On-line programs have in fact become a staple for some institutions such as the University of Phoenix, The University of Maryland, and Capella University which offer complete graduate programs on-line. Buena Vista University is no different in that it sees the on-line educational market as the area of greatest potential growth for student numbers.

In discussing technological capabilities with faculty, Wagner offered some valuable tips.

It used to be that "the dog ate my homework" was an excuse. Wagner said students who use the excuse "the computer ate my homework" should be regarded with an equally jaundiced eye. "Electronic failures are not an excuse," Wagner said. He suggested that instructors tell students at the beginning of each term that computer problems will not be an acceptable excuse for missed assignments.

Discussion boards offer asynchronous learning, or discussions that are more similar to E-mail than chat rooms. In on-line courses, asynchronous learning takes the place of the traditional classroom discussion. Instructors can ask questions to which they want students to respond, and similarly, students can ask instructors questions for which they want clarification.

Just as some instructors have traditionally graded students on classroom discussion, instructors can grade students according to their bulletin board postings.

Wagner spoke of a "bread crumb trail" by which instructors and students can track discussions. A listing at the top of the screen tracks message exchanges. "It keeps you from getting lost," Wagner explained.

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