Monday, April 21, 2014
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BU retains tech. budget, works to increase services

Boston University was among hundreds of universities not making budget cuts in technology in 2012, making investments in services such as wireless coverage, classroom technology and information systems.

“For the fiscal 2012 year, we did not receive a budget cut,” said Tracy Schroeder, vice president for Information Services and Technology at BU. “The technology budget wasn’t cut because, frankly, we needed to make investments in certain technology. We had major services that needed to be made available to faculty, staff and students.”

Technology budget cuts have decreased at 543 universities, with only 27 percent of schools reporting cuts in 2012, compared to 50 percent in 2009, according to a survey Wednesday by the Campus Computing Project.

As BU continues to improve the quality of research and education, technology also needs to expand their commitment to those goals, Schroeder said.

In the 2012–13 academic year BU is using technology funding to improve the basics of computer projection, audio-control systems, date projection and data networking, which Schroeder said she considers essential to a classroom.

“It’s all the same as a chalk board today,” she said.

Although the technology budget was not cut, BU did conduct some targeted savings in areas such as printing and computer lab initiatives, Schroeder said.

Lauren Hess, the program administrator for BU’s Center for Excellence & Innovation in Teaching, said her department is also working to introduce innovative technologies in the classroom.

“The world of education is changing, and technology indisputably is playing some role in that,” she said. “The bottom line is that even down to how we communicate is based on technology, and it’s only going to become more prevalent.”

College of Arts and Sciences sophomore Austin Howard said he has noticed the technology efforts on campus.

“I was really impressed freshman year with how good the Wi-Fi access, PowerPoints and audio speakers were, which was very unlike my high school in Vermont,” he said.

The Center, which is introducing the faculty to ways to improve their teaching through technology, did not receive a budget cut this year either, Hess said. She said she has not seen a budget cut at the Center since she began working there in October of 2010.

The Center is using its budget to focus on both Blackboard and ePortfolio, both of which make academic documents easily accessible among students and professors online, Hess said.

“This way you can see how students have progressed over time because it’s all about making learning visible,” Hess said about ePortfolios.

With the absence of technology budget cuts, colleges might be looking to consider Massive Open Online Courses, which can engage anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 students through video teaching, said Aaron Stevens, a computer science and economics professor.

Stevens said lecturing in a classroom is a thing of the past. Today it is possible to deliver a lesson by video.

“The classroom should not be about lecturing,” Stevens said. “The classroom should be about problem solving and application, and I think that MOOC’s is a very unique idea.”

Technology is the key to innovative learning and fosters communication necessary for collaboration, Stevens said.

“When we can make something more applied and students can experiment to discover an answer, that’s a much more valuable learning experience than lecturing,” he said.

Allee DeFronzo, a CAS junior, said the technology used in her classes helps her stay on top of her course work.

“Technology helps when you can review PowerPoints from class when you can’t get all of the notes from lecture,” she said. “Using the Internet as a resource is also really helpful because you can look up terms you’re not sure about.”

School of Management sophomore Elysa Schwarz said BU does a good job making technology available for students with conveniences such as the iPhone BU Bus app, the new tap BU ID cards and the online laundry management.

However, Schwarz said the convenience of technology can also make it easier for students to lose focus.

“Technology can make learning things a lot easier, but can also be distracting because it makes multi-tasking easier,” she said, “and it can also be difficult to focus on one thing.”

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