| 03.20.2018

Taking steps toward change – UI strives to integrate technology into academics in a way that works for students


When Blackboard freezes or VandalWeb crashes during registration, it”s easy to become frustrated with the technology the University of Idaho has worked to incorporate into its academic programs.

However, there is good news for students who find themselves frustrated with university websites, distance learning technology or a lack of technology in general.

In a meeting with The Argonaut”s Editorial Board on Friday, UI”s Vice President of Infrastructure Dan Ewart said the university is not only working to improve the technology currently used in classrooms, but also welcomes comments and concerns voiced by students.

When it comes to Blackboard, Ewart said the university purchases a contract with the company as a part of a state-wide contract.

Ewart said the university is working with other education institutions in the state to develop a request for proposal from companies offering similar software. The goal is to have an updated system in place summer 2016.

Ewart said the proposal for a new app platform is also underway with an estimated completion by fall 2016. The app would be geared to current students as opposed to a recruitment focus.

Ewart said many new technologies are also being established in buildings that are currently undergoing construction, such as the IRIC and the College of Education Building.

Although the distance learning software used in classrooms where professors telecommunicate with students at satellite campuses has not been as successful as the university hoped, Ewart said the next step in helping bringing UI into the future is evaluating the software currently being used and deciding on a program that would make for a better replacement if a replacement is necessary.

New technology in classrooms is necessary, but technology, regardless of how efficient it is, is a difficult thing to incorporate into a learning environment.

Even if the university opts to replace current systems with more functional and efficient programs, it”s important for students and professors to learn how to use this new technology.

Improved software for distance learning classes won”t be able to reach its maximum level of effectiveness if instructors don”t know how to use it.

When it comes to the integration of technology into an academic environment, students and faculty should remember that it”s important to meet administrators halfway – they are working to improve the kinds of technology available for use on campus and students, faculty and staff should in turn work to learn these systems and understand how to operate them.

ITS offers training on technology, but it”s up to individual instructors, departments and colleges to figure out the best way to incorporate it.

While it might not feel like UI”s technology is improving fast enough, it”s important to remember that incorporating technology into a learning environment is a difficult task, and the university is trying to be as proactive as possible while also trying to find the right fit in tech products.

Not only is finding websites, apps and other programs that work well for students, faculty and staff a tremendous challenge, but the university also faces the extra pressure of constantly trying to find new technologies and programs.

While there is room for improvement, UI is making great strides.


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