Collaboration in Civic Spheres

UW aims to transform learning via cloud, Web and mobile

by Matt Rosenberg September 12th, 2012

The University of Washington is moving ahead with an ambitious campus technology initiative that aims to transform learning. Key components include electronic textbooks allowing collaborative exchanges among students, a cloud-based cache of teacher lectures with interactive features, a series of new mobile apps aimed at UW students, and the university’s entry into the “massive open online courses” arena led by the Coursera consortium of Stanford, Princeton, University of Michigan and other schools. A memo prepared for the UW Board of Regents at its regular meeting this Thursday by Vice-President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Kelli Trosvig, provides an overview.

To meet the needs of increasingly digitally-oriented students, faculty, staff and other stakeholders, the U has been conducting a series of surveys in the last several years. This is resulting, says Trosvig’s memo to The Regents, in adoption of “roughly 12 technologies – bought, built or borrowed – (that) are now on-premises and in the cloud, some in pilot project mode and others in full production.”

Some highlights of the “Two Years to Two Decades, Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century Initiative” follow.

  • Pilot projects began last spring and are continuing with eText electronic textbooks that have collaborative features allowing students to help each other understand the material.
  • The cloud-based Tegrity tool allows professors to post their presentations for easy recording by students on their computing devices without special software or hardware. Students can annotate and bookmark the content and teachers can free up classroom time for other purposes. Tegrity is being rolled out on all three campuses – Seattle, Tacoma and Bothell.
  • The university’s IT division is developing several mobile apps that students wanted, and which are said to be coming this fall. MyUWMobile will give students a convenient mobile hub to access class schedules and class Web sites. A student-funded app will highlight best campus study spots.
  • Coursera@UW will align the university with a leading-edge distance learning company and platform to offer no-cost UW courses online to anyone anywhere with Web access, for free, but this “may be extended by self-sustaining, credit-bearing versions taught by UW faculty” through the school’s continuing education program. Three to four courses are expected to be offered this fall via Coursera@UW.

Some of the additional components of the “Two Years to Two Decades” initiative will seek to make administrative aspects of campus life simpler for students and teachers, or are already doing so. The GradePage electronic grading system was adopted in 2009 and by last fall had made paper grading forms unnecessary. Now 94 percent of final grades are turned in on time, versus 75 percent in Winter, 2009. As a result, administrative work to facilitate scholarships, honors and financial aid has been made more efficient, according to Trosvig’s memo.

New technology is also coming to help students better manage their financial aid. This will allow “better messaging and self-service,” as well as “clearer status and actions for online award acceptance, rejection or reduction” of aid, and improvements in tracking of required documents and a student’s total debt accumulation.


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