In this Issue:
In the last issue of On Course, I mentioned a series of meetings my office held under the rubric of Going Forward; in part looking at our progress in ongoing initiatives. I am pleased in this issue to share with you some important news about our efforts on the technology front, particularly in the area of learning environments.
The SUNY Learning Network, the University’s online education arm, has had an unprecedented year, recording 53,638 enrollments for the 2002-2003 academic year. This growth is indicative of the high comfort level of our faculty with academic technology, and the University’s responsiveness to the growing demand among students for anytime, anywhere instruction. In addition, SUNY’s involvement in the MERLOT consortium, dedicated to generating and distributing high quality electronic learning resources, continues to grow. And finally, SUNYConnect, the electronic integration of all State University libraries, continues to make strong progress.
Also in this issue, I am very pleased to provide an update on the University’s academic strategic planning process, Mission Review. Chancellor King officially launched Mission Review II at the beginning of February. This is a vitally important effort and I look forward to working with the entire University community as we work together toward its completion.
As always, I welcome any questions you may have about the topics covered in this issue of On Course.
SUNY Learning Network (SLN)—the University’s award-winning online learning arm—has experienced phenomenal growth since its inception in 1995. SLN served 119 students in its first year of operation, this past year that number exceeded 53,000!
In fact, SLN broke all records in the 2002-2003 academic year with 53,638 enrollments. And, more recently, fall 2004 marked the highest-ever single semester SLN enrollment. SLN now offers 3,200 courses and 60 complete degree programs, including certificates and masters degrees, taught by professors on 56 campuses.
“This kind of growth doesn’t happen by accident,” said State University Provost Peter D. Salins. “The SLN model is unique in a number of ways, the most distinctive of which is the driving role of SUNY faculty.”
State University faculty design and teach every course offered through SLN. “SLN is an incredible example of collaboration, an achievement that would not have been possible without the efforts of faculty and staff across SUNY, and a very dedicated SLN staff at the System level,” said SLN Director Peter Shea.
SUNY faculty interested in delivering a course online complete a comprehensive training program. The SLN Faculty Development and Course Design Program includes participation in an online conference, observation of a live online course, three day-long training sessions scheduled throughout the development cycle, and close work with an SLN instructional design partner. “Participation in SLN is an important commitment on the part of our campuses and faculty,” said Shea. “We back that up at the System level with comprehensive support.”
Likewise, SLN provides students with vital resources. Students walk through a process that tests their computer system, assists with registration,
introduces them to the concept of asynchronous learning, assists with ordering class materials, and more. And once they are up and running, students
have 7 day-a-week access to a HelpDesk.
Work is currently underway to explore the “next generation” of SLN as part of a comprehensive effort to enhance all learning environments-related initiatives. “SLN has tremendous potential as a resource for our campuses,” said Learning Environments Executive Director David Porush. “It broadens the kinds and numbers of students they serve, enables them to bring whole programs online and helps them create collaborations in teaching and research across SUNY.”
SLN is a part of the Office of Learning Environments in the University-wide Academic Programs Unit of the Office of the Provost. Additional information is available at: http://sln.suny.edu
SLN Quick Facts:
Since 2000, SUNY has been an active System Partner in the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) project. This unique effort, launched in 1997 by the California State University System, establishes a process whereby high quality online resources—instructional websites, multimedia simulations and models, collections of electronic resources and more—are peer-reviewed by faculty from all over the world and made available in one central location online.
Covering 14 disciplinary areas referred to as communities: biology, business, chemistry, engineering, faculty development, health sciences, history, information technology, mathematics, music, physics, psychology, teacher education, and world languages, the MERLOT collection includes over 10,000 resources that can easily be integrated into a traditional classroom setting or used by faculty teaching courses online.
“This was a critical project for the University to take part in,” said SLN Director and SUNY Liaison to the MERLOT project Peter Shea. “SLN serves more than 50,000 students. And we have a growing number of faculty integrating technology into the traditional classroom. It made sense that we would need to facilitate access to high quality online teaching and learning tools."
SUNY’s role as a System Partner means that the University is actively involved in the growth and development of MERLOT. SUNY joins the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin, the University of North Carolina, the University System of Georgia, and over 1,300 other colleges and universities in this important effort. In total, MERLOT partners represent more than 300,000 faculty and 7 million students.
There are a number of ways for a particular campus to become involved in MERLOT. “Individual faculty members can take advantage of available resources simply by logging onto www.merlot.org,” said Shea. “Faculty can also apply to become a peer reviewer, an honor of distinction in their field of expertise.”
Currently, SUNY faculty hold membership in the MERLOT Project Directors’ Council, Editors’ Council and the individual editorial boards for biology, mathematics, music, physics, psychology, teaching and technology, teacher education, and world languages. Many more SUNY faculty and staff work to integrate MERLOT into ongoing technology initiatives, like the SUNY Learning Network.
The range of resources available through MERLOT is vast. “To me, what’s really good about MERLOT is easy access to a number of hands-on simulations,” said Dr. Richard Staley, Associate Professor at SUNY Oneonta and member of the MERLOT teacher education editorial board. Staley cited a particularly helpful teacher education resource as an example. The WebQuest concept (http://edweb.sdsu.edu/webquest/ webquest_collections.cfm) was created by Dr. Bernie Dodge of San Diego State University as a unique tool to help students to use the Internet effectively. According to Dr. Dodge, WebQuests—specific tasks given to students with a prepared list of online resources to help them achieve that task—are designed to use learners’ time well, to focus on using information rather than looking for it, and to support analysis, understanding, and evaluation.
“Introducing this concept created an interesting learning experience for my teacher education students and it will be a valuable tool for them when they are leading their own classrooms,” said Dr. Staley. “Knowing that informative sites like WebQuest have already gone through a rigorous peer-review process means faculty, who may or may not have a huge amount of technological expertise of their own, don’t have to recreate the wheel.”
The MERLOT Engineering editorial board selected the website of SUNY Buffalo’s Chu Ryang Wie, Professor of Electrical Engineering, as an Editor’s Choice Award winner in 2003. The site, the Semiconductor Applet Service (http://jas.eng.buffalo.edu/), provides a large collection of simulations, animations, and tutorials on semiconductor and device physics. The interactive site allows students to explore the effects of changing parameters on the operation of devices.
“The MERLOT peer review process follows that of a scholarly journal,” said Dr. Carla Meskill, Associate Professor at the University at Albany, Editor of the MERLOT World Languages community and member of the MERLOT Editors’ Council. “Each review is conducted by two faculty members who, from their individual reviews, develop a composite evaluation that is posted to the MERLOT website. These composite reviews provide prospective teachers with an easy to read overview of whether or not the resource is right for their class.”
Review criteria fall into three general categories: quality of content, potential effectiveness as a teaching-learning tool, and ease of use. Dr. Meskill is not only active in the review process, she is an active user of MERLOT resources. In her discipline of World Languages, Dr. Meskill said a number of related MERLOT resources make use of audio and video. “Beyond that, students have access to newspapers, poetry, literature, even restaurant menus and city tours. MERLOT allows us to actually bring the culture of the community we are studying into the classroom.”
“The personal growth aspect of participating in MERLOT has been a very positive experience for me,” said Meskill. “I have become very multi-media conversant and have had the opportunity to interact with colleagues from around the world.” Meskill added that MERLOT should also serve as a valuable resource for faculty who have developed multimedia resources and want to demonstrate the significance of those resources for promotion and tenure purposes.
Bill Pelz, Associate Professor of Social Science at Herkimer County Community College, is currently teaching all of his classes online through the SUNY Learning Network. “MERLOT is an opportunity to bring to online teaching and learning the same kind of peer reviewed resources that have always been a critical part of face-to-face learning.” [Editor’s Note: Professor Pelz is the recipient of the Sloan-C 2003 award for Excellence in Online Teaching, having taught more than eighty sections in a complete online format.]
“For those faculty already involved in MERLOT, they have not only made positive contributions to this important project, but by all accounts, have gained valuable tools for their students,” said Provost Salins. “MERLOT is an important resource that I want to make sure all State University faculty are aware of.” Additional information on MERLOT can be found at: www.suny.edu/provost/uwide.cfm
Provost Salins recently announced that the Learning Environments unit within his office would assume responsibility for the development and administration of CourseSpace, SUNY’s web-based technology that enables faculty to integrate online activities into traditional, classroom-based courses.
This dynamic tool was created several years ago and introduced as a pilot program—with Herkimer County Community College, Monroe Community College, and Suffolk County Community College serving as the founding institutions—in cooperation with the Information and Technology Exchange Center (ITEC). Today, ten campuses currently use CourseSpace with success and a great deal of satisfaction. Built in parallel with the technology and design of the SUNY Learning Network, CourseSpace has tremendous potential for expanding the integration of technology in all SUNY classrooms.
Expanding this model under the auspices of the Learning Environments team means that this SUNY technology will be supported by integrated access to faculty training, instructional design expertise, and telephone and online HelpDesk support.
“Taking responsibility for CourseSpace in a coordinated fashion enables SUNY to build on the success of SLN to serve the entire spectrum of online learning,” said Learning Environments Executive Director David Porush. “From creating a simple web presence and resources for classroom courses to enabling robust interactive learning activities over the web.” Additional information about this expanding resource can be found at: http://coursespace.suny.edu/
SUNYConnect, the initiative designed to electronically integrate all State University libraries, has continued to make impressive progress. As of this printing 34 campuses were up and running with Aleph 500, the common library management system that will provide students, faculty, and staff at any SUNY library with a seamless window to the holdings of campuses all around the state.
Implementation, a detailed conversion process which involves recataloging entire library collections, is scheduled to conclude in 2005.
“The most dynamic thing about the SUNYConnect initiative is that the common library management system is only the beginning,” said Assistant Provost for Library and Information Services Carey Hatch. “We are facilitating access to all cataloged items with a common search function and a unique delivery system, essentially operating as one seamless library with more than 18 million volumes. At the same time, we are also rapidly expanding electronic resources that will also be easily accessible.”
SUNYConnect electronic resources, purchased on a consortial basis with significant savings, include:
SUNYConnect has also made it possible to reduce start-up costs for those campuses that want to acquire additional resources. For example, the initiative supported the initial archive costs for campuses that wanted to subscribe to JSTOR; a unique collection of 360 peer-reviewed academic journals, offering complete archives for the past 300 years. The JSTOR collection includes illustrations by Sir Isaac Newton and the oldest continuously published English-language scientific journal (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 1665).
“With the cost of electronic subscriptions, you can imagine that, if every campus had to maintain their own subscription to these invaluable resources, our libraries could simply not keep up,” said Provost Salins. “Through SUNYConnect, students and faculty at SUNY community colleges have access to the same resources available at our research center libraries. This is a truly significant effort with far-reaching implications.”
Steven Dubert, a recent graduate of Corning Community College called the enhanced library resources a life saver. “I had to put together a research proposal worthy of funding for my Research Methods class,” said Dubert. “The library was closed and I still had work to do. But luckily, with SUNY’s electronic resources, I was able to access books and other materials online from SUNY libraries. It allowed me to access all this incredible information that I needed. I had all these capabilities at my finger tips.”
That same sentiment is expressed by SUNY students and faculty throughout the System, according to Hatch. “In an environment of constrained resources, we are making every dollar count to give the SUNY community access to the information resources they need.”
With the most comprehensive online support
ever available for System-wide planning
Calling Mission Review, “one of the biggest reasons for the significant gains we’ve seen across the State University,” Chancellor Robert King officially launched Mission Review II (2005-2010) in February.
This vital academic strategic planning process, involving each of the University’s 64 campuses, is designed to: clarify the market niche of each campus, with a focus on distinctiveness; enhance the quality of academic programs; and increase opportunities for, and support of, inter-campus collaboration. The products of the process—jointly developed Memoranda of Understanding—define goals in key academic areas including: retention and graduation, enrollment, research, technology, and program development, as well as