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Technology Fee Advisory Committee Funding

TECHNOLOGY FEE FOCUS GROUPS DATA SUMMARY PREPARED BY:

DR. TIM SELLNOW
PATRICIA VENETTE
NICK RAVN

DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNICATION
NORTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY

JANUARY 17, 1997

[Editorial Note: The following report results from a Focus Group Study done under the direction of the Technology Fee Advisory Committee (TFAC). The TFAC was trying to determine the concerns and suggestions that students, faculty, and staff have about the NDSU Technology Fee Program. There were three Focus Groups each consisting of eight to twelve individuals: Faculty & Staff, Student Leaders, and Students from the General Student Population, i.e., students not in any student leadership positions.]

Table of Contents

Emergent Themes
Question Summary Table of Contents
Faculty/Staff Question Summaries
Student Leaders Question Summaries
General Student Population Question Summaries

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EMERGENT THEMES
We observed four primary themes that appeared consistently in each of the three focus groups:

  1. Existing technology is effective and useful, however, there is limited access to it. This limitation is a source of frustration.
  2. The projects sponsored by the technology fee which garnered the most recognition and appreciation are those which provide access to students/faculty and sources of information/data.
  3. The group was concerned that the technology is purchased, but adequate training in the use of this technology is not available for faculty and students on campus.
  4. The group was concerned that there is no central management on campus for acquiring and developing technology. They feel some form of central planning is badly needed.

 

Question Summary Table of Contents General Technology

Discussion

Faculty/Staff

Student Leaders

Other Students

Comments on Current Process/Projects

Student Leaders

Other Students

What Should be Done This Year

Faculty/Staff

Student Leaders

Other Students

QUESTION SUMMARIES (Faculty/Staff)

GENERAL TECHNOLOGY DISCUSSION

Defining Technology

The group saw relevant technology as that which is useful, particularly for simplifying tasks and for educating students.

Previous Knowledge/Impression of Technology Fee

The group recognized that there had been resentment of the fee by students. Some participants had submitted proposals. In general, the group agreed that there had been some misinformation about the fee in the past.

Educational Experience

The most consistent response in this area emphasized that there simply is not enough access to existing technology. Faculty complained of classrooms that are equipped with technology being occupied by instructors who would not or could not use the technology. They asked for the opportunity to do more preparation for using this technology from their office computers. The group saw students as appreciative of the teaching technology they encounter. One respondent suggested that students should have access to the Web in every classroom.

Use of Technology

The Web was the most common technological application mentioned by the group. Several group members complained that they could not make adequate use of presentation equipment (LCD plates) because existing overhead projectors are not adequate. Some reservation to charging students a fee so that instructors could make adequate presentations was expressed.

Technology Necessary for Students/Student Learning

Some participants indicated that use of technology actually increases contact with students. The group also suggested that the technology fee should not be used for items such as televisions and VCRs.

COMMENTS ON CURRENT PROCESS/PROJECTS

Previous Awareness of Technology Fee Projects

Group members mentioned having previous knowledge of the following projects:

  • multi-media carts
  • printers
  • overhead projectors
  • classroom wiring
  • residence hall electronics

Projects Affecting Participants' Campus Experiences

Group member mentioned that the following projects affected them:

  • modem pool expansion
  • campus multi-media
  • servers to other libraries
  • NDSU Web Server
  • laser printing opportunities for students

Effects of Projects

Group members appreciated having "access to NDSU" from home. Participants also felt that NDSU's access to technology such as the internet enhanced the recruitment of new students.

Projects Continued/Funded

The dominant topic of conversation in this area emphasized that, at present, too little money is spent on faculty-student training. Hence, they saw enhanced training opportunities as an essential priority in the future. For example, the students do not know how to make good use of the existing server. The group also agree that new technology should be consistent with what is already in place. Increased access, especially to technologically equipped classrooms was again emphasized by the group.

A related point concerned the lack of centralization in organizing technology. Respondents indicated that there are several people on campus with responsibilities for supervising the acquisition and development of technology. They felt the campus would benefit from an infrastructure which allowed for coordination. One respondent summarized the situation by saying, "There is no home" for the acquisition and development of technology.

Reasonableness of Funding Process

The group suggested that the funding process was reasonable. They indicated that it is what they "are used to" at NDSU.

COMMENTS ON WHAT SHOULD BE DONE THIS YEAR

Reaction to Projects Currently Funded


The group agreed that nothing on the list seemed inappropriate. However, the group again emphasized the need for a clear and well supported infrastructure to support and supervise the development of technology on campus. The group also returned to the issue of training. They implored those associated with the technology fee to invest time and money in widespread training for current and new technology at NDSU. One respondent said simply, "There are too many committees working on technology." The group also questioned the degree to which funding for the maintenance of equipment is available.

One respondent also received support from the group when s/he suggested that technology be implemented that would allow for greater use of student/faculty ID cards to complete business on campus.

Previous Assumptions about Funding

Discussion in this area was not extensive. The only point that emerged indicated that there was some feeling that money had been spent to purchase technological hardware without providing for adequate supervision and training.

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QUESTION SUMMARIES (Student Leaders)

GENERAL TECHNOLOGY DISCUSSION

Defining Technology

No one provided a definition of technology. Each student provided examples that showed computers are major aspects of technology. Examples included: many advances have been made; computers have become faster and better and more people know how to use them; computers increase efficiency and make life easier.

Previous Knowledge/ Impression of Technology Fee

The group appeared to have limited knowledge of the fee. Several members stated their knowledge was primarily gained at the general session prior to this focus group discussion. Generally, students were unaware that a bond was secured. Several students stated they had been aware of the fee before it was implemented but were not aware of the specific use for the fee. No objections to the technology fee were expressed.

Educational Experience

Students stated that technology can be a "big time saver." However, students unanimously voiced concern that technology has increased student stress level. Faculty are requiring computer proficiency in addition to the specific course material (i.e. using Web for sources, some classes require students to develop a Web page, lap tops are needed for some courses, psychology is offering a class that is primarily taught via computer).

Use of Technology in Student Careers

The Web and software application skills are frequently used. After mastering various software programs, papers/graphs appear more professional. Gathering, compiling, and sorting information is faster using a computer. The Web will allow employees to access more people, files and information to help in decision making. Students also stated that communication skills are needed.

Technologies Introduced to Students

Students expressed concern that training is needed in using fax, copy machine, internet, Web, word processing, lap tops/scanners/voice mail, digital camera. Some students were unaware of the various types of technology available to students.

Technology students Need to Bring to the Classroom

The group agreed that students should have word processing skills. Placing a standard is difficult because various majors require different types of skills. One student suggested a computer testing system that places students in computer classes based on skill level (similar to the math testing program). Testing might also be beneficial for older than average students who are returning to college to receive updated skills in technology. Some students expressed concern that they were taught old versions of software packages in the NDSU computer classes. Use of the PALS library system should be learned as a first year student. Third and fourth year students should be expected to have library on-line skills.

Technologies Necessary for Students/Student Learning

Availability of computers was a concern of the group. Some clusters are not available because classes have reserved the entire cluster. Students are frustrated when they cannot use computers that are vacant and not being used by the class. Some clusters have computers that are very slow. During mid-day, few computers are available. Greater communication between instructors and students is needed. This group stated that faculty use of Web pages and e-mail helped student/teacher interaction.

COMMENTS ON CURRENT PROJECTS/PROCESS

Previous Awareness of Technology Fee Projects


Group members mentioned having previous knowledge of the following projects:

  • residents halls ethernet
  • more terminals
  • printers

Projects affecting Participants' Campus Experiences
Group members mentioned that the following projects affected them:

  • Web server
  • modem pool
  • network access in residence halls
  • campus multi-media
  • Weible Hall computer cluster

Effects of Projects

Group members have used the Web server in class activities. Laser printers are "excellent." The group is concerned that the $50 fee will be questioned again if students are not informed how the funds are used. Students stated that misunderstandings had occurred when the $50 fee was initiated (i.e. students thought that some colleges would be given more benefits than others).

Projects Continued/Funded

Group members identified the need to advertise technology services available to students. The use of paper in the clusters needs to be emphasized.

Projects Discontinued

The group questioned the modem/ethernet costs. Is this a one time cost? Money needs to be allocated for technology upkeep/upgrade. Students also questioned the need for additional Web servers. If faculty are requiring students to establish Web sites, will another server be required? Will students have to pay for their own Web page?

COMMENTS ON WHAT SHOULD BE DONE THIS YEAR

Reaction to Projects Currently Funded

The group wanted a fund for fixing the technology currently available. Students stated that out-of-order signs are common. Power surge protection needs to be improved. The group also sees a need for technology classes/workshops. The group suggested using the Skills for Academic Success course as a way to introduce students to various campus technology. Network access and printers in the residence halls need to be increased. Availability of lap tops in the Memorial Union need to be clarified.

Previous Assumptions about Funding
The group was aware of funding for:

  • Network access
  • Access in Weible
  • New software packages (i.e. Windows 95)

Additional Comments:
The group made the following recommendations:

  • Faculty using the multi-media sites need to know how to use the systems before they assign them to students.
  • IVN classes could be expanded.
  • Be sure that with increased use of technology that we continue to interact with people. Potential employers are looking for employees with strong communication skills.
  • Provide itemized budgets to the students which include technology expenses, time lines for projects, and future goals.
  • Technology services need to be advertised more frequently.

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QUESTION SUMMARIES (General Student Population)

GENERAL TECHNOLOGY DISCUSSION

Defining Technology


The concept of technology was defined by the group as that which makes life easier and/or faster. A computer was used in the definition by four of the five members, including one who used that as the entirety of the definition.

Previous Knowledge/Impression of Technology Fee

Two members had connections with organizations directly associated with the technology fee. These members were therefore versed in the accurate details of the project. Other group members had heard second and third hand information regarding what it would provide. Much of this turned out not to be accurate.

Educational Experience

In describing technology's effect on the educational experience, group members used the term "vital," regardless of a student's major. The use of technology by professors within courses has also had an impact. The group mentioned several instances of instructors utilizing the Web or e-mail to correspond with students, issue assignments, retrieve grades, post syllabi and notes and even administer quizzes. The feeling was that this evolution is of great use and convenience to both students and instructors.

Uses of Technology

The feeling was that computer literacy is something that is becoming more and more necessary to a wide range of careers. The ability to use and learn software packages as well as the skill to navigate the Web and use e-mail will be of great value according to the group. One member of the group, a freshman from a small, rural high school, expressed a sense of insecurity regarding her level of computer illiteracy. Other members stressed how valuable the technological education she could receive in the next four years will be.

Necessary Technology

The group concluded that a class that would serve as an introduction to the most vital technological uses on campus should be required to each and every entering freshman. Skills like how to use e-mail, how to search the Web, and introductions to certain basic software applications should be taught to take advantage of the technological advantages NDSU offers. "The technology is there," said one member. "The knowledge isn't. Education is very important." An instructional tutorial in booklet form was mentioned as a supplement or alternative to the general education requirement idea.

Technology that should be brought to classroom by student
It was voiced that each particular college should determine the amount of computer literacy that students should possess. "Different disciplines take advantage of technology in different ways," said one member.

Technology necessary for student learning

More in-class support for technology was a concern of some members. More wired classroom's capable of supporting computer use, such as in the IACC, were also mentioned. The practice of schools issuing laptops to each student was mentioned. The feasibility of it was questioned. "It would be easier for a small tech school to do it," said one member.

CURRENT PROJECTS/PROCESS

Previous awareness of tech fee projects

The laser printers was the most recognizes project. One member was an employee in the IACC and was well aware of all of the projects. Networking was also mentioned but laser printers, far and away, were mentioned universally.

Projects affecting participants' campus experiences

The printers, again, were most oft mentioned. The networking of the dorms was mentioned as was the web server project.

Which should continue
The laser printing access was adamantly supported by the entire group. "Most people say [the fee] is worth paying just for the laser printing," said one member. The modem pool was also strongly supported as a benefit for off-campus students wishing to access the network from home. The expansion of this pool was also mentioned. The webserver was also supported, especially for instructors as the group felt students favored the ability to retrieve information electronically via the Web.

Which should discontinue
There was no strong opposition to any of the projects. The additional data ports in the library were mentioned as a nice option but one that only affect the small portion of students who have laptop computers.

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE THIS YEAR

Reaction to currently funded projects

The group agreed that the abuse of the laser printing access by students must be addressed. Many students print anything and everything merely because it is free, according to the group. Using some of the fee to address this abuse was mentioned. The addition of standup-style terminals that would be provided solely for e-mail access was also suggested by a group member. This would help reduce the problem of students needing to take advantage of class-related work being disallowed access by those merely checking e-mail.

What did you think was funded prior to focus group

The laser printers were identified as the most visible and recognized of the projects.


Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.

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Campus address: Bison Court West 104
Mailing address: NDSU Dept. 5310 / PO Box 6050 / Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Page manager: Technology Fee Advisory Committee

Last Updated: Monday, August 08, 2011 1:36:53 PM