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Project Title: Laptops for English Graduate Assistants

Award Number:                      0405
Project Leaders:                    Kevin Brooks
Report Period:                       final report
Your email address:

Milestones (progress toward objectives):

Milestone 1: increase and improve GTA use of BB

  • A spring 2005 survey of GTAs was distributed in April.  I received 11/19 responses.
  • 5 identified themselves as Heavy Users of BB
  • 6 identified themselves as Moderate Users of BB

This number is down from 11/13 Heavy users in 2004.  One possible explanation: 2005 was a bad year for BB—the second server at the start of fall 2004 really discouraged GTAs from using BB, and the prospect of not having BB in the future seemed to discourage use. 

Usage by function
Announcements: 11/11
Course Materials: 11/11
External Links: 9/11
Email: 9/11
Grade Book: 10/11
Discussion Board: 5/11
Groups: 4/11
Quizzes: 1/11
Assessment: 4/11
Drop Box: 3/11
Chat: 1/11

The kinds of uses and the percentage of use is virtually the same as in the spring of 2004.  Although GTAs perceive themselves to be moderate users, they seem to be doing all the same things that the Heavy users from Spring 2004 reported.

The GTAs reported essentially the same benefits and drawbacks:


  • Improves teacher-student communication
  • A good tool for course management.
  • Grade entry is easy!
  • BB is easy to access on and off campus.
  • Saves the English Department printing costs.


  • Students are slow to learn BB the first semester.
  • Students don’t always check BB often enough.

Undergraduate Student Survey of BB use:

An online survey was posted in April, 2005; it generated 148 responses from students enrolled in English 120.

Undergraduate Student Survey of BB use:

An online survey was posted in April, 2005; it generated 148 responses from students enrolled in English 120. 

1.  How frequently do you check the Blackboard site for this course?






2-3 times per week.


4-5 times per week.


Once a week.


No regular pattern.


I don't check Blackboard or other systems.



  1. What do you see as the benefits in using Blackboard?



I keep better track of assignments, due dates, etc.


I communicate with the instructor.


I learn the course content better.


I see benefits other than those listed here.


I get to know others in the class.


I improve my writing.


I don't see any benefits.



  1. What are the disadvantages in using Blackboard?



I don't see any disadvantages.


I don't check email or Blackboard frequently.


I see disadvantages other than those listed.


I don't write carefully online.


I don't have good access to a computer.


I have trouble finding material on the site.


I am uncomfortable sharing ideas on the discussion board.


Most of the comments about benefits re-iterated the points in the benefits list, although many students added that they liked being able to keep track of their grades online. 

The disadvantages included frustration trying to use two BB servers in 2004-05, and frustration with other interface design elements.  One student saw the potential to do more peer review of writing online, and to engage in more online discussion. 

Milestone Two: Purchasing the laptops and establishing the wireless networks.

The wireless network continued to work well in the Minard offices during the spring of 2005, and GTAs reported only minor problems with their laptops.  One GTA had to get her hard drive replaced, but the computer was still under warranty. 

The program went through its first turn-over, with seven laptops getting passed from graduating GTAs to incoming GTAs.  The transition went smoothly, all laptops are still functioning effectively, and we have every reason to believe that we should get two relatively maintenance free years out of these laptops.  The third year of the program may prove to be a bit more problematic, but the department is committed to refreshing the laptops, and purchased four additional laptops in the Spring of 2005.

We expect to hear of greater mobility and accessibility for wireless computing this coming school year with so many more hotspots now available on campus. 

Milestone Three: Assesments of skills and first-semester progress.

I asked the returning GTAs (14 of them) to assess their computer skills one year after getting their laptops.  Eight of fourteen replied; six identified their skills as “excellent,” and two identified their skills as “intermediate,” none said “novice.” 

I also asked the GTAS if there skills had improved (even if they said “excellent” last year), and if so, in what ways.  Six reported some improvement: they commented on being more comfortable with Blackboard and more confident doing research to support their teaching.  Some reported that they had learned how to weblog and make webpages.  One said that she liked the laptop so much she made her husband buy a laptop.  Two said that they saw only minimal improvement in their computer skills.

The department is looking at additional ways that GTAs can improve their computer literacy, particularly as teachers.  The department sponsored a PowerPoint Music Video Workshop on Saturday, Oct. 1 that six GTAs and other department members attended.  Later this semester the department will sponsor another workshop on website creation, with an emphasis on preparing a electronic portfolio. 

Now the wireless canopy is extending throughout the campus, we are beginning to think about ways in which GTAs can take even better advantage of the mobility and connectivity of the laptops.  Now that our graduate program has a year of experience with the laptops, and we are confident in knowing what the laptops can and cannot do, we will continue to experiment and extend the pedagogical possibilities these technologies open up for us.

Account Fund activity summary:

NDSU Account Fund Number:    1570

Award Amount:
TFAC: $17, 525.80.
Provost: $12,600.00
Dean AHSS: $3,500.00

Expenditures to Date:
Provost and Dean’s money spent—Laptops and Wireless Networking.

TFAC expenditures Fall 2004:
Laptop $643.44 for Wireless Networking
$ 1,060.00 for Office Pro.
$15,340.00 for laptops.


TFAC expenditures Spring 2005:
$300 for paper. 

Remaining TFAC funds:
$178.36 for maintenance and supplies over the next two years.



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