Academic Computing Committee
Annual Report, 2005-2006


The Academic Computing Committee has had nine meetings so far during the 2005-2006 academic year. We will hold at least one additional meeting in May. In addition to regular meetings, committee members actively participated in the candidate searches for the Center for Teaching and Engaged Learning’s IDC positions, and attended the Spring meeting for departmental technology liaisons co-sponsored with Computing and Information Services.

The bulk of our attention this year has been spent in developing a proposal for a “Digicenter” to handle the creation, management, and distribution of digital learning objects in support of the academic program. In the committee’s comprehensive surveys of academic departments over the last two years, it has become apparent that the campus needs up-to-date electronic replacements for the records, slides, overhead transparencies, and 16mm films (and even VHS cassettes) that were once classroom mainstays. In addition, faculty and staff who developed digitized images, clips, and datasets using earlier generations of digital technology are now in need of migration paths to more current and robust platforms. Existing ad-hoc digitization projects have often been associated with unnecessary redundancy and have not easily been available to the larger campus community for sensible reuse and sharing of digital learning objects. (For example, how many multiple copies of Louis XIV, of Beethoven’s Fifth, or Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech have faculty scanned, ripped, or burned in isolation from one another?) Even more challenging are the documentation, metadata, and cataloging problems related to informal digitization efforts. The committee anticipates that the faculty’s need for digital learning objects will greatly increase as a result of the new curriculum's reduced contact hours, increased multi-disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity, and new pedagogical approaches produced by the May Experience, among other things. In evaluating existing resources available in the Library, in C&IS, in the CCLC, or in individual academic departments, it has become clear to the committee that the digitization needs of the academic program are far greater than the current institutional resources and support staff can sustain.

In its proposal the committee envisions the creation of a center whose mission will include support for (a) the creation or acquisition of digital learning objects, (b) cataloging and metadata documentation using accepted standards, (c) facilitation for access to digital learning objects by the Furman community and other users, (d) orientation to digital archiving standards and intellectual property issues, and (e) promotion of the innovative use of digital learning objects in teaching and learning environments. Faculty and staff with an interest in further details about the project can see the evolving proposal at http://eweb.furman.edu/~corth/wiki/mediawiki-1.3.9/index.php?title=Digicenter_Proposal.

In its final meetings the committee has begun identifying other strategic priorities for academic computing at Furman. These include (1) evaluation of current and anticipated course management software needs, costs, and options, (2) consideration of software licensing issues and open source alternatives to commonly-used programs, (3) Intellectual property, fair use, and other copyright issues (including faculty development and training), and (4) Classroom technology and video-conferencing. The committee also expects to work closely with the staff of C&IS as they consider e-mail alternatives, a new “one-stop” portal solution for access to university resources, and other initiatives related to its strategic planning.

The committee would like to thank those faculty, staff, and administrators who served as resource persons to the committee, and whose work has been essential to our efforts this academic year, including Susan Dunnavant, Jane Love, Maggie Milat, Bonnie Mullinix, Greg Rumsey, Scott Salzman, and Dave Steinour. The committee would also like to thank Cort Haldaman, Cris Ferguson, DebbieLee Landi, and others who labored as part of an ad-hoc Digicenter working group during Summer and Fall 2005, as well as all faculty and staff who responded to our surveys or attended the various presentations related to the Digicenter project.

The Academic Computing Committee:
Mike Bressler, Tim Hanks, Christopher Hutton, Tom Kazee (ex-officio), Nick Schisler, Alfons Teipen, Lloyd Benson (chair)

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