March/April 2006

The Communicator :: March/April 2006

MTSU students participate in 2005 ECAR study (part 2) by Tom Brinthaupt

In Part 1 of this report, I presented an overview of the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) 2005 national survey of the role of information technology (IT) in higher education student life. In that part, I summarized the major findings from the survey and examined how MTSU students compared to students from the other institutions that participated in the survey. In this article, I will focus on (1) how our freshmen and seniors compare to each other in their usage and attitudes toward IT, (2) how MTSU seniors compare to seniors at other institutions, and (3) how MTSU freshmen compare to other freshmen.

MTSU Freshmen Compared to MTSU Seniors

Regarding the use of electronic devices, there are interesting differences between freshmen and seniors in the MTSU sample. Seniors (78%) more frequently than freshmen (64%) own desktop computers, whereas more freshmen (45%) than seniors (38%) own laptops. A higher percentage of seniors (11%) than freshmen (6%) reported owning a PDA, whereas more freshmen (29%) than seniors (23%) reported owning iPods.

Seniors tended to report less frequent usage of electronic devices for communication or entertainment purposes than did freshmen. For example, a greater percentage of seniors than freshmen spent minimal weekly time ("do not use"; or "less than 1 hour per week";) using instant messaging (66% vs. 45%), playing computer games (70% vs. 63%), and downloading/listening to music or videos (67% vs. 49%). On the other hand, more freshmen than seniors reported minimal weekly time spent on course-related applications such as creating spreadsheets (85% vs. 69%), creating presentations (82% vs. 69%), and using a course management system or CMS (68% vs. 63%).

MTSU freshmen and seniors also differed in their rated skill levels using electronic devices. In particular, a greater percentage of seniors than freshmen rated themselves as proficient ("skilled"; or "very skilled";) at working with spreadsheets (72% vs. 52%), presentation software (76% vs. 63%), CMS (51% vs. 41%), online library resources (74% vs. 71%), and computer operating systems (83% vs. 78%). Alternatively, a greater percentage of freshmen than seniors rated themselves as proficient at creating and editing video/audio files (18% vs. 12%), creating Web pages (20% vs. 17%), computer maintenance (45% vs. 42%), and securing electronic devices (47% vs. 43%).

When it comes to the use of technology in the classroom, a greater percentage of seniors than freshmen agreed or strongly agreed that they are more engaged in courses requiring them to use technology (50% vs. 36%), that their instructors use technology well (63% vs. 52%), and that technology use increases their interest in the subject matter (45% vs. 34%). Seniors also agreed more than freshmen that IT in their courses helps them to understand complex or abstract concepts (42% vs. 35%), communicate better with instructors (76% vs. 65%), and communicate and collaborate better with classmates (63% vs. 52%). More seniors (64%) than freshmen (51%) reported having taken a course that used a CMS. Finally, more seniors (70%) than freshmen (58%) agreed or strongly agreed with the statement "Use of IT in my courses has improved my learning."; Clearly, the more time our students spend in college the more exposure they have to instructional technology and the more favorable are their attitudes toward it.

In summary, MTSU freshmen tended to report greater use of electronic devices for pleasure and non-academic purposes, whereas MTSU seniors reported greater use of electronic devices for academic purposes. Compared to freshmen, seniors are exposed to more IT in their courses and rate IT as more beneficial to their learning. Freshmen and seniors varied in their rated IT skills.

MTSU Seniors Compared to Other Seniors

Compared to seniors at other institutions, MTSU seniors generally show less frequent adoption and use of new technologies. For example, whereas MTSU seniors (78%) more frequently than other seniors (69%) own personal desktop computers, our seniors (38%) less frequently own personal laptop computers than other seniors (50%). Our seniors also reported lower rates of owning PDAs, iPods, and wireless adapters than other seniors.

When it comes to the number of hours spent using electronic devices (excluding cell phones), fewer MTSU seniors (22%) reported "20 or more hours per week"; than other seniors (34%). More MTSU seniors than other seniors reported "do not use"; or "less than 1 hour per week"; for a variety of activities using electronic devices, such as writing documents for coursework (12% vs. 8%), writing documents for pleasure (80% vs. 76%), using email (22% vs. 12%), using instant messaging (66% vs. 45%), downloading/listening to music or videos (67% vs. 52%), and surfing the Internet for pleasure (29% vs. 25%). More MTSU than other seniors also reported minimal use of electronic devices for creating spreadsheets (69% vs. 65%), presentations (69% vs. 66%), and graphics (82% vs. 78%) as well as using a course management system (63% vs. 59%).

MTSU seniors were similar to other seniors in their patterns of using electronic devices for classroom activities and studying, surfing the Internet for coursework information, playing computer games, online shopping, working with video/audio files, and creating Web pages. The one area where our seniors were more active than other seniors was in the use of library resources to complete course assignments. Fewer MTSU seniors (42%) than other seniors (46%) reported "do not use"; or "less than 1 hour per week"; for this activity.

Whereas the differences in percentages are not large, somewhat fewer MTSU seniors than other seniors rated themselves as proficient ("skilled"; or "very skilled";) at a variety of activities and applications. In particular, fewer MTSU seniors than other seniors rated themselves as proficient working with word processing (96% vs. 99%), spreadsheets (72% vs. 77%), presentation software (76% vs. 80%), graphics (33% vs. 36%), video/audio files (12% vs. 15%), Web pages (17% vs. 23%), online library resources (74% vs. 78%), computer maintenance (42% vs. 48%), and securing electronic devices (43% vs. 48%). Somewhat more of our seniors did rate themselves as more proficient than other seniors with computer operating systems (83% vs. 81%) and at working with a course management system (51% vs. 47%).

Fewer MTSU seniors (64%) than other seniors (77%) reported having taken a course that used a CMS. Despite the lower frequency, there were some dimensions on which our seniors had higher evaluations of the use of technology in the classroom than their peers. In particular, a greater percentage of MTSU seniors than other seniors agreed or strongly agreed that they are more engaged in courses requiring them to use technology (50% vs. 44%), that their instructors use technology well (63% vs. 58%), and that technology use increases their interest in the subject matter (45% vs. 40%).

On the other hand, fewer of our seniors than other seniors agreed or strongly agreed that IT in their courses helps them to communicate better with instructors (76% vs. 78%) and communicate and collaborate better with classmates (63% vs. 71%). However, there were several CMS features that MTSU seniors more often found valuable or very valuable than other seniors. These included access to sample exams and quizzes (87% vs. 80%), taking exams and quizzes online (76% vs. 58%), turning in assignments online (85% vs. 72%), getting assignments back (80% vs. 58%), and keeping track of grades (95% vs. 88%). Thus, compared to their peers, our seniors find the CMS test-taking, assignments, and grading features more valuable than the communication features. A roughly equal percentage of our seniors (70%) and other seniors (68%) agreed or strongly agreed with the statement "Use of IT in my courses has improved my learning.";

In summary, compared to other seniors, MTSU seniors generally showed less frequent adoption and use of new technologies and rated themselves as somewhat less proficient at a variety of activities and applications. However, our seniors tended to be more favorable toward technology in their courses, especially with regard to the test-taking, assignments, and grading features of their CMS.

MTSU Freshmen Compared to Other Freshmen

In general, the pattern of adoption and usage of new technologies for MTSU freshmen compared to freshmen at other schools is similar to the pattern shown by our seniors. Compared to freshmen at other institutions, MTSU freshmen generally show less frequent adoption and use of new technologies. For example, more of our freshmen (64%) than other freshmen (50%) reported owning personal desktop computers, whereas fewer of our freshmen (45%) than other freshmen (64%) reported owning personal laptop computers. Like our seniors, our freshmen also reported lower rates of owning PDAs, iPods, and wireless adapters than their peers.

Regarding the number of hours spent using electronic devices (excluding cell phones), fewer MTSU freshmen (18%) are frequent users ("20 or more hours per week";) than other freshmen (31%). More MTSU freshmen than other freshmen are infrequent users ("do not use"; or "less than 1 hour per week";) for a variety of activities using electronic devices, such as classroom activities and studying (17% vs. 13%), surfing the Internet for coursework information (23% vs. 18%), writing documents for coursework (12% vs. 8%), writing documents for pleasure (80% vs. 76%), using email (31% vs. 16%), using instant messaging (45% vs. 22%), downloading/listening to music or videos (49% vs. 31%), surfing the Internet for pleasure (30% vs. 21%), and online shopping (80% vs. 72%). More MTSU freshmen than other freshmen also reported minimal use of an electronic device for creating spreadsheets (85% vs. 80%) and presentations (82% vs. 79%) as well as using a CMS (68% vs. 60%).

MTSU freshmen were similar to other freshmen in their patterns of using electronic devices for playing computer games, creating graphics, working with video/audio files, and creating Web pages. As with our seniors, our freshmen were more favorable than other freshmen in the use of library resources to complete course assignments. Fewer MTSU freshmen (44%) than other freshmen (50%) categorized themselves as infrequent users ("do not use"; or "less than 1 hour per week";) for this activity.

There were some interesting trends in freshmen student ratings of skill levels. On the one hand, fewer MTSU freshmen than other freshmen rated themselves as proficient ("skilled"; or "very skilled";) on some activities and applications. Specifically, fewer MTSU freshmen than other freshmen rated themselves as proficient working with spreadsheets (52% vs. 64%), presentation software (63% vs. 73%), graphics (35% vs. 39%), and course management systems (41% vs. 48%). On the other hand, our freshmen did rate themselves as equally proficient at working with word processing, video/audio files, Web pages, computer maintenance, and securing electronic devices. MTSU freshmen also rated themselves as more proficient than other freshmen at working with online library resources (71% vs. 65%) and computer operating systems (78% vs. 75%). Compared to the senior data, these skill level percentages paint a more positive picture of how our freshmen stand compared to their peers at other institutions.

Fewer MTSU freshmen (51%) than other freshmen (67%) reported having taken a course that used a CMS. MTSU freshmen were similar to their peers at other institutions in the percentages who agreed or strongly agreed that they are more engaged in courses that require them to use technology, that their instructors use technology well, and that technology use increases their interest in the subject matter.

As with the seniors data, fewer of our freshmen than other freshmen agreed or strongly agreed that IT in their courses helps them to communicate better with instructors (66% vs. 70%) and communicate and collaborate better with classmates (52% vs. 58%). However, there were several CMS features that MTSU freshmen more often found valuable or very valuable than other freshmen. These included the syllabus (94% vs. 89%), taking exams and quizzes online (61% vs. 57%), turning in assignments online (69% vs. 66%), and getting assignments back (69% vs. 57%). Thus, compared to their peers (and similar to the seniors data), our freshmen find the CMS test-taking and assignments features more valuable than the communication features. A roughly equal percentage of MTSU freshmen (58%) and other freshmen (60%) agreed or strongly agreed with the statement "Use of IT in my courses has improved my learning.";

In summary, compared to other freshmen, our freshmen showed somewhat less frequent adoption and use of new technologies. Compared to the senior data, the freshmen skill level data painted a more positive picture of how our freshmen stand compared to their peers. Like the senior data, our freshmen found the CMS test-taking and assignments features more valuable than the communication features.

In Part 3 of this report (to be included in the next issue of the Communicator), I will (1) present a summary of the major trends from MTSU's participation in the 2005 ECAR study, (2) report the demographic and academic characteristics of the MTSU respondents compared to the other ECAR respondents, and (3) discuss some possible explanations and interpretations for the major trends while taking those sample characteristics into account.

Ken Bain coming to the city on April 21

Ken Bain, director of the New York University Center of Teaching Excellence and author of What the Best College Teachers Do, will be the featured speaker at the culminating event for the College Showcase Series hosted by the Learning, Teaching, and Innovative Technologies Center. The event is scheduled for April 21 at the Consolidated Utility District's Conference Center. The event, Teaching the Basics with New Technologies, will begin at 8:00 a.m. and end at 4:00 p.m.

Bain has spent over 15 years researching the "best"; college teachers in different disciplines at universities throughout the United States. He will talk about what makes a great teacher, integrating new technologies into teaching, why students remember some professors long after college, how the great teachers engage and challenge students, how professors can use a variety of pedagogical (technology and nontechnology-based) tools, how teaching matters, and how all students can learn.

Seating is limited. To make your reservation, call the center at 494-7671 or send an e-mail with your name, department, and phone number to ltanditc@mtsu.edu.

Banner Enterprise Resource Planning project update

In 2006 the Banner Finance Team made significant progress toward phase II implementation, which includes, among other components, fixed assets conversion from the legacy FRS Plus system.

The Banner HR Team ran a successful payroll in January and continues to diligently work through issues that arise with the new processes. MTSU also served as a beta test site for multiple TBR reports and data extracts (e.g., flexible benefits, retirement plans, etc.) in January and February and has agreed to conduct additional hours of beta testing for the next processes that will be developed for HR. Employee self-service training for the Human Resources office staff is to take place in March 2006.

The Banner Student Team, specifically the Scheduling and Records staff, have worked their fingers to the bone (almost literally) building the new course catalog inventory in Banner, which is all manual entry. The entire team continues to analyze business processes trying to work through the changes needed for the new system. Data migration plans are also being worked out for the 200,000 or so students that are in SIS Plus. Fall 2007 registration, which starts March/April 2007, will be on Banner.

Banner Advancement is scheduled to "go live"; in June 2006. Data from ADS Plus is already being converted, which will introduce about 140,000 new person and corporation entities into Banner by April. The Banner Advancement Team has been hitting the road for their training; they have to travel to Chattanooga State for their joint training sessions with other TBR schools.

The Banner Financial Aid Team began training in January 2006 and is already hard at work testing data loads from the federal Department of Education into the Banner test systems.

ITD is working to get PipelineMT talking to Banner Finance and HR, while still talking to SIS and ADS Plus, so that faculty, staff, and student bodies can have access to the various self-services components (i.e., WebMT). This will also help the transition of the remaining parts of WebMT from Plus to Banner during the multiyear transition period.

To add even more fun to the Banner ERP project, the State Audit group has selected MTSU as one of the first Banner implementation schools to receive a state audit. The audit is scheduled to start in March 2006.

Happy Bannering to all!

New uninterruptible power supply (UPS) installed in TCM

Over the December 2005 holidays, an aging and overworked uninterruptible power supply (UPS) in the Telecommunications Building (TCM) was replaced.This UPS had reached the end of its service life and was too small to carry the ever-increasing power load.Two new 30 kVA UPS units replaced the single 20 kVA unit.

The purpose of a UPS is to supply a steady stream of electric energy to a piece of equipment.UPSs are important for several reasons:

  • Modern electronic equipment is sensitive to voltage and frequency fluctuation.
  • Extreme fluctuations can cause equipment to fail.
  • UPSs condition power so that voltage and frequency stay within acceptable ranges.
  • UPSs run on batteries, so equipment being served stays powered on even when regular commercial power is not available.
  • UPSs can keep equipment from shutting down from loss of power until regular commercial power is restored.

The new UPSs are networked so their condition can be monitored continually and remotely.These UPSs will help keep ITD voice and data services more available for all users.

Technology jazzes it up in the classroom

Joseph Akins is an assistant professor in the Recording Industry Department, where he teaches electronic music and digital audio courses. Judging from the names of his courses, he is no stranger to technology.

Every course Dr. Akins teaches is Web-enhanced—i.e., each class meets in a computer lab because he uses the Web to improve understanding of the material covered. Using his Web design skills, Joseph incorporates Dreamweaver and Fireworks into his classes to enhance his teaching. He creates Web sites that include text, images, and sound. He also creates his course outlines on the Web and is able to update them easily according to the flow of each course. "I like it better [than PowerPoint] because on the Web students can get to it easily,"; he says.

Akins likes the flexibility of being able to design his own Web sites. He can add links to images and sound files used in class so students who miss class can keep up with the material. He frequently adds lab assignments in the form of PDF files for students to print out, and he likes the immediacy of being able to place them on the Web.

Something else Dr. Akins likes to use in class is a Wacom tablet—an LED graphics tablet that allows him to write or draw a diagram and display his work onscreen. The tablet uses a cordless pen, or stylus, which allows more control and precision than a mouse for drawing.

Other than the general technologies described above, there are three types of technology Akins uses that are specific to the recording industry. First, musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) is a communication control language that allows the user to connect a keyboard synthesizer to a computer. MIDI appeared in 1983 and dramatically changed the recording industry. Second, sound synthesis allows the creation of sound using a synthesizer, which can be programmed. Last, digital audio allows audio recording to a computer hard drive instead of magnetic tape. If a singer's voice sounds flat, digital audio enables the user to edit and correct the sound quality.

When Dr. Akins is not teaching, he enjoys playing piano and composing. He has a CD out called Keys to the Heart, and he occasionally plays in local churches, coffeehouses, and restaurants. He also scores music for independent films. He lives in Murfreesboro with his wife, Unita.

ITD Staff News

Brian Ratliff has joined ITD as a computer laboratory technician for communication support ser-vices.

Brian's work focuses on the frontline for the IT department: the Help Desk. Brian answers a plethora of computer-related questions.

Before joining ITD, Brian was a computer technician for NII, Inc., a computer installation/maintenance consulting company whose initials stand for "nothing is impossible."; He has worked with computers at each of his jobs since 1994.

Brian earned his bachelor's degree in computer information systems at MTSU and is currently enrolled in the master's program. He also has a degree from Tennessee Technology Center at Murfreesboro in industrial electrical maintenance.

Brian plans to help MTSU by discovering new and innovative ways to improve the Help Desk and by striving to increase the level of customer satisfaction.

Brian lives in Liberty with his cat, Betty Boots, and his dog, Ben.

CampIT filling up fast

Hurry to reserve your spot in the 2006 Faculty Instructional Technology Center (FITC) CampIT scheduled for May 15-26. Only a few openings in the course remain.

CampIT is a two-week workshop for faculty members to learn about a variety of programs and ideas for incorporating technology into teaching and learning. The first week of camp is "virtual"; with participants experiencing the online learning environment from the student's perspective - taking part in online reading, communication, assessment, and interactive exercises. The second week of camp is "hands-on"; with campers creating or modifying existing learning resources that can be used in online or a blended (combi-nation of on-ground and online learning) courses.

For more information, visit www.mtsu.edu/webctsupport/faculty/fac_workshop.htm or call FITC ext. 8191. To register, go to www.mtsu.edu/~itd/workshops.

WebCT information available on Web

WebCT provides faculty members an integrated way to deliver courses and course materials using the Web.

If you have questions about WebCT tools or want to find out more about the program, go to MTSU's support site at www.mtsu.edu/webctsupport.

This site is loaded with information including requesting a WebCT course, creating backups, getting started, hand-outs, and a list of WebCT workshops. The support site also offers student support resources including a trouble-shooting page and an online learning guide. The site is maintained by ITD's Faculty Instructional Technology Center (FITC). For more information contact FITC at ext. 8189.

Networking update

Here are news items from Network Services:

  • Offered Introduction to and Intermediate IT Security classes. These will be offered every fall and spring and cover all skill levels.
  • Half of Walker Library network connections upgraded to 100 Mbps switched network connections.
  • Installed infrastructure to support wireless ticket readers for Floyd Stadium and Murphy Center.
  • Installed local hardware firewalls to protect several servers on campus.
  • Installed new traffic manager for campus Internet connection.

Best friends as well as coworkers

Deborah Morris and Rosland Grigsby Rhyne are OptiDoc imaging specialists in ITD's data center. They work so closely together and are such good friends that it makes little sense to profile one without profiling the other.

OptiDoc imaging specialists are important because they reduce the University's paperwork by putting it online. Deborah says they are making a "paperless trail"; so that anyone can "go online and look up anything.";

Rosland and Deborah put a lot of work into making the University paperless. First, they must prepare the documents for scanning by making sure they are in order, by removing staples or paper clips, and by adjusting color if necessary. Then they scan the items using the OptiDoc Imaging System, a document imaging and retrieval application that creates electronic images of critical University documents. They monitor the images to ensure accuracy and legibility. Finally, they create an index so the scanned information can be accessed easily once it is on the server. Rosland says, "OptiDoc's sole purpose is so our campus can go paperless.";

Rosland and Deborah provide imaging services to University departments such as Human Resources and the Business Office. They work in a secure area on campus because of the sensitive information, such as social security numbers and payroll documents, that comes across their desks. They set deadlines for themselves in order to return documents to their departments in a timely manner. However, some projects are ongoing; a year's worth of a particular set of files can take about six months to process.

Deborah and Rosland's positions were created in the spring of 2004, and they both began working for ITD that May. They were soon nicknamed "double trouble,"; and they agree that they have since become "best buddies."; Outside of work, they often spend time together eating or exercising. They have also become study partners by pursuing bachelor's degrees together since each already holds an associate's degree.

Deborah Morris

Deborah is originally from Memphis but has made middle Tennessee her home since 1997. Time outside of work and school is spent doing activities with her seven-year-old daughter, Kaelyn. Deborah enjoys shopping and going to movies, but she especially loves to travel. She enjoys short trips to Chattanooga or Gatlinburg, but her favorite trip so far was to Hawaii. There she liked going to the beach during the day followed in the evening by a luau with exciting entertainment and exotic food.

Rosland Grigsby Rhyne

Rosland has been in middle Tennessee for eleven years and is originally from South Carolina. When Rosland is not busy at work or school, she is busy keeping up with her husband, Chris, who is in the Air Force, and their three boys: fifteen-year-old Chris, thirteen-year-old Demarcus, and eleven-year-old Joshua. She enjoys keeping in shape by running.

Information Technology Division IDEAS

Insert comments in Word


If you have students submit their work in electronic form, you have an additional option. The Insert menu includes Insert Comment. To use this, highlight the word or phrase that you want to comment on, then select Insert > Comment. You'll have a box at the bottom in which to write your comment; then click Done when you are finished. The text will show a colored highlight where there are comments. The student can move a cursor over the text to read the comment or right-click to edit or delete the comment. Advantages for the teacher: your comments can be as long as you like, and you do not destroy the integrity of the student's text with the comments. You can also edit your comments at will.