educationtechnologyinsights

A Stepping Stone to Smart Classrooms

By William Ingram, CIO, Belmont University

William Ingram, CIO, Belmont University

The ever-changing nature of the education space along with the deployment of new technologies creates an opportunity for greater collaboration between campus Information Technology (IT) teams and faculty. At Belmont, our faculty are subject matter experts who bring knowledge of how different pedagogies affect student learning outcomes in their particular areas of focus. Likewise, our IT teams bring deep technical knowledge related to specific hardware, software and services required to implement new classroom technologies. 

Working together, these two groups can build learning spaces with technology to support the pedagogies that will have the most positive effect on student learning outcomes. Also known as Smart Classrooms, these new learning spaces provide the technology (hardware, software, services) to support a wide variety of different teaching pedagogies. 

At Belmont, the collaboration between the faculty and the Library and Information Technology Services(LITS) team is managed by Dr. Geoff Price, Director of Instructional Technology. Dr. Price and his team work to help faculty identify and implement the pedagogies that will lead to improved student outcomes across many different subject areas. He also engages our LITS team to implement a consistent set of technologies that can support these pedagogies across many different colleges and departments. This collaboration allows us to implement several new classroom technologies—like student response system, standard learning management system, web-based testing tool, lecture capture, etc.—and the services required to support them.

“One of the most important aspects in successfully navigating the transition to Smart Classrooms is collaboration and supporting faculty”

It also allows us to take advantage of Smart Classroom teaching pedagogies in many different spaces across our campus, without the need to make major investments in new audio visual or presentation hardware. One example of this is the student response system we standardized. This system does not require hardware receivers to be placed in every classroom. It also removes the administrative overhead encountered by teachers who provided individual hardware-based devices (clickers) for students to use during their classes. Faculty members are also given the support they need to take advantage of some of the features that support their different pedagogical approaches, including importing student response information into our learning management system’s gradebook.

After the collaborative process helped us to identify several new technology needs, our next step was to agree on a single product or service for each need. Standardizing allows our Instructional Technology Department to streamline their faculty training, saving considerable time and effort. It also allows our Service Desk to provide more application-specific support when faculty reach out to them by phone and email. Finally, standardization permits us to quickly scale the use of new classroom technology from small groups of early adopters to department and university wide use. One example of this is our video collaboration tool which can be integrated into our Learning Management System (LMS) or used from any computer with a web cam and access to a browser. 

At Belmont, we realized early on that we couldn’t take a Smart Classroom implementation from another institution, duplicate it here, and expect it to be successful. Therefore, we developed our collaborative process, and it has delivered several classroom technology wins to our campus community. I believe this process has been so successful because it reflects our vision, which in part reads “To be a leader among teaching universities.” This focus on teaching led to the implementation of several classroom technologies that would not have been considered otherwise. For example, our nursing program uses patient simulators as part of the teaching process. This technology allows students to experience realistic clinical nursing situations in a controlled environment. Simulation sessions are managed by a nursing faculty member. The technology is maintained and supported by a highly trained member of our IT team.

As additional technologies find their way into the classroom, our IT team will continue to look for opportunities to collaborate with our faculty to produce the student learning outcomes they are seeking.

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