Enriched Learning Experiences through Technology

Academic Technologies wins a national innovation award, is spearheading initiatives to advance teaching and learning at GW.

Nursing Simulation Lab
The Nursing Simulation Lab enables students to gain experience in a “virtual hospital” environment.
March 04, 2013

A system to automatically record lectures, a public platform for educational multimedia collections, a cloud-based printing network and new tools in Blackboard that promote active learning. These are a few of the resources offered by Academic Technologies.

“We strive to enhance teaching and learning through the effective use of technology,” said P.B. Garrett, associate provost and chief academic technology officer. The department, part of the Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, recently won a national award for its innovative plans to incorporate technology into GW’s new academic buildings.

Another recent achievement: Academic Technologies’ GW Mobile app has surpassed 20,000 downloads since its release in spring 2011. The app has become an indispensable tool to access university information such as course schedules, campus maps, news, shuttle tracking and campus advisories. New features and customized options are added to the app every semester.

The department’s offerings also include ColonialCast Lecture Capture, a service launched in 2007, which automatically records lectures delivered in 27 classrooms on campus and posts them on GW’s authenticated iTunesU site. The system captures more than 150 courses per semester and has logged more than 150,000 downloads since the inception of the service.

“I use ColonialCast in every single on campus course that I teach,” said Phil Wirtz, vice dean for programs and education for GW’s School of Business, and professor of decision sciences and of psychology. “It saves me an incredible amount of time, because students are getting a much deeper understanding of the material more quickly. Academic Technologies figured out lecture capture was worth doing. I simply implemented it, and it has been great.”

During the spring 2012 semester, Academic Technologies launched a public presence on Apple’s iTunes U site, the world’s largest collection of free educational content. GW schools and the university’s extended global community now have access to university media collections, including featured lectures and presentations on political communications, national security, the economy, public policy and more.

At the start of the fall 2012 semester, in collaboration with GW Libraries, Academic Technologies pioneered Colonial Printing. The cloud-based printing service enables GW community members to submit print jobs from anywhere and print at kiosks in Gelman and Eckles Libraries. GW community members printed more than 1.2 million sheets from Colonial Printing kiosks during the fall 2012 semester. The printing costs 7 cents per page for black and white and 85 cents for color and can be paid via GWorld card.

In addition to these initiatives, Academic Technologies’ Instructional Technology Lab supports the Blackboard course management system. Instructors can continue to deliver and receive course materials online while promoting active learning in their courses. Enhanced blogs, wikis and journals provide asynchronous answer-response forums and flexible information repositories. Additionally, instructors and students can convene in a real-time virtual class session via Blackboard Collaborate. Collaborate can be used for PowerPoint presentations, Web Tours, polling and more.

And the department is piloting the use of VoiceThread, a program that will enable professors and students to create video, voice and text commentary related to their courses and share them for group discussions. For example, a professor could add a voice annotation to a document or lecture notes. VoiceThread can be particularly valuable for language courses, said Ms. Garrett.

With an increased demand for collaborative learning and simulation spaces, Academic Technologies is leading efforts to incorporate state-of-the-art technology into plans for the university’s new academic buildings, including the School of Public Health and Health Services, the Science and Engineering Hall and the School of Nursing Simulation Lab on the Virginia Science and Technology Campus.

The custom-designed, 6,300-square-foot Nursing Simulation Lab enables nurses-in-training to gain experience in a “virtual hospital” environment through clinical interactions with lifelike mannequins that simulate patients of a wide range of ages and illnesses. Video cameras record training simulations and allow nursing students to review their performances and learn in a real-life setting. Innovations like this earned Academic Technologies a national honor—the AMX Innovation Award for Best Collaborative Initiative in Higher Education—and a $25,000 grant for future technology investments. The award is given to institutions that transform education through innovative accomplishments and practices.

“GW is supportive of transformative innovations that advance the university’s academic enterprise,” said Ms. Garrett. “Academic Technologies has demonstrated a dedication to this commitment through initiatives such as ColonialCast, Colonial Printing, GW Mobile, Blackboard, VoiceThread and the design of award-winning technology-enhanced learning environments.”