Final Report of the Chancellor's Educational Technology Task Force

January 23, 1996

University of California, Irvine

Chancellor's Educational Technology Task Force



In the contemporary era, computers have become nearly-universal analytic and expressive instruments. Their research use is widespread throughout UCI, e.g., Thesaurus Linguae Graecae in Humanities, art and architecture visual data bases used in the School of the Arts, census and survey research data sets used in the Social Sciences, to name only a few examples. Once, computers were huge machines costing millions that only major institutions could afford. Now, laptop computers more powerful than the early large mainframes can be purchased for a few thousand dollars. Computers abound -- in the home as well as in the workplace. Computers are used to mine information from global networks and to help link it and fuse it into forms that reveal new insights. They are used to wrest the meaning from the data and to visualize the consequences of assumptions. They are used as well for communication and global collaboration, and they have even become the engines of new modes of inquiry in the sciences and new media for creative expression in the arts.

As we move toward the 21st Century, computer literacy has become the equivalent of the 4th R. Those who lack such literacy (at the equivalent of college level skills) will be severely disadvantaged. Both Chancellor Wilkening's ``manifesto'' and the APC report on the task force process asserted that, `` A UCI graduate should be prepared to survive and prosper in the electronic information era.''

UCI (and the UC system) have already taken critical steps to recognize the role of the computer in education, e.g., the UC Libraries developed MELVYL® and added to it access to a multiplicity of bibliographic and other data, specialized librarians consult with faculty on how best to use the computer as a research tool, IDS and Media Services provide computers (and other media) for the classroom and consult with faculty on how best to integrate educational technology, the Office of Academic Computing (OAC) provides a backbone campus network and terminals to access it, and courses in basic computer literacy such as the new ICS Category V breadth courses and Social Sciences 3A have recently been created. But there is still a long way to go.

We advocate using the computer and other educational technology to improve the quality of education at UCI in terms of the following specific goals:

  1. Improve the clarity and impact of lectures.
  2. Improve student analytical, expressive, and critical thinking skills.
  3. Improve student/faculty feedback.
  4. Improve the usefulness of homework exercises for student learning.
  5. Permit more self-paced learning to cope with increasing diversity in student skill levels.
  6. Provide technological opportunities to link UCI and the community -- alumni, University Extension students, current and potential students, and their families.

Making cost-effective use of educational technology requires four key elements: [1]

  1. Basic infrastructure that makes access to educational technology easy for faculty, students and staff. While some of this infrastructure can and will be developed within individual units, the role of OAC, the UCI Libraries, IDS/Media Services and Student Services, will be essential. Infrastructure should be seen not merely as hardware and software, but even more importantly as staff who can do necessary training of faculty and graduate TAs and smooth the way for the integration of educational technology in the classroom.

  2. Training of students in fundamental skills of how to use the computer as an aid to find information, organize it, analyze it, and communicate ideas persuasively (including use of graphics) during their first year at UCI. These skills cannot be tied too closely to particular platforms or software, since technological change is too rapid. The Task Force also recognizes that such critical skills (e.g., asking good questions and avoiding bad data) must be developed in the context of the very different substantive questions in the various academic disciplines. Thus, the responsibility for training must involve all the units on campus, although some units may be used as a campuswide resource, e.g., OAC, ICS, the UCI Libraries, UNEX, and PASS (Program of Academic Support Services) of Undergraduate Studies.

  3. Incentives to faculty to make use of the computer in the classroom, along with incentives to academic units to redesign their curriculum to draw on the computer-aided research skills that students have been taught, lest those skills degenerate through lack of use.

  4. Integrating the computer more fully into on-going campus life by making virtually all information of interest (e.g., campus calendar, course schedules, syllabi, degree requirements, faculty bio-sketches, etc.) available on-line, and assuring that key secretarial and administrative staff in all the units have basic information skills including the ability to retrieve and enter information into the campus computer net.

We do not wish this report to be merely hortatory. We have four specific recommendations, several of which will require fundamental changes in the way things get done. Some can be implemented almost immediately, others will take more lead time, but we believe that all of our proposals for change can be accomplished within a four year time frame. The strong support for these ideas from Task Force members from OAC, Undergraduate Studies (including IDS and Media Services), the UCI Libraries and Student Services, and from the very diverse faculty on the Task Force convinces us that what we propose not only is feasible but would be enthusiastically received by many on our campus.

Recognizing the incredible amount of coordination and effective advocacy required, we recommend that the Chancellor appoint a Czar (i.e., a strong leader) to oversee the implementation of these recommendations.

In her ``manifesto'' document, ``Growing into the 21st Century: UCI's Opportunities,'' the Chancellor quoted the APC report on the task force process as follows:

``If UCI is to have a distinctive undergraduate program of high quality and is to attract students of high quality, then some thought should be given to the adoption by UCI of several programmatic characteristics that distinguish the UCI undergraduate experience from that of other universities.'' (pp. 5-6)

Both the Chancellor's ``manifesto'' and the APC report went on to identify four such distinctive programmatic characteristics, the first three of which dealt with: (i) cultural diversity as an educational asset, (ii) research or scholarly experience, and (iii) communication skills. The fourth distinctive characteristic, identified as a prerequisite for future success, was, (iv) 21st Century electronic information skills.

Achieving the goals of the present Report will address the fourth of these distinctive features of a UCI undergraduate education in a sound and constructive fashion.

Even more emphatically, if we achieve what this report recommends, then, by the year 2000, UCI's distinctive status as a 21st Century university can be proudly proclaimed.


1. The Chancellor Should Urge the Academic Senate to Make the Learning of 21st Century Information Skills a Programmatic Feature of a UCI Education

2. Build and Maintain a Basic, Pervasive Infrastructure [3] to Support Learning and Teaching Based on the Use of Educational Technology

3. Help Faculty Identify and Pursue Research Funding and Course Development Opportunities in Instructional Technology

4. Ensure Extensive Administrative Use of Computers in Support of Education and Support the Use of Technological Resources to Link to the Extended UCI Community


1. There have been previous expensive commitments to educational technology that have failed to live up to their expansive promises. We believe one reason for that failure has been a lack of appreciation that hardware alone is not enough, nor are courses in computer skills when the skills they teach are not used later in the rest of the curriculum. There must be incentives for students, faculty and staff to use the technology and the technology must be easy to access, user friendly, and not constantly changing.

2. Developing an agile ability to use modern computers as analytical, expressive, and information gathering instruments can be of significant, lasting value in cultivating critical thinking skills -- skills serviceable for a lifetime. Expectably, however, patterns of computer use will vary according to the differing special needs of the various different academic disciplines. For example, physics majors may find that training to use Mathematica® or Maple® enables them later to achieve deeper theoretical understanding in physics, whereas music majors may find training in the use of music composition and synthesis software enables them to develop a better appreciation of nuances, subtleties, and refinements in the relationship between a musical score and its performance. Thus, training in the use of computer-based, discipline-specific research tools, and their use in solving problems in the respective disciplines is important. But such advanced training must rest on a foundation of suitable introductory training. Hence, basic familiarity with elementary uses of the computer as a foundation on which to build the discipline-specific skills is also recommended. At a minimum, such basic skills should cover elementary word processing with a focus on skills that are most relevant to writing research papers; training to access MELVYL® and the various information sources within it; training to use e-mail, gopher, World-Wide-Web, and other Internet resources; and training in various useful information search and display techniques.

3. Infrastructure includes not only equipment, but the staff to support and update it, sufficient funding therefor, and maintaining easy access for faculty, students, and staff.

4. While individual innovators are important, long-term change requires widespread change in standard operating procedures. To motivate such changes, groups such as departments will have to be convinced that there are payoffs for them, collectively, to devote effort to improving teaching in existing courses via the computer and, perhaps, to add new courses that draw even more heavily on computer use. Since entrepreneurs are not evenly spread throughout the campus, it is inevitable that curricular innovation using computers will proceed through the system at an uneven rate. By proceeding one department at a time, and requiring real and continuing curricular change to qualify for this new major funding, we can make it likely that curricular innovations will be continued.

5. A model for this is the $15,500 funding received by Prof. Grofman to develop Social Sciences 3A.

6. We commend Student Services for pioneering first steps in creating an on-line student admissions application.

7. Some of these data are presently made accessible on-line by some academic units.

8. The World Wide Web (WWW) materials prepared by Professor D'Zmura for the Cognitive Sciences Department and the course description placed on WWW by Professor Robert Garfias for his course in Ethnomusicology are models of what should be done.

Table of Acronyms Used

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