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Volume 8, Number 3: December 6, 2001

What Constitutes an LTDC?

by Kathy Finder and Donna Raleigh,
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

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Introduction

Through its Office of Learning and Information Technology, UW System supports a Learning Technology Development Council (http://www.uwsa.edu/olit/ltdc/) that consists of one representative from each of its15 institutions. The Council's mission, "to encourage System wide collaboration and individual campus efforts that promote professional development in the effective use of learning technologies," has resulted in funding and continued support for UW System campuses to establish their own Learning Technology Development Centers (LTDCs). Currently, some form of an LTDC exists on each campus, indicating that much progress in professional development support for instructional technology use has occurred across the state.

Predictably, each campus LTDC has its own flavor. Different flavors arise from institutional cultural differences, available funding, and existing historical and organizational configurations. As instructional support staff members at UW-Eau Claire, we attempted to put those particular considerations aside to ask what, ideally, constitutes an LTDC? What services should an LTDC provide? Should an LTDC be real or virtual?

To answer this question, we researched the services currently provided by the LTDCs and compared our findings to the recommendations of the Teaching, Learning, and Technology (TLT) Group spearheaded by Stephen Gilbert of the American Association of Higher Education. This article presents those findings and our subsequent recommendations.

Survey Process and Results

In attempting to gather information, we asked Council representatives to specify the functions their LTDC staff provides for its campus. We supplied definitions of the functions, so all had a common understanding of the terms.

The following table shows the results of the survey but does not provide the whole picture. Often the LTDC representatives attached caveats to their responses, explaining the extent to which they perform the function, other campus units that may provide part of the particular function or how collaboration exists to serve the campus.

  Function
Consultation
Training
Experiment
Documentation
Self-production
Currency
WBLS Support
Clearinghouse
Web Accessibility
Production
# of Campuses
14
13
13
13
12
12
11
10
9
8
 


One service that appeared consistent on each campus was one-on-one consulting. Albeit, that consulting may be broad or narrowly focused, depending on the LTDC mission. Most campuses also provide training, experimentation, and documentation--again, to varying degrees. Facilities for self-production are provided through the majority of LTDCs; however, what faculty can develop ranges from simple scanned documents to capturing and editing video. LTDC staff across UW System strive to remain current on changes, trends, and evolving and emerging technologies. Support for WBLS products (e.g., Blackboard and WebCT) is generally provided by the LTDC staffs. Additional support provided by LTDCs includes serving as a clearinghouse--a central point of contact, support for web accessibility, and instructional materials production.

The survey sought to discover the "big picture," those services and resources provided by the campuses through their LTDCs. While the results indicate commonality among the campuses, the caveats indicate that vast differences exist in audience and scope. For example, some LTDCs provide training for Blackboard and Dreamweaver with no support for the Microsoft Office products, which is provided by other departments. The audience for some LTDCs is exclusively faculty; others serve faculty, academic and classified staff, and students. Further research is necessary to develop an in-depth profile of the LTDCs, both commonalities and differences.

LTDC as Defined by the TLT Group of the American Association of Higher Education

In August 2001, UW-Eau Claire hosted a seminar presented by Steven Gilbert, President of AAHE's Teaching, Learning, and Technology Group. Many LTDC representatives and other UW System campus staff participated in this live WebCast, which focused on UW-Eau Claire's efforts to define what constitutes an LTDC.

Dr. Gilbert shared a document entitled "Excerpts from the (V) TLTC Starter Kit" that defined 13 possible functions of a (Virtual) Teaching, Learning, and Technology Center. (To request a copy of this document, contact info@tltgroup.org.) Those 13 functions are found on the slide called "(V)TLTC Metaphors and Models" in the PowerPoint presentation, "(V)TLTCs Virtual Teaching, Learning, and Technology Centers." They mirror, to great extent, the functions we used for the survey. For example, "Directory" equates to "Clearinghouse," and "Training Center" reflects the need for organized group training activities as many of the LTDCs provide.

The main differences between Dr. Gilbert's suggestions for (V)TLTC functions and what actually exists on our campuses appears to be support for informal sharing and collaboration between faculty and among faculty and support staff. For example, he recommends the following three components:

  • Base Camp (Collaboration Facilities). A place where faculty and support personnel get together to form teams for training, program planning, etc.
  • Mentoring Center. A space where one-on-one or small group faculty relationships are cultivated, or where a formal mentoring relationship can grow and develop.
  • Lounge/Forum. A comfortable environment where food, drink, and resources can enhance informal exchanges related to the scholarship of teaching and learning.

In keeping with the (virtual) possibilities offered, these described "places" may not necessarily occupy campus space but virtual space. However, as Dr. Gilbert's handout states: "The combination of BOTH online and on-site access is likely to be the most widely effective and powerful for most of the . . . functions, services, and resources. . . No single TLTC or (V) TLTC could adequately take on all of these roles."

What then, given our limited resources--support staff, budget, and faculty time--are the most important functions an LTDC, using both virtual and physical means, can and should provide?

Prioritizing the Components

Given these considerations, it becomes evident that faculty and support staff need to work together to select components that best serve faculty needs as they choose instructional technology tools and applications to increase the effective delivery of their curricula. Bearing in mind the Council mission, we believe the following to be high priority services:

  • Just-in-time, one-on-one consulting. This involves inquiries based on specific teaching objectives and/or activities. It might be accomplished through a one-minute phone conversation or through consulting consisting of multiple sessions. It may lead to/require additional services or formation of teams to help achieve the teaching objective.
  • Clearinghouse or directory. The LTDC staff needs to be able to point to other local, regional, and state resources that assist faculty as they redesign curriculum to make use of the new technology tools.
  • Experimentation, research, and development. The LTDC staff needs time and resources to explore instructional technology possibilities, approaches, and best strategies.
  • Opportunities for faculty to meet. Faculty need an environment in which to share best practices, explore possibilities, refine ideas, and access professional development resources and technology tools.
  • Training. The LTDC should offer training for small groups interested in using technology in support of their curricula.
  • Sharing of current instructional technology trends and applications. This implies that the LTDC staff will have time and resources for their own professional development that can be expanded and shared with faculty in formal and informal settings

While we believe the above components are essential in meeting the Council mission, we believe that there are also some critical components that must be available for faculty but not necessarily through an LTDC. These include: skill-building training; documentation; instructional materials production; development lab for faculty use; accessibility awareness; and technical and administrative support for Web-based learning systems. The LTDC staff, however, must have close communication and on-going relationships with other units who provide these services.

Conclusion

As we have described, each LTDC in the UW System has its own niche and fulfills a need for its campus. Within their unique environments, the LTDCs provide common services: consulting, training, clearinghouse, research, and experimentation. Dr. Gilbert suggests that a "place" fostering sharing and communication among faculty and with the LTDC support staff is a critical component to the evolution of the LTDC. We agree. Despite the challenges associated with creating an informal, drop-in environment where discussion on the scholarship of teaching can occur, it may be the fuel that ignites and unites the faculty as they strive to effectively use technology tools to enhance teaching and learning experiences.

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Sources

Gilbert, Stephen. "Excerpts from the (V) TLTC Starter Kit." An AAHE Teaching, Learning, and Technology Group document, available by contacting info@tltgroup.org.



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