Oct 31 2006

IT Leadership Awards I

Purdue University's Software Remote team developed a unique system that empowers students to access applications anytime, from anywhere.

Purdue University’s Software Remote team developed a unique system that empowers students to access applications anytime, from anywhere.

IN NOVEMBER 2005, we posed the following challenge to our readers as part of our IT Leadership Awards:

The Challenge

Are you breaking new ground in using information technology to improve instruction and student service at your institution? Ed Tech: Focus on Higher Education is looking to celebrate technology revolutionaries who are changing how their institutions fulfill their educational and student service missions.

Please send a 500-word description of how your school is leveraging technology tools to improve student service and educational outcomes. Or feel free to create a hypothetical example of how you might revolutionize your campus with technology.

Based on the high number of entries, we divided the entrants into three categories: public institution, private institution and community college. A panel of judges from Duke University awarded the public university Pedagogy & IT Practice award to John Campbell, associate vice president, Department of IT Teaching and Learning Technologies at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

Campbell oversees most aspects of instructional technology, including the centralized computer laboratories, remote access to instructional tools, virtual collaboration, course management and faculty support. He worked on the program with Ed Evans, director of Learning Spaces; Andy Thomas, manager, Teaching and Learning Technologies; Mick Haberzetle, lead systems administrator; and systems administrators Chad Starns, Kerry Tyler and Bill Walker. Campbell will receive a $2,000 shopping spree at www.cdwg.com for his institution. His entry follows.

Empowering Students

Faculty and staff are often frustrated because they must limit the use of key software applications in their coursework, which often prevents students from using applications that they will encounter professionally. There are several reasons for this limitation: Software is often too expensive. Students own a variety of systems, which forces instructors to use the lowest common denominator in software. Applications may conflict with software already installed on the students' machines, and students have limited access to computer labs.

Given the restrictions on software use, instructors have had three choices: require students to buy a limited version of the software; make them use an open campus computer lab; or redesign the curriculum to use free software – or no software.

Anytime, Anywhere

To address these frustrations, Purdue University's Software Remote team developed a unique system that integrates Microsoft Terminal Services and Citrix Presentation Server to provide access to instructional applications through a Web browser and client plug-in. Software Remote empowers Purdue students to access applications anytime, from anywhere – on notebook PCs, from wireless-enabled computers on campus, from homes or from dorm rooms – without having to be on campus or wait in line at a computer lab.

Today, more than 60,000 users, including students, faculty and administrators, access more than 30 applications from any Web browser via the system. Because the software doesn't reside on the student's computer, it doesn't matter what kind of computer a student has. A Windows-only software application runs on a Mac or a Unix system exactly as it would on any Windows PC.

Because key applications are now readily available, many faculty members have increased their use of software and assigned more advanced problems for students to solve. This increases problem-solving and enhances the students' experience with these tools, which helps when they seek employment.

“My Mechanical Engineering Technology 382 students, who have been using the Software Remote service since August 2004, are pleased with the service,” reports Jan Lugowski, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology at Purdue. “They're glad they don't have to buy the software and can work on assignments on any computer connected to the Internet. I am able to assign more advanced problems for LabVIEW programming thanks to this access. This is also an asset when students apply for jobs because many employers are looking for graduates with knowledge of LabVIEW.”

A Positive Impact on Learning

The innovations of the Software Remote team have been highlighted during the past five years. The group has presented at the Teaching and Learning With Technology Showcase, hosted by the Purdue Association of Educational Technology and Teaching and Learning Technologies. The team has also presented at national and regional conferences, including Citrix iForum. According to Citrix, Purdue is the first major public university to offer such an online service to support teaching and learning.

The impact on students and faculty has been tremendous. Students no longer have to complete assignments on campus or purchase expensive applications. During the past fall semester, more than 3,200 students accessed the system. During 2004, nearly a quarter of a million sessions were logged using the application for more than 175,000 hours. The average student session has reached 48 minutes.

About John Campbell

What is a little-known fact about Purdue?

The first and last men to walk on the moon were educated here. And Purdue was the first university (along with Rice) to have its own URL.

Why did you get into IT?

While I've always been interested in IT, a faculty member helped me make the connection between my interest in education and in technology. I've spent most of the past two decades exploring how IT can support and enhance the teaching and learning process. I've enjoyed working in higher education, where IT's role in supporting learning provides diverse and exciting opportunities.

What's the biggest challenge currently?

The biggest challenge is to remain an active partner with the rest of the university community to address institutional needs. As the demand for services continues to outstrip resources, IT must look outward and avoid the tendency to “circle the wagons.”

Within academic technology, the key challenge is finding creative ways to meet the needs of the Millennial generation and to support an increasingly student-centric learning institution that's not constrained by time and place.

What IT project are you most proud of?

In the last two years, the project I am most proud of is the eInstruction Classroom Performance System, which equipped all system classrooms with receivers for an audience response system. The CPS project negotiated set pricing below what many schools have secured and created a campus standard for supporting this technology. Purdue arrived ahead of many other institutions in the area of audience response systems, and it has been a great win for our faculty and students.

What makes Purdue a great place to work?

The people make Purdue an exciting place. Our faculty members are proactive in exploring new tools and techniques that may improve teaching and learning – both face-to-face and virtually. The administration continues to be very supportive and has enabled my unit to deploy several cutting-edge initiatives to support faculty and students. Talented staff members can make any initiative possible.

What do you plan to do during the summer?

We have numerous upgrades planned. We will replace 830 desktops, 95 printers and 40 servers, and will kick off our Purdue Mobile Learning Initiative, which equips incoming freshmen with notebook and Tablet PCs.