Category Archives: Technology

Attention all UND SurveyMonkey Users: Now is the Time to Convert to Qualtrics

Rebecca J. Romsdahl, Earth System Science & Policy

I have been a long-time user of SurveyMonkey. It has been a helpful tool for my research and also for gathering anonymous course feedback from students; I find it more helpful when I can ask course specific questions rather than just what the University collects in the end-of-semester USAT surveys. But, like many, I have found that the subscription cost of SurveyMonkey is now a burden I can no longer afford. Last semester I had heard that the University was considering purchasing a survey software program, but I was skeptical that any other program would be as useful and convenient as SurveyMonkey. But when I received the CILT flyer announcing a workshop titled “Stop Monkeying Around with Surveys and Check Out Qualtrics,” I realized I should at least see what it had to offer because it may soon be my only available option.

I have to admit that half-way through the workshop demonstration, I was converted. You can view the presentation for yourself on the CILT website here: Many UND people have been involved in ‘test-driving’ Qualtrics and they found it professional and so useful that UND was convinced to purchase a University-wide license; so anyone with a UND login/password can now utilize it. From the workshop presentation, the Qualtrics program appears to be user-friendly, especially if you are comfortable with SurveyMonkey. Qualtrics has many of the same features as SurveyMonkey, so don’t worry that you might lose some features. In fact, based on the one hour CILT workshop, I would say Qualtrics probably has more options available for tailoring a survey to meet specific interests; for example, I could embed a video clip (from YouTube or elsewhere) directly into a survey so that respondents watch it and then answer questions on the same page.

I was also impressed that students will be allowed to utilize Qualtrics as well, which could be developed into interesting research assignments; for example, it would allow faculty to help students learn how to design a survey for a class project. Plus, with the University wide license, I have the convenience I value, I will be able to continue gathering anonymous course feedback from students, and will not have to worry about out-of-pocket subscription fees. There is the additional bonus of CILT support and training workshops on campus, which you can sign up for here: Or you can just jump straight into exploring Qualtrics for yourself by using your UND login and password here: Despite having been comfortable as a user of SurveyMonkey, I see great potential in making this transition to Qualtrics; I would encourage others to take advantage of this program.

The Future of the Computer Lab

Bill Caraher, Department of History, University of North Dakota

This year, I’ve been serving on a committee that distributes technology funding for teaching within my college.  One of things that these funds do is maintain computer labs in departments and programs across campus. Many of the computer labs that these funds will renovate are difficult to keep up to date (and currently rely upon computers purchased more than 5 years ago which is an eternity amidst today’s fast moving technology cycle),  relatively small with fewer than 40 computers, and serve relatively focused constituencies (typically limited to particular departments or programs). These three issues: the difficulty in keeping labs up to date, their small size, and their focused constituencies led me to think a bit about the future and function of the computer lab in the modern university.

As a preemptive caveat, I’ll admit that I do not teach in a computer lab and our department does not make use of one.  On the other hand, I have been involved with building a lab and have observed student behavior and the tech scene over the past 10 years.  So with that framework, I’ll offer some observations here and invite everyone to critique, expand, explode, or reject my observation in the comments!

1. The desktop computer is on the verge of extinction.  Computer labs are almost always associated with the desktop computer.  At the same time, a Pew Study (h/t to Mark Grabe) released last month has shown that just over half (57%) college-aged students have desktop computers whereas 70% of them have laptops.  The reasons for this are pretty clear.  Laptops are now powerful enough to handle all but the most robust computing needs. To be sure, the limitations of laptop computers – particularly at the extreme high end of, say, complex graphics production, video editing, controlling scientific equipment, or other processes that require significant computing power – still require desktop work stations with massive, multicore processes, massive amounts of storage, and robust cooling capacities, and ability to be customized and expanded. These environments, however, are fairly rare outside of upper-level or even graduate research programs.  Few students ever explore the fringes of their laptop’s computational power (except perhaps when they are playing games).  The growing preference for laptop computers among “millennials” makes clear that fewer users and ultimately software makers require the kind of performance limited to desktop hardware.

2. The cloud can do almost everything.  My suspicion is that while personal computers will continue to become more powerful, the real growth in computer power will come through leveraging “cloud” based computing.  In other words, powerful, remote computers with many, many times the power of even the most robust desktop will be available to handle the most demanding processes. Unlike a desktop or even a laptop which is designed for a single individual, cloud based computers can accommodate many users, sometimes simultaneous, and thereby reduce unnecessary duplication of processing power common to a computer lab where processing loads are often distributed unevenly across all users.  For example, processor intensive functions – like graphics rendering – now typically reserved for the most powerful desktop computers, can be sent out to the cloud where clusters of powerful computer can more efficiently and quickly handle demanding tasks.

Moreover, companies like CiTRIX are working to bring even common software to the cloud (like the Adobe suite of image editing software) making it possible for students to use specialized software which is not running on their computer, but in the cloud. The student’s computer become just an access point for the computer power of the cloud and the software running in that environment.  This both eliminates the need for students to purchase expensive, specialized software for one or two classes and eliminates the need to limit software on a group of designated machines in a computer lab environment.

So cloud computing is not only more powerful, but more efficient. If a student can leverage the power of cloud computing from their laptop, why do we need to provide a lab full of powerful desktop computers?

3. Decentralized learning.  Cloud based computing will become more and more important as programs turn toward increasingly decentralized models of instruction. The physical computer lab is based on residential, spatially local models of instruction.  While it is my hope that universities will always have classrooms, labs, and physical locations, I am also aware that the move toward online instruction will make some of these facilities less important for the definition of university education.  Students taking a class from around the world will no long be able to use a computer lab located in a particular building with particular hours and particular physical hardware.  Just as cloud based course management software like Blackboard or Moodle facilitate spatially decentralized learning models, more specialized software will also gradually become available in an online environment making the hardwire computer lab as marginal as the bricks-and-mortar classroom.

4. The line between a classroom and lab is increasingly blurred.  As Anne Kelsch has discussed, new models for classrooms – particularly those designed around the principles of active learning – have incorporated many of the features of the traditional computer lab directly into classroom space. While computer labs do have the benefit of physically concentrating students working on similar projects and problems, the classroom as computer lab brings that focus to even a finer point.  Spaces like the SCALE-UP classroom take computers from the lab (where my mind’s eye sees banks of computers facing the wall or arranged in ranks) and organizes them both in physical space and through software to encourage students to work together.  While labs have always been teaching spaces, the line between the lab and the classroom will become increasingly blurred.

5. The new economic normal. Computer hardware is expensive to buy, to maintain, and to keep current. Public universities are under increased pressure to trim budgets and use resources more wisely. Traditional computer labs will not remain a cost-efficient way to provide students with access to computer power, software, or a sophisticated instructional environment.  Specialized labs will continue to exist for particular kinds of highly-specialized computing needs or to support certain learning environments, departmental or program based computer labs designed to serve diverse constituencies will soon fall victim to the changing economic realities of American university life.  While many of the more powerful and specialized cloud based solutions are not inexpensive, they offer structural advancement over desktop computing by leveraging economies of scale.


These are simply my reflections on the role of the computer lab in the teaching and learning environment. What do you think the future holds for the computer lab in the 21st century university?

The MacLab: Helpful software, tips and tricks for the Macintosh OSX from Tim Pasch.

Timothy Pasch, Department of English, Assistant Professor of Communications, University of North Dakota

Welcome to this first post for “the MacLab” on Teaching Thursdays. My name is Timothy (Tim) Pasch, an Assistant Professor in the Communication Program/English Department here at UND. It is a pleasure to be writing this column and I hope that it may be of help to some. I am additionally available to assist faculty with any Mac-related questions at or at my website at

I would like to begin this first post with a list of applications that I find to be the most useful for my teaching and research. I have come to discover my ideal configuration of scholarly utilities after long experimentation. Your requirements will certainly be different than my own, however I hope that this list may offer a starting point to begin your own exploration.

10. Backup: SuperDuper and Time Machine

These programs ensure that your data is safe. Time Machine is easy to use: simply enable it from your system preferences. You will need to connect an external hard drive in order for this to work (eSATA is fastest, followed by Firewire). SuperDuper clones your drive, which is different from TimeMachine’s approach (called incremental). I have set up schedules so that both of these take place each day: your approach may vary. I was part of the beta-testers that helped with this version of SuperDuper and it has saved my data on numerous occasions. It can also help you move all of your data from one Mac to another. (Shameless plug: click the “about” window in this program and scroll to the end to see the screen below.)


9. Image Capture and Archive: Skitch Pro, TextExpander and Dropbox

I use Skitch constantly throughout each day. This program lets a user take screenshots and annotate them. This is helpful for research and teaching, and in bringing web content to students while creating course content and when writing. I cannot express how useful this program is to my workflow. I highly recommend it.

TextExpander is another utility that I cannot do without: it expands abbreviations into your most frequently used text-strings. This may sound complicated but it’s not. As an example, let’s say that you set up the letters “sigg” to expand into your full name with address, email, fax numbers, and an image of your signature, to be pasted onto any document. I find myself doing research using abbreviations and it saves a lot of time. Definitely consider checking out TextExpander!

Dropbox is a free utility that integrates seamlessly with your Finder, and allows you to save files off-site in the cloud. You can also collaborate with other users. It is amazing and free for 2GB of storage. The other nice thing about Dropbox is that it works with Windows and Linux, making it easy to move between operating systems on different machines, or among virtual guests (more on this in a bit).

8. Communication: Skype Beta and Wimba Pronto

The latest beta of Skype for the Mac (version 5) allows conference calls using video. Skype, if you are not familiar with it, is beautifully-implemented VOIP communication using video for your computer. Advanced users can make it work on their cellphones and even landlines (Skypeout, for example). Indispensable!

Wimba Pronto for Mac (download from your Blackboard page) is very nicely coded. I have been using it on campus a great deal recently to communicate with some fellow faculty members. The integrated writeboard is an excellent tool for jotting down quick graphical notes when planning your next collaborative grant! Highly recommended and please watch for me on Pronto (Click Actions/Add Contact/timothypasch).

7. Security: 1Password and Orbicule

I have been using 1Password since it was first released and it keeps getting better and better. It manages your passwords so that you (heaven forbid!) do not use the same password for multiple sites anymore. It creates extremely complex passwords for you and keeps them encrypted. 1Password is now available for Windows and a variety of mobile devices as well.

Orbicule offers security for your system if it ever gets stolen. They have an excellent recovery rate. This product offers peace of mind for your investment and your research data.

6. Clipboard and Input: PTH Pasteboard Pro, Better TouchTool

Many years of testing different clipboard managers have resulted in my finding a real gem: PTH Pasteboard. This pasteboard keeps a record of all of your “copy” commands, and gives you a very flexible way of pasting them again. I use this constantly for copying and pasting citations. You can also synchronize your pasteboard and paste to multiple computers. You can edit your pasteboard using flexible filters and paste as plain text or in any number of flexible formats. I cannot express how powerful this utility can be for a researcher copying and pasting in a variety of formats.

Better Touch Tool transforms your multitouch trackpad into a highly flexible control surface. You can specify what a pinch, zoom, or swipe will do in any program on your computer. This is truly empowering technology for the controllability of computers (think, Minority Report). I am currently conducting research in this area. Please let me know if you have any questions.

5. Blackboard: VMware Fusion with Respondus

Although this is a Mac tutorial, please believe me when I mention that I value Windows and Linux as well. I run both of these operating systems (Windows 7 and Ubuntu Linux) in virtualization using Vmware Fusion. I prefer Fusion to Parallels however Parallels is also a viable solution.

When using Fusion for Blackboard management, Respondus is an excellent program and we have a site license here at UND. It enables course instructors to generate exams and quizzes to be deployed in Blackboard. I used it last semester to create auto-grading final examinations and I was very pleased with how seamlessly it worked. Running multiple operating systems at the same time comes with its own series of challenges, however being able to run platform-specific applications is very valuable.

4. Keeping updated: Macupdate

The release of the new Mac App Store may eventually supplant this service, however for now, (and for all those apps not purchased on the app store), Macupdate Desktop is a wonderful program. It lets you know when an update is available for any program on your Mac, and can install it for you in the background. This is a very nice application.

3. Video Display and Editing: VLC and Handbrake

If you use video in your courses at all, I cannot express how handy VideoLan VLC can be. It is free and will play almost any type of video: many more types than Quicktime can (even when you have the Perian codecs installed). VLC is open source and runs on Windows and Linux as well. Handbrake is a free program that can transform video from one video-type to another (.avi to MPEG H.264 for example). This can be very helpful if you want to embed video into your Blackboard posts or transmit to YouTube. It is open source and runs on Windows, Ubuntu and Fedora as well as Mac.

2. Access, Search and Task Management: Lauchbar, OmniFocus and Grand Perspective

These three programs really help me with my workflow. Launchbar is a very rapid way of opening the programs that you are looking for, and more. A replacement of the wonderful Quicksilver application, Launchbar helps me move quickly through my files without needing to use the mouse. You can open certain files using certain programs quickly and intuitively.

Omnifocus is what I use to stay on task. It is a powerful GTD program (Getting Things Done) and has been helpful in allocating my scholarly time. It integrates directly with the Mail application in OSX and I send my important messages to Omnifocus so that I do not miss responding to those.

Grand Perspective is a free application that represents graphically and in color where your hard disk space is being used. This utility is a boon to those of us continually wrestling with data allocation.

1. My Triumvirate of Research: Bookends, Papers and Scrivener

I spent years trying to make friends with Endnote. Although I wrote my dissertation using it, it has always been buggy on the Mac and its integration with Word, especially when working with larger (book-length) files, has been erratic. I have used the excellent Zotero (a firefox plugin) with great success and some of my graduate students are now converts to that reference system developed by George Mason University.

As for me, I use Bookends, which I am generally very pleased with. It integrates very nicely with Apple Pages as well as Mellel, Word, and a variety of other word processors. Bookends additionally integrates with Google Scholar, PubMed, the Web of Science, JSTOR, the Library of Congress, and any of a variety of scholarly libraries directly. It can also import metadata and full references from any book on Amazon, which has come in handy many, many times.

Papers is the second program in this trio that integrates into my research and teaching workflow. Papers is what I use for searching and archiving scholarly PDFs. It integrates directly with Scopus here at UND and allows me to pull in any papers from that database. it does the same with all of the IEEE journals, PubMed, the Web of Science and Knowledge, MathSciNet and many more. It can export into Bookends for the final bibliographic generation for your papers. Papers is an amazing tool for creating your literature reviews. Its integration with the leading databases is excellent and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Scrivener is a writing tool for larger writing projects. I love the way that it organizes my writing into sections (chapters or major headings). It incorporates a corkboard where writers can organize their PDFs, images, ideas, sketches and other concepts related to the writing project (or course design, or grant, etc). Scrivener is a more intuitive framework for the development of multi-sectioned research, in my personal experience.

I hope that this list may be useful to you in your own research of scholarly applications and utilities for your computer. Please do let me know if you have any additional questions, as I am happy to help.

A Showcase for Online Teaching Technology

Bill Caraher, Department of History, University of North Dakota

This week the Senate Continuing Education Committee hosted its regular Online Teaching Showcase.  Each semester the showcase brings together faculty who teach online and asks them to share some the techniques and technologies that they use to make their online classes more successful.  In some ways, this regular gathering of online teaching faculty is a great way to get a sense for future directions in online teaching.

Many of the most common (and intriguing) applications that faculty used to reach their online and distant students sought to facilitate realtime interaction between faculty and student.  The old stalwarts, Adobe Connect and the various Wimba Applications (which are conveniently bundled into Blackboard), made an appearance.  Their reliable and familiar interfaces allow faculty to stream a lecture to a group of students in real time, record the lecture for an archive, and share screens with students.  Tegrity Lecture Capture joined these two applications as another option for faculty who are interested recording lectures live. Tegrity is a server (or as they say now “cloud”) based application that allows students to view lectures either in real time or recorded without downloading software to their computer.  To watch a recorded lecture, the student downloads a relatively small executable file which they then run on their computer. Based on the demonstration that I saw at the Showcase, Tegrity allows for the faculty member to track students who stream the lectures from the cloud.  Faculty could not only see how long a student viewed a recorded lecture, but also isolate parts of the lecture that a student re-watched in order to identify problem concepts or explanations.

I also saw a demonstration of Tidebreak which is an application that creates a dynamic, shared environment where students and faculty can share screens, swap files, and even take control of a central, shared workstation to demonstrate a procedure or execute a task.  I could imagine that software like Tidebreak could be used alongside Adobe Connect or Wemba to create a far more interactive online classroom, but with this advance comes greater complexity.

Cloud based computing also was on display with products like Citrix.  Citrix allows students to access applications run “in the cloud”.  The applications range from Adobe products like Photoshop to the standard suite of Microsoft offerings (Excel, Word, Access) and even more specialized applications like the statistics application SPSS.  From what I can tell, the goal of this kind of service is allow students access to software without the expense and complications individual licensing. It will eventually allow a faculty member to create an online computer lab where they could work with a group of students using virtualized software (again, from the cloud) without making them each buy the applications or worrying about the hardware that remote students are running.

The applicability of these new applications and services is immediately apparent to the part of me that wants to create a richer, more dynamic online classroom.  Another part of me observes that the complexity of these applications will certainly increase the learning curve for a student engaging in online learning (even while services like Tegrity and Citrix could lower the point of entry from the stand point of hardware and software).  Much of the collaborative technology on display also privileged a live teaching environment.  Most of my online teaching, however, and I imagine this is true for many faculty members, is done asynchronously.  That is to say, we are not interacting with students live; instead students are viewing course material at their own pace and interacting with the instructor or their fellow students at far less regular interval than they would in a classroom environment.  While I am sure the users of each of these technologies would stress that they could also work asynchronously, it still seemed clear to me that the goal was to reproduce the classroom experience in a virtual or online way, rather than to imagine the online classroom as something fundamentally different.

Some Teaching Technologies

Bill Caraher, Department of History, University of North Dakota

I am willing to try almost any piece of technology at least once if I think that it has the potential to improve the way that I teach, write, or do research.  The investment in time required to learn a new piece of software or gizmo while often unsatisfactory one an individual level, has so far paid dividends across the whole range of technologies that I use to manage my everyday life.  To put it another way, I was very reluctant to learn to use the so-called e-mail, but the initial investment in learning Eudora (many years ago) has added a level of efficiency to my everyday life that more than makes up for the time wasted trying to learn to use the latest gizmo or application.

Over the past six months, I’ve used and appreciated a whole range of new technologies, ranging from my iPad and my Android powered phone to light duty web-aps that solve an immediate problem (how is it possible to schedule a meeting without Doodle?).  From that little gaggle of software and hardware, three piece of intriguing technology stand out:

1. I am really excited to be an alpha test for  Omeka is an online collection management software produced by the Center for History and the New Media at George Mason University and our neighbors at the Minnesota State Historical Society.  It allows an individual or organization to organize and present collections of material – from texts and podcasts to images and video.  As someone who views the world as a kind of infinite archive, a program of this kind has obvious appeal.  For the last year, I’ve had Omeka running on a server at the University of North Dakota and it has become home for various collections of images including a fine art photography exhibition, a research archive of vernacular architecture in Greece, and a small collection of maps from my survey project in Greece.

The only downside to the program was that it took me quite some time (and a bit of money) to get it up and running on a University server. eliminates the hassle of running and maintaining server based software because they offer both the software and the server side maintenance in the same way that hosts WordPress blogs.  This means that soon, even the least technologically inclined could be up and running with Omeka and begin to catalogue their personal or group archives.

The potential for teaching is really clear.  Curation is becoming an important watchword in our digital age as people come to realize that the quantity of data produced has come to challenge our ability to manage it. The ability to deploy and teach easily a powerful tool like Omeka for collecting, organizing, and presenting a wide range of digital material (primarily in the humanities, but Omeka is hardly a tool limited to a particular discipline) will introduce information management and literacy skills that are likely to be relevant for our digital age.

Right now, is out in invitation only Alpha testing with all the attended caveats, but I asked for an invitation and received it within a few months.

2. Ecto vs. MarsEdit. This past week, ProfHacker (a must read for tech-curious faculty) discussed briefly the relative merits of two offline, blog composition tools, Ecto and MarsEdit. If you’re a blogger (and these days, who isn’t), it is almost essential to be able to write a blog post someplace other than the online space provided by your blog provider.  In general, the online editors provided by most blogging services (e.g. Typepad, WordPress, Blogger) are underpowered, a bit fickle, and dependent on your connection to the internet (and stability of your browser) to work.  There is nothing more frustrating than composing a brilliant post online and seeing it vanish with a browser crash or internet interruption.  Offline composers are half light-duty word processors and half light-duty html editors.  The best option is probably Windows Live Writer, but there is no Mac version of this flexible and stable little program. The two best for Mac users are Ecto and MarsEdit.  Both provide a word processor type interface that allows you to compose easily, edit HTML, and to integrate various media content.

I used Ecto for over a year and found it pretty satisfactory.  It did a particularly nice job managing links (and a blog is nothing without its links to other blogs and sites on the web) and images.  MarsEdit has a slightly nicer interface for writing, however.  I love that I can change the font that I am writing with in MarsEdit without changing the font that appears on my blog.  In other words, I indulge my idiosyncratic preference to compose in American Typewriter font without having to publish using that font. MarsEdit may be a bit less capable of handling images, however.

Either tool makes blog writing less of an adventure and more of a pleasure.  The simple interfaces encourages a focus on the words (not dissimilar from the recent spate of simplified word processors like WriteRoom) and the stability and security the software encourages me to write in a longer form than I might do on the web.

3. Daytum.  Daytum is one of the quirkier services on the web.  It provides a subscriber with an interface where they can record and quantify things.  For example, I count the number of words that I write each day (since I started using Daytum, I’ve written 73,810 words).  I also record whether I get a ride home with my wife or walk; to date, I’ve walked home 35 times and got a ride home 34 times since January.  I like recording the temperature in my office in the morning, but I’m just like that.  I also like the idea of keeping track of how many pages I read each day, but I’ve found that more of an inconvenience as I move from reading paper books and articles to reading across a wide range of media, many of which do not use pages at all (e.g. the web, on my iPad, et c.).

Daytum is a free indulgence for those obsessed with quantifying their lives.  At the same time, it represents the far fringe of a whole batch of software designed to help one become more efficient or at least more aware of how one spends their time. As academics, it seems like we are always running out of time, stumbling across some new deadline, or having to negotiate some kind of delicate work management solution to balance relationships, teaching, research, or “outside” interests.

What technologies have you used over the past six months that have improved how you do what you do?

Online Teaching, the Panopticon, and the ‘Unequal Gaze’

Mick Beltz, Department of Philosophy and Religion, University of North Dakota

It is my intent to explore the relevance of Michel Foucault’s insights, on discipline and the panopticon, within the context of the online educational experience. Bill Caraher, in his recent posting, “The Panopticon and Online Teaching,” explored some of the possible ways to use the work of Michel Foucault as a tool for understanding the online experience. While there will be some overlap between his thoughts and mine, the specifics of our discussions point to different conclusions.

Many people, when presented with Foucault’s discussion of the disciplinary principles of the panopticon, tend to view this discussion in a negative manner. They tend to read this harsh language of prisons, internalization, and discipline with a mild horror. They see the panoptic gaze in a purely negative light and take steps to chastise any structures that reinforce that gaze. I do not intend to defend every example of the ‘unequal gaze’ as being beneficial; however, I do want to highlight some positive consequences of the panoptic nature of online educational environments.

One of the most powerful concepts within the discussion of the panopticon is that of the ‘unequal gaze.’ For Focault, the ‘unequal gaze’ is a structural relationship where two individuals have different power relationships in their ability to monitor and survey the other person. In the discussion of the panopticon, the prison guard has the ability to completely monitor the actions and behaviors of the prisoner. The prisoner, on the other hand, never has the ability to monitor the prison guard, unless the guard allows the prisoner to have access to this information. This uneven power relationship usually means that the prisoner never knows if they are being monitored; instead, since there is the constant possibility of being observed, the prisoner must always operate under the assumption that they are being monitored.

The result of this ‘unequal gaze,’ for Foucault, is a level of discipline that shapes the individual to better fit within modern society and workforces. Any time that an institution has the ability to constantly monitor and record the individuals within those institutions, and the individuals internalize the disciplinary principles, they end up with a ‘docile body.’ That is a body that is disciplined in such a way as to fit smoothly into a society.

It is almost uncanny how the current online education model mirrors the idealized disciplinary institution of the panopticon. The power relationship between student and instructor is magnified in online educational environments. Any given student in an online course, only has access to material presented by the instructor. A student sees what the instructor wants them to see, and nothing more. For many students, this may even mean that they do not know who else (if anyone) is also taking the course. If an instructor decides to not include any group work, a student may never know if there are other students in the course. This isolation has a powerful impact on the internalization of the disciplinary principles. In traditional face-to-face classroom environments, students have the opportunity to talk with other classmates outside of the classroom. Even if this does not happen, a student will likely receive subtle verbal and non-verbal cues indicating the understanding of concepts and ideas by other students during class time. This eliminates isolation. If a student does not understand a concept, they might be able to see that other students are in the same boat. Most online teaching environments are not structured to eliminate this sense of isolation. Instead, since any given student does not know for sure if anyone else is in the course, they each are left with the potential of feeling that they are the only ones that are confused or lost. This feeling of isolation is at the heart of the internalization that comes from the ‘unequal gaze.’

The level of internalization of disciplinary principles needs to be much higher for online educational environments than it does for traditional educational environments. One of the major selling points of online educational environments is that they can allow students to be freed from the standard confines of the course structure. This means that they are freed from attending lectures at preset times or from needing to be someplace specific to learn. The difficulty is that these structures that students are being freed from are not arbitrary; they serve valuable educational purposes. They ensure that students are receiving the necessary information on the subject matter. They ensure that students are spending a specific amount of time digesting that information. They ensure that students do not fall behind in the course. If we free students from the repressive disciplinary structures of the traditional classroom environment, how can we avoid the negatives those structures are designed to prevent? This is the question Foucault was concerned with: how can we eliminate the repressive disciplinary structures and still maintain the results we desire? This is the importance of internalization. The panoptic nature of online educational environments provides this. Instructors are presented with a vast array of information that tells them how often a student views material, how long they view it, whether they have skipped over sections, etc. Since this information is unequally distributed in the instructor’s favor, the instructor has a much stronger level of power (not including all of the other power relationship that come in all educational environments). This ‘unequal gaze’ coupled with the potential isolation allows online education to free the student from the repressive structures if they are able to successful internalize the disciplinary principles.

Foucault argues that the goal of the panopticon is to create the ‘docile body’ within the prison population. By this, he is arguing that we need to shape the body to be better prepared to be a productive member of the workforce. Those people who cannot control their bodily impulses would be disruptive to those who can control themselves. This focus on the body seems anachronistic to our modern understanding of the needs of the workforce. Modern pluralistic societies have been arguing for decades that the body is not relevant to success. Instead, it is the capabilities of the mind that are relevant. The panopticon that accompanies online education seems to embrace this belief in a way that does not occur in traditional classroom environments. Since both the student and the instructor are disembodied representation of ideas, the focus on the body is eliminated. The race, gender, social class, age, or able-bodiness of both the student and instructor are obscured. This reinforces the expectations within the modern workforce. We are disciplining students to see that the presentation of ideas is the only relevant standard, because students cannot use any physical features as an excuse for their performance in a course.

I believe that there is a second beneficial consequence to the panoptic nature of online educational environments. I have argued, so far, that the ‘unequal gaze’ creates isolation for students. This is not necessarily a negative thing. Since the student’s primary contact is with the instructor, this can be used to foster a feeling of a personal educational experience. Instead of being able to blend in with the crowd, online students have no ability to see the crowd they might blend in with. Whether it is real or not, students internalize the personalized interaction with the instructor. For the student, he or she is likely to feel a personal connection with the instructor, since that is the primary voice they hear in the class. But from the instructor’s perspective, each student is just one out of many students. This gives the perception of personalized attention, without being as capital intensive as private instruction.

Faculty, Teaching Technologies, and the University of North Dakota

Lori Swinney, Director of the Center for Instructional and Learning Technologices (CILT), University of North Dakota

In my role as the director of the Center for Instructional & Learning Technologies (CILT) at the University of North Dakota I have the privilege to work with an incredible team of professionals whose primary focus is to help others learn how to use technology. Our mission is “to collaborate with the University community to provide support for students, faculty and staff in the pursuit of innovation and excellence in teaching and learning with technology”. Our webpage, listing the services we offer is located at

Initially, about 15 years ago, our Center was established to support faculty integrating technology into teaching and learning. We created a warm and safe environment to introduce faculty into the new world of teaching with technology. The thought of changing the way one taught a course after 20 years of teaching was a little scary for some faculty and like falling off a cliff without a net for others. Our goal at CILT was to introduce little changes, make it fun, and, to use an old adage, “teach the faculty how to fish”. We didn’t do the work for them, we showed them how by teaching workshops, hosting forums, and celebrating successes by showcasing faculty examples.

It worked and UND started the journey into a new world of teaching and learning with technology. We have seen many changes over the past decade. In classrooms, the old desk in the front went away and was replaced by a Smart Teaching Station and the classroom became “smart”. Overhead projectors got dusty because they were replaced by digital projectors mounted on the ceiling. Chalkboards became interactive whiteboards so instructor notes and diagrams could be saved digitally and sent to the students.

We also saw changes in students. Students are bringing laptops, PDAs, smart phones and netbooks to class. They want to get their course information online; syllabus, handouts, faculty contact information, and most important – grades. They want help with how to use the technology, how to plug in their headset, what laptop to buy, how to order an electronic textbook, and how to post their assignments in the Learning Management System (LMS).

Have these changes affected the way faculty design, develop, teach and assess their courses and how our Center supports teaching and learning at UND? Higher Education, as an institution, has always moved very slowly. Technology seems to have sped things up. The New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative have collaborated since 2004 to publish the annual Horizon Report. The report describes the top six emerging technologies thought to have a significant impact on teaching and learning. Three of the key trends noted in this year’s Horizon Report 2010; mobile computing, open content and electronic books when looked at together point towards significant changes in how faculty teach. Students want to bring their electronic devices to class (virtually or face-to-face) and read their textbooks online. Faculty can share their teaching materials with colleagues and use, with permission, others’ content in their courses – open content. What a change from 10-15 years ago when it was difficult to even get an instructor to share an electronic copy of the syllabus.

Not all faculty are embracing these changes. There are so many unique and diverse needs that vary by the discipline, faculty, and student. What works for an instructor teaching political science may not work for his colleague in the same department. The same applies to the students. The changes have affected everyone, some adjust quickly, some struggle, and some will not change. I recently received a call from a new parent inquiring whether his daughter will be able to use electronic textbooks for her courses. He was concerned about the weight of carrying all of the books around campus. When checking with her instructors I found a mixture; electronic texts, hard cover books, handouts and library articles, some traditionalists and some innovators.

An example of how technology can help UND meet the changing needs of students is the explosion of online courses. Students want the flexibility to take classes without having to come to a classroom or even to campus. We have seen a significant increase in the number of online courses offered and student enrollments in the past two years. Some faculty embrace these changes and some believe the traditional face-to-face model of teaching is the only way their course can be taught. CILT’s role is to work with faculty to help develop the course in a different way so that it can be taught online. We have staff with degrees in Instructional Design & Technology who partner with the faculty to create online courses. Faculty report after going through the process of designing and teaching their first online course, they find themselves changing their traditional course by adding some components from the online section.

Technology has become such an essential tool in the teaching and learning process both inside and outside of the classroom. CILT recognized the critical need to provide support for more than just the faculty and has recently expanded its services to include students and staff. We have also increased our support hours into the evening and on weekends. We, in higher education, are moving into the 24/7 access and availability arena that the consumer market already provides for its customers. This is one of the bigger challenges I see for CILT. How do we provide the appropriate level of support that is needed for faculty and students? Is it more time, 24/7? Is it more staff, no waiting time? What is appropriate for us to do for the student or faculty, do we teach them to fish or do we fish for them? Many of the support calls we receive ask us to “just do it for me”, is this right? How do we keep up with the new technologies and make current recommendations? Our challenge is to provide the right amount of support and incorporate the most appropriate technology tools so that both students and faculty can focus on the teaching and learning, not on the technology.