March 4, 2010

ComETS wants to know what you think

by Paula Van Brocklin

If you have a desire to share your thoughts about the university's educational technology services and applications, you'll soon have the chance to do just that.

ComETS (Community of Educational Technology Support), a newer group of about 210 ISU faculty, staff and graduate students with a shared interest in academic technology, is spearheading a comprehensive needs-assessment survey to find out how well the university is meeting the technological and pedagogical needs of its employees and students.

What will be covered?

ComETS is seeking faculty and professional and scientific staff input on a variety of topics, including:

  • The usefulness of WebCT (ISU's course management system)
  • Classroom technology
  • "Cloud computing" tools (i.e., Ning, blogs, wikis, Skype, Flickr, etc.)
  • Consumer electronics (mobile phone, personal digital assistants, etc.) as a means of instruction

From students, ComETS wants to know:

  • How they access technology (i.e., laptop, cell phone, smart device, Kindle, etc.)
  • Use of social networking sites for classes, coursework
  • Attitudes toward WebCT
  • Benefits of campus computer labs

When the ComETS steering committee first met about 10 months ago, many wondered how well the current technologies were serving the campus community.

"One of the first questions that group asked was, 'What do you we really need here on campus? We know what we provide, but are we really meeting the needs?' And as we looked around the table, none of us really knew," said Jim Twetten, director of ITS academic technologies.

That's when the idea of a survey took root. All faculty and P&S staff will receive the survey via e-mail the week of March 22 and have at least a week to complete it. A sampling of students will receive a version of the survey that targets their needs.


Once the survey results are compiled, ComETS will determine which issues need further review and discussion. In April, ComETS will create focus groups to help further illuminate the issues. Data from the focus groups will be compiled in mid-May, and final results from the survey and focus groups should be available in July.

"We think that between the survey and the focus groups, it will demonstrate to us a set of needs," Twetten said.

Twetten said the survey results will not be available in time to help the FY11 budget situation, but that wasn't the initial goal.

"We're not doing this because of the budget crisis," he said. "We're doing this because we want to make sure we're doing everything right, or find out it there's a need to shift our resources."