Driving Change in Higher Education.

The pursuit of innovation

By Matt Rubel

2013-14 MSCSA Treasurer

It has been a pleasure representing the students of the Minnesota State College Student Association (MSCSA) on the MnSCU Academic and Student Support Technology Council this year. This Council has been interesting to serve on this year since it is relatively new in terms of system-wide committees. The members have been debating about the Council’s mission, purpose, and how this particular Council relates to the other Academic and Student Affairs Councils. 

One of the largest and most serious implementations that affected students this year was the Desire to Learn (D2L) upgrade to version 10, which took place in between the fall and spring semesters during the winter break. The new user interface allows for drop-down menus when switching from different course content. A student can now switch from one class to another without returning to the students home page. The new interface also provides the foundation for upgraded background schemes and more customization options.

Along with the D2L upgrade, the Council discussed the issue of accessibility as it relates to online courses and digital technology which affects students and faculty. The Council invited Sheri Steinke, Director of Online Learning at Normandale Community College, to give a presentation in regards to the struggle between the different needs of our students, faculty work load extremes, and policy issues along with requirements. The Council has discussed the opportunity for campuses to share resources, the large cost of accessibility at times, and the necessity that all courses be accessible for all students. 

The Council has received numerous updates related to the process of creating and maintaining a “StarID” system for Student Identification purposes. Individual campuses are working alongside system office staff to create an identification process that would allow for a student to have the same Student I.D. number at all MnSCU institutions. This implementation may one day allow for students being able to log in to a computer at any MnSCU institution with the same username and password.

The last item I wanted to touch on concerns the prioritization of the Minnesota Online initiatives and vender contracts and products. A few of these products include the Smarthinking tutoring program, the eFolio achievement portfolio system, and faculty teaching tools such as Mathematics, Lodestar, SoftChalk, etc. The Council discussed which of these programs to reinvest in or maintain, and which programs to transition away from, also which programs to transition into. The stakeholders that serve on the MnSCU Academic and Student Support Technology Council will continue to pursue innovation, while taking into consideration the opinions of their different constituent groups. 

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