Frequently Asked Questions
I. USING TECHNOLOGY TO ENHANCE TEACHING AND LEARNING
1. Why are NYU and other institutions so interested in the use of technology in education?
NYU has always sought to use best practices in pedagogy to deliver an education of the highest quality to its students. A growing body of data supports the fact that certain technologies, especially when combined with in-person classroom interactions, may enhance learning. We also have an obligation to engage today’s students, who are increasingly “tech-savvy,” with methods of using technology to acquire, share, and analyze knowledge. At the same time, we must also challenge students to learn more in the ever-changing field of technology, preparing them for the demands that they will face when they enter the workforce. Finally, in the context of a rapidly changing world that is less tolerant of increased costs of education, and in which various technologies are rapidly improving, NYU, like other institutions, must stay competitive as it strives to provide the best possible education.
Over the past year there has been extensive discussion internationally about “massive open online courses” (MOOCs). These online courses provide a way of reaching significantly larger numbers of students, of extending the global reach of academic programs, and of providing a showcase for institutions’ scholarly and teaching excellence. But as technologies and institutions’ priorities evolve, what is understood by the term “MOOC” is changing rapidly. In addition, this represents only one part of the broad continuum of technology-enhanced education, which stretches from in-person lecture courses and seminars with digital enhancements, to “flipped” classes, to “hybrid” or “blended” courses, to fully online courses (see question #4 below).
The University’s long-term goal is to deploy technology-enhanced approaches that improve the quality of education, enable students to take full advantage of opportunities provided by the Global Network University, increase access to NYU, and preserve the ideals of scholarship and research that have contributed to our success in the past and will fuel our progress in the coming decades.
2. How does NYU make decisions about what strategic directions we should take regarding technology?
Decisions about technology-enhanced education at NYU will always reflect the University’s commitment to shared governance. As evidenced by the recently established inventory of over 600 technology-enhanced courses and programs across the various NYU schools, curricular decisions are made at the school level, using existing faculty governance and course- or curriculum-approval mechanisms. At the University level, a standing committee of faculty and administrators, the Teaching Technology Committee (TTC), was established in 2010 to make recommendations to the University leadership regarding institutional investments in instructional technology. One of the first and most consequential recommendations made by the TTC was that the University move from Blackboard to a new learning management system, NYU Classes; this transition has been successfully accomplished. In addition, in January 2013, the Faculty Committee on the Future of Technology-Enhanced Education at NYU was created to set forth principles and parameters that can guide the University in using technology to support its academic mission and further its commitment to innovation in teaching and learning, pedagogical practices, and research. In July 2013, the committee issued an interim report; in June 2014, it issued a final report; and in April 2015, it issued a brief follow-up to this final report, noting the progress that had been made in implementing the report’s recommendations.
3. Where at NYU can individual faculty and departments go for help in using technology in teaching and to enhance students’ learning?
At the University level, a new service model was put in place in fall 2013. This new approach aims to coordinate, augment, and streamline the instructional technology support services that the relevant University units (e.g., NYU IT, the Division of Libraries, and the Center for the Advancement of Teaching [CAT]) provide, in order to provide faculty with a simpler means of finding and receiving support for using technology in their teaching. This enhanced service model involves the following components:
• a new single, user-friendly website (www.nyu.edu/instructional-technology-support) to facilitate access to services and also to provide answers to common questions;
• a new, common intake process, wherever faculty enter the system—e.g., via the website; by calling the ITS Service Desk (212-998-3333; push prompt 4 for “instructional technology support”); or by visiting a facility, such as as the Digital Studio on the 5th floor of Bobst, or the CAT;
• Online text-, animation-, and video-based tutorials—e.g., on how to upload videos into NYU Stream; how to access survey software; and how to create an online test;
• a new workflow, to enable the relevant University units to direct faculty to the most appropriate resource in the shortest amount of time; and
• new facilities for collaboration and consultation between faculty and instructional technologists.
User feedback is essential to improving this system, and faculty and instructors (including graduate students who lead recitations) are therefore encouraged to submit comments via the new website. In addition to these University-wide resources, “local” pedagogical support is now available, as a result of the Provost’s directive that each school have at least one instructional technologist with whom its faculty can collaborate.
4. What are some ways in which online materials can be used in instruction?
The term “online” is used throughout these FAQs. This is a shorthand convention that encompasses a broad range of technology enhancements to courses. These run from, e.g., course-level tools, exercises, websites, and other activities that students do outside of their in-person courses, to extensive video and audio content accessed via the Internet and used in “flipped” classrooms, to materials for hybrid/blended courses, to fully online courses.
5. What definitions does NYU give to the various types of technology-enhanced courses (e.g., online, “flipped,” “blended,” and “hybrid”)?
The terminology employed in technology-enhanced education is evolving quickly. To many, e.g., “blended” or “hybrid” courses contain online and in-person components in more or less in equal proportions. But there are myriad ways, beyond this roughly equal proportion, in which courses can blend online and in-person education—e.g., synchronous online video or audio, with multiple participation points; intensive use of in-person instruction over limited periods of time; or multi-site, multi-time in-person sessions that rotate between sites and online. Given this variety, these and other terms may eventually take on new meanings that depend more on pedagogy than upon preconceived units of time.
In spring 2015, the Teaching Technology Committee approved a common typology of courses based on instructional modality. These new course categories are in-person, online, and blended. The definitions for these categories focus on instructional time, as distinct from student work time. (According to NYSED rules, for each credit associated with a particular course, there must be 750 minutes of instruction plus 1500 minutes of student work.) In all three categories, the required student work may involve engagement with online materials or platforms, such as learning management systems. But what distinguishes these modalities from one another is the degree to which active instruction (as opposed to student work) happens in an online format. Thus:
In-person: 100 percent of the required instructional time is in person.
A “flipped” class has the same meeting pattern as an in-person course, but lectures and other content are delivered online, and in-class time is devoted entirely to discussion.
Online: 100 percent of the required instructional time is in an online format (e.g., using video-, animation-, and/or text-based materials
Types of online courses include:
Asynchronous (e.g., a self-paced online course with content available during a set timeframe)
Synchronous (e.g., an online course with real-time virtual sessions, with all participants logged in simultaneously)
Hybrid (e.g., an online course involving a mix of asynchronous and synchronous instruction)
These three types of online courses are identifiable in SIS/Albert by their distinct meeting patterns. (An asynchronous online course, e.g., has no meeting pattern reflected in SIS/Albert.)
Blended: Some (but not 100 percent) of the required instructional time is in person, with the rest being in an online format.
Like a fully online course, the online component of a blended course can be offered in asynchronous, synchronous, or hybrid meeting patterns.
In summer 2015, a filter was added to NYU Albert to enable students and other users to search for course offerings in each of these categories.
6. Does NYU offer any online or blended courses?
At NYU there are currently hundreds of courses (both credit-bearing and noncredit) that fit the University’s definition of “online” or “blended” instruction. An inventory of these courses (and the programs through which they are offered) is available on the new “Online and Technology-Enhanced Education” page on the NYU website.
7. What is “open education”? Does NYU have such a program?
“Open education” (OE), also known as “open courseware,” describes the concept of sharing educational resources freely around the world to anyone who is interested and has an Internet connection. Over the past few years, several colleges and universities have mounted OE courses in a variety of formats; most often, lecture capture technology has been used to produce video recordings of faculty as they teach their in-person courses on campus.
In 2010, NYU was among the first institutions to launch an Open Education pilot. Like most institutional OE initiatives, NYU’s program is tuition-free and does not award any certificates, diplomas, credits, or grades to students who complete an OE course. The University is now creating a more interactive Knowledge Commons, which will allow not only for faculty lectures to be posted online, but also for other members of the University community to share their expertise with one another and to seek out tutorials in specific fields.
II. CLASSROOMS AND LEARNING SPACES
8. What has NYU been doing to ensure adequate classroom architecture to support technology-enhanced teaching and learning?
The University completed a five-year, $9.7 million classroom upgrade in 2014. Classroom infrastructure and A/V equipment are routinely updated and replaced annually on a predetermined replacement cycle to support newer classroom pedagogy in general purpose classrooms. Nearly all general purpose classrooms now meet the “smart classroom” standard, which includes the following features: wireless Internet access; a computer with standard software (and, where appropriate, specialized software); inputs for additional computing devices; installed audio visual equipment; and A/V media control system. These classrooms are scheduled by Room Assignments in the Office of the University Registrar.
9. I would like to use videoconferencing to team-teach with faculty at Global sites and portal campuses; how many rooms are available and how do I reserve them?
Video conferencing (VC) capacity is available in a variety of general purpose classrooms and school/departmental classrooms on the Square and throughout the University, including Abu Dhabi, Shanghai and selected global sites. Course capture functionality is also available in a number of general purpose and school-managed (or “proprietary”) classrooms. A list of the VC-enabled rooms that are available can be found here, together with contact information for inquiries about scheduling.
III. FULLY ONLINE COURSES
10. What is NYU’s policy about offering fully online courses for credit?
There is no University-wide policy about offering fully online courses for credit; rather, individual schools decide whether and how to award credit for such courses, using their existing faculty governance and course- or curriculum-approval mechanisms. At present, credit-bearing courses are offered in an online format in four NYU schools: Dentistry, Engineering, Law, and SPS. These are included in the inventory of online and blended courses and programs that is available on the new “Online and Technology-Enhanced Education” page on the NYU website. [In addition, over 200 courses are offered on a non-credit basis, as part of the continuing and professional education programs located in SPS.]
11. Will the University join a MOOC consortium or partner with companies that provide online expertise?
In their effort to build and market online courses, institutions have been entering into two types of relationships: (a) joining a so-called “MOOC consortium” (e.g., Coursera, which is for-profit, and edX, which is non-profit); or (b) partnering with a full-service online provider (e.g., 2-U, HotChalk, Pearson Embanet). NYU has not made an institution-wide commitment to either type of arrangement at this time; before making such a commitment, we need to identify or develop a clear set of strategic institutional objectives. Doing so would involve extensive consultation with schools, departments, faculty, and students—consultation that places the question of MOOCs and partnerships in the broader context of NYU’s commitment to excellence in education and the use of technology to serve that commitment.
12. What platform will be used for the online courses (or online components of courses) that schools develop?
The term “platform” refers to the undergirding technology that supports the University’s teaching and learning needs. NYU Classes, the University’s new learning management system (LMS), is a flexible, open-source (Sakai) platform that facilitates faculty innovation at multiple points along the technology-enhanced education (TEE) continuum. Integrated with the University’s log-in services and its student information system (SIS), the NYU Classes platform serves as a user-centered “front-door” to a wide range of digital teaching tools that can either be developed or hosted there. The University’s partnership with Amazon EC2 cloud services, e.g., will allow for future innovation in TEE tools that can be scaled and deployed globally. The range of activities that the NYU Classes platform could potentially support is vast. Faculty could, e.g., engage students in web chats or synchronous video, adaptive assessments, or interactive animations and simulations. A model could potentially be manipulated in 3D space, tagged with notes and discussions, all during a real-time web video chat. Further along on the continuum of TEE, the NYU Classes platform has been enhanced to support fully online courses.
13. What procedure should a faculty member follow if s/he wishes build an online course?
Faculty members who are interested in developing online courses should first approach their department chair (or equivalent). Proposals should then be developed in consultation with the relevant Dean and should ultimately be reviewed through the existing faculty governance and course- or curriculum-approval mechanisms within the school. Resources, including instructional technologists, exist for faculty whose proposals for online courses have successfully gone through the applicable school and University approvals process.
14. Who reviews or approves fully online course offerings at NYU?
Like all courses taught at NYU, decisions about whether and how to offer online courses are made within the schools, using their existing faculty governance and course- or curriculum-approval mechanisms.
15. Who owns the intellectual property of a fully online course?
The issue of ownership of rights to an online course is determined on a case-by-case basis and is governed both by NYU’s IP Policy and by any agreement between the faculty member(s) and NYU regarding the creation of the course. As NYU’s IP Policy makes clear, ordinarily faculty members own the copyright to materials they generate for their courses, including materials they generate for online courses, when those materials do not utilize significant investments of University resources. The policy makes clear, however, that when the University commissions a faculty member to generate materials for a course, including an online course, and where the University invests substantial resources in staff time, compensation, technology infrastructure, and/or other capital outlays, such works are owned by the University. Under such commissioned work agreements, the University ordinarily offers the faculty member an equitable share of revenues received from the commercial exploitation of such works, should they ever be offered to non-NYU students. The terms for royalty sharing are specified in the agreement between the faculty member and the University. Moreover, the University will work directly with faculty members to ensure that the materials generated are used in ways consistent with the faculty member’s original commission. Further, the commissioned work agreement will ordinarily grant to the faculty member a license to use the materials in his or her own work without a fee. Finally, should the faculty member depart the University, she or he is ordinarily free under the agreement to create other materials, leaving only the original performance as owned by NYU.
16. Will courses be updated on a regular basis to ensure their intellectual sustainability?
17. Will faculty receive compensation and/or course release for participating in the development of an online course?
Yes, under some circumstances. Issues of compensation and course release involve a discussion between the involved faculty member(s) and the relevant department(s) and/or school(s). Such compensation and/or course release vary by department or school, and from course to course, and not all uses of technology enhancements will lead to compensation or course release. A faculty member should consult with his or her department or school to determine whether she or he is eligible for compensation or course release in developing an online course.
18. What about compensation and/or course release when faculty teach an online course?
As with developing such courses, compensation or release decisions rest with the faculty member’s department and/or school.