Virtual ITS Tech Talks Event Features Keynote, Panels and Demonstrations

By Staff Reports

(Victor Valley)– Through a keynote presentation, faculty and student panel discussions, and instructional technology demonstrations, the Cal State San Bernardino Division of Information Technology Services delivered its fourth annual ITS Tech Talks virtually on April 14.

Traditionally, ITS Tech Talks is an opportunity for faculty and staff to meet in-person to share and exchange ideas, explore emerging technologies, and experience hands-on demonstrations of various learning technologies offered by the university. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event was hosted as a live webinar through Zoom.

After Samuel Sudhakar, chief information officer and vice president for Information Technology Services, welcomed and thanked everyone for attending, President Tomás D. Morales was featured in a special video message.

“I greatly appreciate the flexibility and dedication our faculty and staff are showing in this transition from in-person instruction to a virtual teaching and learning environment,” Morales said. “It allows this university to continue its educational mission, while also supplying the students we serve the opportunity to continue their academic progress toward their goal of earning a college degree.

“This is a new landscape for higher education. It is truly inspiring to see so many here at CSUSB embracing new methods and technologies to maintain the level of excellence that is a hallmark of our university.”

The event’s keynote speaker, Monty Van Wart, professor of public administration and interim chair of Educational Leadership and Technology, presented, “The Elements of a High-quality Online Teaching System for the 21st Century.” Van Wart’s online course, Public Sector Human Resources, was the first CSUSB course to receive Quality Matters national certification as a fully accessible online course using state-of-the-art technology and methods.

“As good stewards of the educational mission, we have a duty to reexamine our assumptions and knowledge about how we go about creating a high-quality online teaching system,” Van Wart said in his opening remarks. “My talk today provides my holistic notions of what creates such a system, but I can provide scholarly resources and data from our own research here at CSUSB to support the general propositions in my talk today.”

Van Wart addressed four major propositions during his speech, which included: the science and art of teaching, getting beyond false dichotomies, where disciplinary differences do and do not matter, and defining the roles of different players and in the institution in creating a quality online teaching/learning system.

“The construction of a high-quality online teaching system has progressed in fits-and-starts in many areas, but, candidly, has yet to begin in many others. We need to applaud the progress we have made, but simultaneously acknowledge how much more work is necessary, and start to reallocate resources to achieve a high-quality system,” he said. “Rather than being discouraged by the challenges we face, we should feel fortunate and be inspired by the fact that we can, collectively and individually, overcome them all.”

Following the keynote, a faculty panel discussion took place, which comprised of Craig Seal, management, Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration; Oraib Mango, world languages and literatures, College of Arts and Letters; Sharon Kalkoske, teacher education and foundation, College of Education; and Bibiana Diaz, world languages and literatures, College of Arts and Letters. Mihaela Popescu, ATI faculty associate and professor in communication studies, served as the moderator.

During the discussion, “Online Education During Unprecedented Times,” the participants talked about best practices, gave advice, discussed the challenges of online teaching, highlighted some of their favorite online tools, and answered audience questions.

According to Mango, during this time of online instruction, it is important to “simplify and focus on student learning outcomes of the course.”

Seal encouraged instructors to talk to their students.

“This is an opportunity to engage your students on the course,” he said. “Having open and frank dialogue … is going to be really critical for the spring term.”

“Communication is key,” Kalkoske echoed.

Mango also emphasized that faculty do not have to strive for perfection during these times – if students are learning and it is working, then it is good enough.

The event also included a student panel discussion, moderated by Popescu. Student panelists included Shane Burrell, Loydie Burmah and Gary Lopatynski, all CSUSB graduate students.

The discussion, called “The Student Perspective: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in Online Education,” highlighted the benefits and the challenges of virtual learning, and what they recommend to faculty.

When Popescu asked the students what they appreciate about online instruction, Lopatynski said he appreciates the fact that students and faculty can still have Zoom meetings and see each other face-to-face.

For Burmah, she appreciates the accessibility and the simplicity.

When asked about the challenges, Burrell, who prefers to work in places like the university library, said being home and reorganizing his workspace has been his biggest challenge.

ITS Tech Talks also featured “Just-in-Time Demonstrations,” which included: Everything you need to consider when recording your one video lectures for your online class; Create video lessons with assessments using Playposit; Enhancing Social Presence Using Voice Thread in Online Education; and Free Software Downloads.

James Trotter, assistant director of ATI, and Tracy Medrano, instructional lead of ATI, oversee and organize the annual ITS Tech Talks at CSUSB. If you would like to participate in a future event or would like more information regarding the annual ITS Tech Talks,  email JamesT@csusb.edu and tracy.medrano@csusb.edu.

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