Academic Blog helps students and faculty learn about technology on campus

Marissa Kindelspire

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Harry Hellenbrand, provost and vice president of academic affairs, was one of the creaters of the Academic Technology Blog. Hellenbrand said, "Technology changes rapidly and the blog will allow us to get feedback from students and faculty alike." Photo Credit: Paul Kingsley / Photo Editor

After almost two years of planning, CSUN’s information technology department has launched the Academic Technology Blog, a site for faculty, students, staff and university alumni.

Harry Hellenbrand, provost and vice president of academic affairs, said the blog was inspired by the university’s quest to figure out how to best use technology on campus.

“Our goals were to try and figure out how to use technology well, and in a way that students and faculty wanted,” Hellenbrand said. “Technology changes rapidly and the blog will allow us to get feedback from students and faculty alike.”

Hellenbrand worked alongside Hilary Baker, vice president of information technology, in the creation of the blog, which was originally targeted at faculty members.

“The idea for the blog came up after a faculty meeting in spring that posed a lot of questions regarding technology on our campus,” Hellenbrand said.

In a time of budget cuts and financial crisis, the blog aims to keep the CSUN community in the loop.

“We often have people trying to sell us what we don’t need,” Hellenbrand said. “We are trying to handle the situation maturely, especially in the changing market and difficult spectrum of the economy.”

Dr. Matthew Cahn, political science professor at CSUN, said the challenges of teaching and the lack of available space on campus were common areas of concern.

“This is an incredibly important initiative because it recognizes that academic technology both facilitates the transfer of content knowledge and influences the types of content that are prioritized,” Cahn said. “The concern is that we want to develop a technological infrastructure that enhances the types of teaching and learning that we value rather than allowing the technology to determine or limit what we do.”

One example of the university’s technological progressiveness is shown in the conversion of material once held in the Oviatt Library, Cahn said.

Instead of holding numerous bound scholarly journals, CSUN has subscribed to online journal services.

Cahn said this relatively new and easy way of accessing resources is not only cheaper, but complements the way classes are conducted. “This has enhanced our teaching and learning mission by making a much larger collection of academic resources available to the university community,” he said. “If a student references an article in a class discussion, we can access that article immediately to provide a common foundation.”

He said the collaboration between faculty, administration and the IT department used in the development of the blog is only the beginning of things to come.

“There are so many different kinds of things happening on campus every day,” Cahn said. “There is no way to envision what we will need in the next generation of academic technology without engaging faculty in every corner of the university. The blog is one avenue of engagement among several currently taking place.”

While the blog allows teachers to keep up with cutting-edge ways to run their classes, students can browse pages discussing subjects ranging from resetting a CSUN password to obtaining help with registration and checking course grades.

Ashira Mayalall, 22, psychology major, said she checks the blog to be informed of the technological changes being made at CSUN and to read news.

“It’s cool and helpful to see all the new things happening on campus,” Mayalall said.

The blog also features updates and information on programs facilitated on campus, like Moodle, the program used to supplement class lectures and provide a forum for electronically based assignments.

Other sections include a list of scheduled and unscheduled service interruptions, IT announcements, security alerts and even a collection of video essays made by CSUN professors.