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Thu, May 28, 2020

Innovation grants help five UTSA colleges launch student success initiatives

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Five UTSA colleges have rolled out an array of state-of-the-art technologies and innovative initiatives to support student success with grants from the Office of Information Technology (OIT) Academic Support Solutions Fund.

The implementations will empower undergraduate and graduate students by fostering innovative research and experiential learning as well as enhancing students’ digital literacy skills, which are vital for the 21st century workplace.

“The caliber of projects from our faculty members that were both submitted and awarded were outstanding,” said Vanessa Hammler Kenon, associate vice president of Information Management and Technology. ““OIT supports these efforts so our students and faculty can be successful and engage in innovative projects.”

The UTSA College of Business (COB) has used the funding to subsidize the costs of several projects implemented this semester. The college has equipped its Advanced Project Lab with high performance workstations that are conducive for helping students conduct big data analysis and virtualization and added interactive and mobile display devices to its lab to encourage student collaboration.

In an ongoing effort to meet the needs of all students in today’s technology-rich classroom environment, COB is also piloting a Student Laptop Checkout program. This program enables students to check out any of the 12 laptops the department recently purchased with the grant.

Within the UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts, the Departments of English, Modern Languages and Literature, and Anthropology have utilized the grants awarded for a myriad of initiatives.

One such initiative involves the replacement of several outdated computers in the English Digital Studio. The recently acquired new systems can more efficiently run the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, which is necessary for students to complete multimodal projects, thus cultivating workplace competencies.

The UTSA Office of Information Technology purchased and installed the Adobe Creative Cloud in all of its student computer labs as well as in some departmental labs across the Main and Downtown Campuses.

Moreover, as part of its commitment to ensuring that students are both critical consumers of information and skilled producers of knowledge, the Department of English will create a one-button sound room that enables students enrolled in technical writing courses to record podcasts and other forms of new media at the press of a single button.

The sound room will officially open in Fall 2019 and will be fully equipped with audio and visual technology to assist students in producing high quality content. All students enrolled in technical writing, a core curriculum course, will have the opportunity to work with this new technology.

Additionally, students planning to enroll in introductory Spanish courses in the fall will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the cultural experiences of Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries with newly obtained virtual reality headsets currently housed in the department’s language lab. With these headsets, students will be able to engage in virtual tours of foreign countries from within their classroom to help them gain an appreciation for other cultures around the world.

At the same time, the Department of Anthropology has used the funding to purchase data analysis software and to create a computational lab called MABLAB (Molecular Anthropology and Bioinformatics Lab). Dedicated to supporting learning and research in the field, MABLAB also will provide a forum for students from underserved backgrounds to receive mentorship from a diverse group of faculty members.

Similarly, the UTSA College of Education and Human Development has used its award to enhance its open labs by creating new learning spaces at both the Main and Downtown campuses called Digital Technology Learning Labs (DTLLs).

The DTLLs aim to help teacher candidates master the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards and build upon digital age competencies, assessments and modeling. The ISTE is a professional organization tailored toward educators with an interest in integrating technology into the classroom.

The learning labs feature ‘beyond-the-computer’ technologies such as virtual reality systems, voice-controlled smart speakers to explore artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as video recording and editing equipment. The DTLLs will offer next generation educators a sandbox to gain experiential knowledge in digital learning techniques and literacy aligned with course curriculum.

In the UTSA College of Engineering, electrical engineering majors will have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience building and testing brushless DC motors purchased by the grant. These electric motors operate different appliances ranging from automobiles to kitchen appliances and will be used to help students conduct research to investigate ways of improving energy efficiency.

Along with these enhancements, the college has created a new graduate-level course as well as a research project to educate students on the Industrial Internet of Things (IoT). This course aims to help develop a cohort of students versed in IoT cybersecurity in an effort to help combat the shortage of experts in this field.

Among the six projects awarded funding in the UTSA College of Sciences is the implementation of testbeds to immerse computer science majors in penetration testing, which is used to identify potential vulnerabilities in computer systems, software, etc. as a form of risk mitigation.

In addition, the college has purchased programmable robots to help students with coding and has upgraded the computers and software in the Kleberg Advanced Microscopy Center (KAMC) to advance materials science teaching through computational analysis of images and large data sets acquired across the core instrumentation.

The Institute for Cyber Security also significantly increased its memory and network capacity across all of its servers. These upgrades will allow for additional research and offerings for students and align the institute’s infrastructure closer to production quality clouds.

Funding from the grant was also utilized to purchase a software program that will allow non-computer science majors to receive immediate feedback while writing code. This feedback will enable students to identify potential issues in their code and assist them in debugging the programs that they must write for the class.

All of the implemented and upcoming projects aim to meet the needs of students and create unique opportunities for learning to help them thrive at the university and beyond.

“Serving UTSA students is at the core of our operations and OIT will always explore innovative ways to serve our students,” said Kenon. “Innovation in learning is what the Academic Support Solutions Fund is all about.”

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View the original on UTSA Today: https://www.utsa.edu/today/2019/05/story/OIT-Grant...


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