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July 20, 2007

Internet Mapping Application Supports Curriculum

The Department of Geography created a mapping application that supports courses across the curriculum. The Minnesota Interactive Internet Mapping (MIIM) Project is similar to other internet mapping services such as Google Maps or Map Quest, making it far more suitable for instruction: data and interactivity.

MIIM offers two key advantages over other mapping services, making it far more suitable for instruction. MIIM hosts over forty different kinds of data ranging from census information and street networks to protected wetlands and aerial photography. These data can be used in a wide array of classes on subjects ranging from urban studies to environmental science.

This project also allows students and faculty to upload their own data and observations via onscreen digitizing, global positioning system (GPS) handsets, or third-party digital maps available over the internet. Instructors can customize features such as the data layers or the degree of interactivity available to students.

Over the last twenty years there has been remarkable growth in spatial technologies (such as web mapping, in-vehicle navigation systems, and satellite imaging of the earth) along with developments in instructional technology such as computing and web-based learning.

Today’s students are increasingly familiar with computational technology and geospatial technologies but in order to make coursework more relevant to the students’ educational experience, it is necessary to cater to their technological expertise while introducing them to the appropriate use of technology. In the Department of Geography, this runs from critical appraisal of data acquisition to integration of information with theoretical knowledge.

MIIM plans to make interactive web-mapping available to anyone with an internet connection. They are also designing the application so that individual instructors can use a password-protected web interface to change basic characteristics such as data layers or analysis operations in order to tailor MIIM to specific classes or labs.

Project Lead: Professor Steven Manson, Department of Geography

Improving Online Writing Consulting

The Center for Writing plans to advance and expand SWS.online, a Student Writing Support Online writing consulting interface. This project incorporates a timely response and a live conversation about writing with a trained writing consultant.

The center’s primary project goals were to improve the efficiency and efficacy of SWS.online and expand access to a broader and more diverse student population. The educational objectives include enhanced student access and learning as well as enhanced pedagogy, both within the Center for Writing and across the College of Liberal Arts.

Since the inception, the staff has been testing the usability among their own consultants and collecting feedback from student users. SWS.online has been praised for its efficiency and thoroughness, however students have suggested improvements to the interface, including accessibility features with visual impairments and a set of help menus.

SWS.online has a significant impact on both learning and teaching. The tools provided for students will allow them to grow and succeed as writers. Faculty and instructors will use this consulting approach to broaden the way they teach in the classroom.

This project responds to the College and University’s strategic planning priorities for student writing and learning. The baccalaureate writing initiative makes clear the need to provide more support to students throughout their University careers, particularly as they encounter more demands for critical writing and thinking.

Project Lead: Kirsten Jamsen, Center for Writing

Leveraging Technology for Psychology Undergraduates

The Department of Psychology is using technology to extend and deepen their instruction and advising services by designing and implementing a web interface for their undergraduate program.

Utilizing technology in this way will extend the departmental academic and student advising services beyond the classroom and the psychology advising office. The Department of Psychology gathered their core courses and their broader undergraduate programmatic opportunities (e.g., directed research, internship information) into a unified interactive web environment.

Interactive modules offer students an opportunity to reflect upon their academic experience in the discipline through two interactive modules: one focusing on what it could mean to be a psychology major, including broad support of students’ understanding of what a major is and why it is important to have one; and the second module focus on research involvement in the department’s faculty laboratories.

Project Lead: Carla Bates, Department of Psychology