Ten IT Commandments

Jack M. Wilson

While many of us know Jack M. Wilson as the 25th president of the University of Massachusetts system, in his prior role of VP for Academic Affairs and founding CEO of UMassOnline, he was at the helm of one of the largest and most successful online distance education programs in the country. A nationally and internationally recognized activist for higher education reform, Wilson has led major technology initiatives in both academia and industry and has served on numerous advisory councils, boards, and task forces. His research and activities have attracted over $23 million in funding, and his professional communications have included prolific scholarly writings and more than 200 invited lectures—many of which draw on his experience at the crossroads of technology and higher education.

10. Consider technology an important part of your plan.

  • There is no longer any way to do good scholarship without technology.
  • There is no longer any way to teach good scholarship without technology.
  • Technology is here to stay!

9. Keep an eye on true program needs.

  • Develop a balance between synchronous and asynchronous distributed learning.
  • Don't design an asynchronous learning environment so that all interactions are defined as between student and instructor..
  • Don’t always keep the instructor at the center.

8. Avoid pilots that linger.

  • Design for a large scale; use pilot projects only as a prelude to scaling up.
  • It is easy to design innovative educational experiences that work for small groups.
  • It is harder to address the needs of the 1,000 students taking Calculus I at a large research university.

7. Be cost conscious.

  • Cost is an important aspect of quality.
  • There is no lasting quality if there has been no attention to cost.
  • There are too many examples of high-quality, expensive solutions.

6. Count on Moore's law: "What is hard today is easy tomorrow."

  • Computer processing and bandwidth have consistently improved.
  • Be confident that processing power and bandwidth will continue to improve.

5. Benchmark your plans.

  • Build upon existing examples.
  • Don't merely "automate" the lecture or classroom experience.
  • Find the best examples, and build upon them.

4. Do systematic redesigns.

  • Avoid incremental add-ons.
  • Simply adding a few computer experiences to everything else costs more, is more work for the faculty, and adds to the students' burden.
  • Remember that true innovations change rather than modify systems.

3. Recognize the intrinsic educational value of technology.

  • Helping students learn better is but one value.

2. Build upon research results.

  • Identify research that informs design.
  • Don't try to reinvent the wheel.

1. Restructure around the learner.

  • Never overemphasize technology.
  • Never underemphasize it.
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