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Coordinated Management of Specialized Technology Labs

Overview: A full-time specialized lab manager would work closely with faculty to design, equip, and manage labs that offer specialized applications such as video editing. We currently have several department-specific specialized labs housed in separate locations on campus.

Issues addressed:

a) Information Technology staff is taxed to manage multiple labs, many of which require a custom-built lab image or installation of software programs.
b) Each separate lab venue must be secured which may entail an id-card entry system, tethering of equipment, and/or a paid student or staff member to supervise the lab when open.
c) In some departments, a faculty member is charged with administering the lab detracting that faculty member from their full-time teaching, research, and service responsibilities.
d) At any given time, many computers in specialized labs sit idle. This can happen because a given class that utilizes specialized equipment or software may not be offered every semester or the class may not heavily use the equipment every day of the semester.
e) Duplicate software and equipment is purchased.
f) Access is sometimes restricted a single department.
g) Difficulty in knowing what is available in the specialized labs.

Potential benefits:

a) Greater security by housing equipment purchased by two or more departments in one space that can be secured with the best available security measures and monitored by a single paid student or staffer.
b) Increased utilization of the equipment and space. The space should be safer for occupants and equipment since more people will use the space at a given time.
c) The single venue would be treated as a common resource available to all members of the Millsaps community who have a legitimate need.
d) The manager could better coordinate lab images and software updates by interacting with faculty to stay on top of software and equipment needs.
e) Faculty would only need to interact with the single specialized lab manager to make requests and be free to spend more time on teaching, research, and service.
f) Improved communication and knowledge of available technology since the lab coordinator could maintain a master database of available resources.
f) The College could save money by avoiding duplicate expenses and departments could enjoy greater purchasing power by pooling resources to purchase expensive technology.

Evaluation of learning outcomes:

We can measure utilization of lab resources. Lab staffers can keep a daily tally of how many students, faculty, or staffers use the lab spaces and compare results to utilization figures for existing dedicated single-department labs. An instructional technologist can conduct learning effectiveness studies of lab activities.
This proposal requires funding, but should save personnel time, which in turn will save money, by having a full-time, dedicated person can more effectively provide this service rather than distributing extra work on already burdened faculty, library staff, and Information Technology Services staff. Shared lab clusters would need to be carefully grouped to maximize overlap of common software and equipment and effective oversight by the involved departments.

Contact person: William Bares

For a PDF of the proposal, click here.

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