Seton Hall University’s technology-forward outlook made it seem like they had the tech boom wired—or wireless, as the case may be. Since the 1990s, they’ve given each and every student a laptop to make sure they can stay connected anytime, anywhere. Students love the Mobile Computing Program, which sponsors the gadgets and connections that harmoniously intertwine their academic and social lives. Then, in 2005, SHU made a startling discovery: though students used their devices daily for school work, email, and social networking, many didn’t have basic computer skills to solve common operating system problems.
“We knew our students were quite social media savvy. But then we realized that many students lacked basic general troubleshooting skills to solve problems and stay safe in today’s cyber world,” says Teaching, Learning and Technology Center Associate Director Danielle Mirliss. To shore up students’ computing abilities, they developed a course to teach strategies for avoiding viruses and spyware, staying safe online, and organizing files, plus other computing topics.
What made this course different, though, was that administrators decided to deliver it online. After all, SHU had spent a decade building an incredible computing infrastructure. Why not deploy it so students could take the course on their own schedule, from anywhere? Plus, it would be a lot simpler than trying to coordinate 1,000+ students and staff for a face-to-face training session—and where would they hold it, anyway?
The school built the first iteration of its Tech Skills 1 course in 2006, then redeveloped it using the Articulate Studio suite in 2009. Danielle recalls, “We wanted a rapid e-learning development tool that would let us create engaging online modules quickly. We switched to Studio because it was so easy to use, worked well with PowerPoint, and had such an incredible user community around it. Plus, we could host courses in Blackboard, our course management system.” The team also liked how easily they could update content in Articulate Presenter and Articulate Engage to keep courses relevant with the latest tech information.
When Tech Skills 1 went live, students said it was informative, interactive, and easy to use. “Students always learn something,” says Danielle. “The course covers safe computing strategies, networking, information about other campus services, and more.” SHU has seen the completion rate climb more than 18% since its inception, topping 80% for 2012’s freshman class.
What SHU administrators didn’t realize when they created Tech Skills 1, however, was that they weren’t just creating a course. They were building an e-learning platform for tackling other important technology topics, including productivity tools, cloud computing, online collaboration, and social media etiquette.
The university’s administrators launched Tech Skills 2 in Studio, but then decided to build Tech Skills 3 in Articulate Storyline so students could view it on tablets such as iPads. But they soon realized that Storyline features—such as the timeline, variables, characters, and screen recording—opened up possibilities far beyond mobility. “Tech Skills 3 is more narrative in nature,” recalls Shayle Adrian, an instructional designer at SHU. “We used characters to personalize the story so that students could relate to the content. Additionally, the timeline made it easy to place content on the page and add fun transitions and animations.”
While it was the Tech Skills series that led SHU to Articulate products, the university now relies on Studio and Storyline for other e-learning programs. Shayle notes, “Particularly with today’s mobile technology, students expect to be able to access course content anywhere.”
Of course, students represent just the tip of the e-learning iceberg at SHU. Next up is a data security course for school administrators. This one’s an interesting hybrid: the school purchased Articulate-based content modules from Daniel Solove, a security expert and founder of Teach Privacy LLC. Then, the school’s instructional designers simply customized the course for SHU’s purposes and uploaded it to Blackboard, where administrators will access the course.
The school’s e-learning effort doesn’t stop there—even the faculty are going back to school to learn best practices in online teaching and course development. Courses are in progress to help professors keep up their own tech skills and gain tips and tricks for teaching and learning in the online world.
Shayle recalls, “What started out as a small course for students to enhance their basic computing skills has turned into a much larger initiative that produced a series of self-paced online courses. Storyline and Studio have made it easy for us to develop rich, interactive content to support many different learning initiatives for students, faculty, and staff.”