Innovation: A Library / Technology Hierarchy of Needs

I’ve wanted to post on this topic since 2012, but never got around to it until now.  Back then I was a co-investigator on the MISO Survey team.  If you aren’t familiar with the MISO Survey, go, check it out, it’s good stuff if you work in higher education library or technology organizations.   Don’t forget to ask about the secret sauce: MISO’s student response rates are unlike anything you’ve seen in the last decade.  And comparing your quantitative results to your past results or to any institution(s) that have participated in the last 5 years is powerfully informative.

One of the fun things you get to do as a member of the team is to perform analysis against the national set of data.  As of this past year, 112 institutions of all types have participated, though the majority are still liberal arts institutions, among whom the survey was born.  We’ve looked at things like how tenure status, age, or discipline affects perceptions and use of library and IT services; we tracked trends – some of whom have come and gone since the survey was born in 2005-06.

There’s a question in the survey that had always interested me.  It’s asked both in terms of how important it is, and how satisfied faculty are.  For satisfaction, the full question is “How dissatisfied or satisfied are you with the following resources and services,” and in the list if a school chooses to ask is an item, “support for your innovative ideas.

I love the question because it’s not specifically a library or IT question.  While it comes in a survey about libraries and information technology support in higher education, faculty answer the question from their own context (and yes, the MISO survey not only tests new questions against all constituencies at multiple institutions, they test the full survey every four years to make sure the questions are still being read the same way as in years past).

Innovation is a buzzword.  These days it seems orphaned if you don’t put the word ‘disruptive’ in front of it.  But innovation is important, especially to faculty.  So in 2012, the MISO Survey team looked at schools who asked the question about innovation – that year, we had 22 institutions who asked.  The University of Richmond was among the 22 schools.  Looking at the means, we were able to divide faculty at the 22 institutions into 9 institutions with faculty who were “somewhat satisfied” with support for their innovative ideas and 13 institutions who were “satisfied” with support for their innovative ideas.  On a 4-point Likert scale, “somewhat satisfied” institutions had a mean on this question of 3.18, while “satisfied” institutions had an average mean of 3.57.  The differences were statistically significant.

This is where my question came in.  I was curious if we could find out what libraries and IT organizations can do that help faculty feel more supported when it comes to their innovative ideas.  Looking across the other questions in the survey, I proposed a hierarchy of needs that would have to be met if faculty were to be more satisfied with support for innovation.  The team worked with items in the survey to place them into four categories: infrastructure, support, communication, information & technology fluencies, with innovation at the top.  My thinking was that for faculty to be happier overall with library and technology support for innovation, these different levels of resources and support would have to have higher satisfaction ratings too.

2012 hierarchy KJTC

The team identified 29 infrastructure resources and services in the survey (like help desk, course management system, library databases, and the online library catalog) where satisfaction was measured.  Satisfaction was statistically significantly higher at the “satisfied” innovator schools for 28 out of 29 items.  Dave Consiglio, Director of Assessment, Learning Spaces, and Special Projects at Bryn Mawr College, is the statistician and the brains behind the creation of the MISO Survey.  When he saw these results, he said that the likelihood that these 28 items would have been favored by the “satisfied” schools by random chance would be like being struck by lightning across five consecutive days.  So this was not likely chance.

We found similar results for support: 16 of 16 items demonstrated higher faculty satisfaction at the “satisfied” innovative faculty schools.  For communication, 14 of 14 items had higher satisfaction means at the “satisfied” innovative faculty schools when compared to the “somewhat satisfied” schools.

The story changed when we examined fluencies.  The MISO Survey asks faculty (and students and staff in their respective surveys) how informed, skilled, or interested in learning, they feel with regard to 53 items.  Results were all over the map.  The team never came to a conclusion as to why the results broke in the different directions when it came to information and technology fluencies.  For different items, “satisfied” faculty did or did not consider themselves more skilled than their “somewhat satisfied” colleagues.  The same was true with regard to questions about how informed faculty felt, or when we asked how interested faculty were to learn more about information or technology.  One suggestion pointed to the survey itself: for the infrastructure, support, and communications questions, the results were faculty ratings of satisfaction.  For skills and interest in learning, faculty are instead being asked to rate themselves and not the support or organizations that promote learning.  So perhaps the MISO Survey doesn’t ask the right questions for my idea to be quantitatively analyzed.

So let me fall back to telling the theory narratively.  I believe that in order for faculty to feel supported by library and technology organizations with regard to innovation, they first have to have a sufficiently robust infrastructure.  If the network is up and down frequently, it’s hard to get started on a new idea.  Support is what’s needed next: technology doesn’t always work, and much of it needs near-constant support for it to be useful to faculty.  Then comes communication which begins with things like knowing when systems may be unavailable to the degree to which faculty feel they have input to decisions made by library and IT organizations that affect them.  Finally, if innovation is to happen, faculty need to know how to use the information or technology that’s available to them.  They have to know that something is possible before they can connect their disciplinary knowledge to resources and services and realize that an innovative learning project is possible, or a new direction in their research or creativity is possible.  Information and IT fluencies may come through self-study, but they are also supported by professionals in library and IT organizations.  Conversations with instructional technologists or library liaisons may provide the opportunity for faculty to make connections that positively impact learning or scholarship.

Because we weren’t able to see significant differences between “somewhat satisfied” and “satisfied” innovators at 22 campuses based on the data that is available, this idea of mine is something that can only be a suggestion.  But if what evidence MISO was able to corroborate makes sense to you, perhaps the final leap of maintaining an environment where faculty can increase their knowledge of information and technology isn’t too far to go.  And if you are willing to think the hierarchy has some legs, think about the implications for how your institution provides library and IT services.

How empowered do your library and technology organizations make faculty feel when it comes to innovation?  Look to your infrastructure, to your support, to the multiple levels of communication that are necessary, and consider fluencies in information and technology as the final pieces that can help lead faculty to a break through in their work that’s using information or technology.  While I’m not suggesting that innovation is only possible with library or IT resources and services, I am suggesting that higher ed library and IT organizations look at the hierarchy and see how satisfied their faculty are with elements that may lead to innovation.

As an instructional technologist, I see it as my responsibility to sustain an environment where faculty, students, and staff can learn more about technology.  While the book is out of date, I suggest you take a peak at page four of the National Resource Council’s Being Fluent with Information Technology (free PDF download of this 1999 book).  In a liberal arts college setting, technology skills are likely not a part of the campus curriculum.  But the principles can be updated and incorporated into class projects and made available to college communities outside the curriculum, benefiting faculty and students alike.  Just as librarians have made a stand for information literacy / information fluency / etc., I believe that instructional technologists should be advocates for IT fluency on their campuses.  Who connects better with faculty and can make the case?

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Four Stories from Professor Joe Hoyle

Richmond’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies kicked off the Spring 2016 semester with a talk by Robins School of Business Professor Joe Hoyle to the faculty.  Joe is one of the most passionate teachers I’ve met and he is always willing to talk with anyone who is interested in improving their teaching.

In this video, Dean Jamelle Wilson begins by sharing a list of books she’s read since joining the University of Richmond at the beginning of the academic year.  Several of the books she mentions are now on my reading list.  Joe then has four stories to share with the faculty, with each one providing inspiration to improve teaching by just 5% in the coming year.

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Assistive Technology Overview

Yesterday I sat in on an AHEAD webinar.  The focus was to introduce assistive technologies to non-geeks.  While I’m relatively familiar with these technologies, I’m always interested in learning more, and I’m interested in others on campus learning more about any aspects of accessibility.

The presentation had its better and worse parts, but here are some of the notes I made that may be interesting to everyone.

The government has a formal definition for assistive technology: “Assistive technology (AT) can be defined as any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.”  (29 U.S.C. Sec 2202(2))

Major Types of Computer-Based Assistive Technology

  • Screen Reader
    • JAWS, Window Eyes, NVDA, SuperNova
  • Screen Magnification
    • MAGic, ZoomText
  • System Display Controls
    • (built into the operating system)
  • Text-to-speech utlities
    • Central Access Reader, Balabolka, TextAloud
  • Speech Recognition
    • Dragon Naturally Speaking, Dragon for Mac
  • Scanning/Reading/Writing support packages
    • Read and Write Gold, WYNN, Kurzweil 3000

Non-Computer Assistive Technology Examples

  • Closed-Captioned Television (CCTV)
  • Assistive Listening Devices


  • Organizations: AHEAD, ATHEN
  • Listservs: DSSHE, ATHEN, AHEAD

Focus on the tasks that someone is trying to accomplish.  For example, someone who needs to…

  • Interact with the computer non-visually.
  • Enlarge text and images on the computer, and/or change other display characteristics.
  • Hear text spoken aloud.
  • Control the computer without using keyboard or mouse.
  • Enlarge paperwork or models.
  • Amplify and/or isolate certain sounds

Tasks and Possible Solutions

  • Organization of projects/papers
    • FreeMind (free mind mapping)
  • Learning terminology
  • Spelling (beyond Word’s dictionary)
  • Writing
    • Dragon Naturally Speaking – PC (avoid the home version)
    • Dragon for Mac
  • Note Taking
    • Livescribe pen
    • Echo with earbuds
  • Using PDFs effectively
    • NitroPDF Reader (free)
  • Completing reading assignments in alternative formats
    • Word using Central Access Reader (PC)
    • Word using Text to Speech (Mac OS feature)

Additional Links

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Classroom Master Plan 2.0

I’m excited: after several years of work, the University of Richmond has released its second Classroom Master Plan.  Our original plan was developed in 2004, and among the goals was the standardization of resources in classrooms across campus.  This made it possible for the Registrar to move a class when issues came up around the original space.  The original plan went further, showing that we needed to flip the number of lecture classrooms with the number of discussion classrooms.  There were other pieces, and you can read about them in the new plan’s Appendix 05: Context for the Analysis.

One of the greatest accomplishments of the original Classroom Master Plan is that it brought together the Registrar’s Office, Facilities, and Information Services so that we could work with deans and the faculty to determine what classrooms were priorities and how they needed to be changed to accommodate the kind of teaching we expected to emerge over the coming decade.  By bringing the different offices together, we made sure that a classroom renovation took care of everything from the furniture to the multimedia in the room.  We set up lighting zones and learned over time to have more flexible furniture so classes could reconfigure themselves.

Coming out of the new plan, we see that while we’ve established a strong infrastructure for classrooms, we now want to look at how learning spaces can and should be different from one another, based on the approaches to teaching our faculty plan to take.  Rather than survey the faculty, the Classroom Master Plan committee went out to every department and school to listen to them about their current challenges and the kinds of learning spaces they’d like to use in the coming years.  In the end, we spoke with more than 185 faculty as well as several groups of students, to get as much input into the new master plan as possible.

I’m particularly excited that we’ve committed to explore incubator learning spaces that will give faculty and students classrooms that test out new configurations to see if learning can be improved.  We’re also going to work on the informal learning spaces all over campus to see how we can make them more efficient for individuals or groups of students.

The bigger, more transformational classroom renovations will be handled as capital projects.  The ongoing Classroom Committee, chaired by the Registrar, will work on an annual basis to renovate 5-10 classrooms each summer, gathering input from the faculty who teach in those spaces.

The documents we produced with the architects from Ayers Saint Gross are available on the Classroom Master Plan web site.  We’re also starting to keep a record of the classroom renovations and updates we complete each year on that site.  A few of the documents from the plan are available only to members of the University community, but there’s lots to explore if you are looking at creating a classroom master plan for your institution.

As a member of the Classroom Committee, who will work to realize the Classroom Master Plan in the coming years, I’m excited at the conversations to come and the improvements to University of Richmond learning spaces.

Documents in the Classroom Master Plan include

  • The Classroom Master Plan
  • Appendix 01: Classroom Audit Report – details existing conditions of all classrooms on campus.  The document also shows how frequently each classroom was used over the fall and spring semesters.  It’s only available to the University community.
  • Appendix 02: Classroom Utilization Analysis & Room Mix Detail – It’s only available to the University community.
  • Appendix 03: Appendix Workshop Report – Details on the workshops Ayers Saint Gross conducted with faculty and students.
  • Appendix 04: Technology Report
  • Appendix 05: Context for the Analysis – the background of the University’s first classroom master plan and why we wanted to create a new plan
  • Appendix 06: Committee Structure
  • Appendix 07: Classroom Master Plan Interviews – interviews conducted with each department and school on campus.  Only available to the University community.

We’re also documenting the changes made to classrooms each year.  You can see our summer 2015 activity on this page.

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It’s been a couple of years, but I am happy to be attending EDUCAUSE 2015 in October.  In addition to catching up with friends, I’m looking forward to a number of sessions, including:

I’m still reading through the conference agenda, so I’m sure there will be other topics I’ll add to this list.  But I am looking forward to Indianapolis, and to Mike Dixon attending the conference as well.

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Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley

Robinson’s observation about fixing the culture of education is correct.  Learning is a human endeavor, not a mechanical one.  It requires creativity on the part of teachers, and creativity cannot thrive if the education system is run on the principle that every student is the same and that standardized assessment is the key to improvement.  As he states, standardized assessment is vital, but it shouldn’t be the organizing principle behind education systems.

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Reading and Listening | March 1, 2013


London Review of Books

The National Interest

The New York Times | Friday, March 1, 2013

  • Boehner Halts Talks on Cuts; G.O.P. Cheers by Ashley Parker
  • U.S. Asks Justices to Reject a Ban on Gay Marriage by John Schwartz and Adam Liptak
  • 5 Disorders Share Genetic Risk Factors, Study Finds by Gina Kolata


  • Revelation – Four Views: A Parallel Commentary edited by Steve Gregg
  • The Once and Future King by T.H. White


  • Until We Meet The Sky by Solar Fields
  • Argonautica by Koan
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Reading and Listening | February 28, 2013


Richmond Times-Dispatch | Thursday, February 28, 2013

The New York Times | Thursday, February 28, 2013

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Reading and Listening | February 27, 2013


All Things D

The New York Times | Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Once and Future King by T.H. White


  • Fahrenheit Project 1-7 by various artists
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Reading and Listening | February 26, 2013


The Chronicle of Higher Education

Harvard Business Review



  • WALL-E Soundtrack by various artists
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