The Role of Technology in Enhancing Learning Experience

Dr. Lonnie Decker, Department Chair, Networking Technology & Information Assurance of Davenport University

Dr. Lonnie Decker currently serves as the Department Chair for Networking and Information Assurance at Davenport University, based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. He received a Master’s degree in Computer Science from Central Michigan University in 1996. He has also completed a Ph.D. in Organization & Management, with a specialty in IT Management, from Capella University in 2007.

Dr. Decker holds the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and the CCNA Security certifications.  Lonnie is a Cisco Certified Academy Instructor (CCAI) and a Cisco Instructor Trainer (ITQ).

In an interview with Education Technology Insight, Dr. Decker discussed new initiatives and technological advancements taken by Davenport University to provide students with a variety of learning options.

What are some of the recent technological advancements in the education space?

Davenport has been a pioneer in online education for more than 25 years. During this time, Davenport has been on the leading edge of online education having adopted numerous delivery modalities to meet students’ needs.

Having established traditional asynchronous online course delivery, the university then developed Real-Time Virtual (RTV) to address the needs of students that wanted to attend classes in real-time but were unable to attend in person. The university has continued its leadership in deploying innovative learning modalities by establishing a flexible delivery option, which allows students to attend classes in person or online, synchronously or asynchronously depending on the current need.

 “We all need to build our policies and processes in order to truly standardize what we’ve put in place out of necessity”

Many of our students are working professionals under a great deal of strain due to COVID’s downsizing. Their workload often makes them unable to attend classes in person. Now, depending on the circumstances, students can choose to either attend classes remotely or asynchronously. This opportunity given to students can be seen as an advancement in utilizing technology in an effort to provide seamless education.

 What are some of the challenges educational institutions face today, and how can they be resolved?

During the early stages of the pandemic, there were significant issues with zoom bombing. Uninvited people attending Zoom meetings, and the consequential security and privacy of those sessions, were major considerations. Adopting policies to address it was a huge effort. Moving towards the new ‘normal’, with many new technologies and methods of delivering education, implementing policies to support these technologies is going to be the biggest challenge.

Secondly, during the lockdown, as everyone switched to technologies capable of offering classes remotely, the platforms made concentrated efforts to give the best service possible and ensure that everyone had access to it. However, over time, these platforms have curtailed selected accesses, tweaked some of the features, and added new ones. This has developed a dynamic cost culture in terms of how much something costs versus the benefits received. 

Moreover, there have always been challenges in the various aspects of delivery. We have tried to tackle this concern by creating numerous labs in our technology courses. Therefore, if students are unable to attend a classroom or a campus and cannot work on using laboratories in person, we’ve created a multiplex of alternative ways to provide them access. One of the earliest things we did involve transitioning a large number of our classroom PCs to make them remotely available to students. This can be done by using a VPN to connect to PCs in the classroom, using the required software and tools. It’s a continually moving dynamic of what resources are available and figuring out how to use them to meet both thestudent’s needs and the course objectives.

What are some of the projects or initiatives which have been part of in the recent past?

I helped design the Flex delivery technique and recently completed a Quality Matters program, which is essentially the national best practice for online course delivery.

We had RTV courses previously, but we used them a lot more during the lockdown to switch the delivery manner of our courses. However, we are now emerging from that experience, having learned a great deal about it. And that’s where Flex delivery got its start.We’re currently testing Flex in a few of our upper-level
networking courses to give students the option of doing things in class with the instructor present, or remotely while still having access to the labs.

What kind of evolution or disruptions do you see within the arena?

We all need to build our policies and processes in order to truly standardize what we’ve put in place out of necessity. Davenport is working on integrating and developing our technologies. For example, we have Flex delivery, which was just legally approved during the fall term.

Additionally, we’ve incorporated certain technology out of growing needs. Now, it’s just a matter of looking back and assessing whether the technology-related decisions that were made at that time are working well. If yes, it is important for us to make sure it is in our curriculum and keep the process going in the future as well to guarantee the best practices.

What would be your piece of advice to aspiring professionals seeking a career in the Education space?

Technology, policy, and people are the three pillars on which everything is built. The first step is to confirm that the technology you’ve chosen is current and fulfills your needs.Then to establish policies and processes for how you’ll use and execute that technology to achieve the outcomes and requirements of your students. Finally, it is important to ensure the people you have trained in the specific technology understand the best practice of it—including quoting and implementing the policies around those technologies effectively.


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