Appendix 2: Special-needs Labs - Teaching, Learning, Technology Roundtable - St. Cloud State University

Appendix 2: Special-needs Labs

The TLTR recognizes that some disciplines have extremely heavy equipment and technology requirements -- for students gaining expertise in the discipline, for faculty doing research and for teaching/learning environments. These disciplines have sometimes been put in the position of having to choose between personnel (whether faculty, research staff, administration or staff) and equipment. Their students have historically carried some of the burden in extra course fees, and their faculty have provided equipment and supplies for labs and studios with money from their own pockets. These faculty and their administrators feel the pressure constantly to find grant money and gifts and to scour business and industry for hand-me-downs.

These disciplines have requirements beyond the already-pressing needs expressed by all disciplines at SCSU. In the sciences and social sciences, technology-rich instructional installations are often called labs, and in the arts they are often called studios, but they share a larger sense of what "technology" means and a need for equipment so specific that, if the technology is not there, the discipline cannot exist, accreditation will not be granted, students will not be able to gain the knowledge they need and faculty will not be able to do their jobs. For these disciplines, "technology" means test-tubes as well as a harpsichord, petrie dishes as well as looms, chemicals as well as developing solution.

Discipline-specific installations differ from other, less specialized, instructional facilities in various requirements which include, but need not be limited to,

  • a cycle of major inputs of funds
  • a mechanism to recycle, refurbish or rebuild equipment
  • a mechanism not to penalize those who have been successful with outside funding in the establishment of these facilities
  • increased staff support and annual maintenance
  • funding for department- or discipline-specific needs

These installations are important for professional development of faculty and students. They are important for the solidity and reputation of the University as a whole. Opportunities should be made available if possible to start new ones and to provide ongoing support for pre-existing ones. No new discipline-specific installation should be funded without a plan for reliable continued support.

This TLTR plan needs to be met without penalizing those programs that have greater need for more expensive technology. Furthermore, the award of a grant is not reason to shift resources away from a discipline.

SCSU through the TLTR needs to assess discipline-specific installations to help better manage them: where they are, who is in charge, what their use is, what do they require to stay at an operational level, and so on. The TLTR needs a plan for the dissemination of information from assessments to facilitate wider use of technology. The TLTR needs to prioritize requests for new discipline-specific installations and requests for replacement and/or upgrade of existing sites.