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SCAC funding: New oversight, same focus on learning

By Emily Rushton

$3.5 million in student computing fees is a lot of money to manage – and the Teaching and Learning governance portfolio isn’t taking it lightly. The portfolio recently replaced the Student Computing Advisory Committee (SCAC) in vetting the requests and proposals for funds this year.

“The portfolio is an amazing group of people. They’re very dedicated and very concerned about making sure that we’re using our resources to the best benefit of students and teachers,” said Cory Stokes, Executive Director of the U’s Teaching and Learning Technologies department. “Now that the Teaching and Learning governance portfolio is in place, it can take a much broader, more strategic approach to utilizing all of the student computing funds, and all of the funds that are dedicated toward teaching and learning.”

Among the governance committee members are Martha Bradley, Dean of Undergraduate Studies, and Wayne Samuelson, Vice Dean for Education, along with other faculty who teach online or hybrid courses. “They’re some of our best teachers when it comes to innovative use of technology and engaging students,” said Stokes. “It really is faculty and teachers who are making these decisions.”

This year, colleges and faculty can expect to receive very similar funding allocations to what they have had in the past. The process only changed slightly, according to Stokes. “It’s a different group of people who will be looking at the requests, and they’re asking some slightly different questions,” he said. “Nobody is trying to make massive change, or take funds away – that wouldn’t benefit the students.”

Instead, they’ve established four priorities to ensure colleges and students get what they need from the funds controlled by the governance portfolio.

The first priority is the teaching and technology core – the platforms that make Canvas work.

“We asked the governance members, ‘If Canvas were to go away, or if functionality were lost out of Canvas, what would the impact be in your teaching and to your students?’ And they said that it would be disastrous,” said Stokes.

The second priority is to maintain the current infrastructure on campus by refurbishing and maintaining the existing classrooms and classroom technologies, including existing computer labs as needed. “We need our classrooms to be working,” said Stokes. “We need projectors to turn on – we need everything that’s broken to be fixed.” To keep up with the classrooms that currently exist on campus, 42 general assignment classrooms would need to be refurbished each year. “We currently can only do about 10, in addition to the departmental eClassroom requests we receive,” Stokes said.

The third priority is for strategic new initiatives that might need seed funding. “Are there new projects that need to be taken on at an institutional level?” asked Stokes. “Is there a new centralized or enterprise service that we should be offering?” The portfolio would then determine if funds should be set aside for the student portion of the new initiative or project being considered.

The fourth priority is for the specialized spaces and equipment needed in certain colleges for their specific disciplines.

“There are computer labs and learning spaces that are unique to a particular discipline,” said Stokes. “To have the equipment they require for those specialized needs is still a priority for the use of these funds.”

With these four priorities in mind, the portfolio hopes to use the resources wisely and to the best benefit of students and faculty.

“It’s the same pot of money,” said Stokes. “We’re using it as efficiently as possible.”

Ultimately, the goal is to come to an efficient way of operating that allows the University to cut the fees currently charged to students. “That’s what the real goal is, to make a University of Utah education the best quality it can be – but also keep it affordable.”
Last Updated: 4/13/21