Thursday, June 24, 2010

Federal grant helping UIS make more textbooks available online

The University of Illinois Springfield will benefit from a recently awarded $150,000 federal grant that will provide online textbook access to students at all three U of I campuses.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin helped secure the funding from the Department of Education for the open-source project. Durbin has been a major supporter of lowering textbook costs on college campuses.

“For students here this is important, because it could save hundreds of dollars every semester,” said Ray Schroeder, director of the UIS Center for Online Learning, Research, and Service.

The idea behind open-source textbooks is to allow students to go to a website and download customized material for their course. The material is made up of a mix of resources already available on the web and resources provided by faculty.

“The real benefit of open source materials is it allows faculty to customize their courses and actually produce a better teaching-learning experience for students,” said Charles Evans, University of Illinois associate Vice President for academic affairs.

Evans says open-source material also cuts down on the use of paper. He’s now leading the system-wide push to make more online textbooks available.

Online textbooks are nothing new to many instructors at UIS. Schroeder estimates that about 15 to 20 percent of courses currently offer open-source resources.

“I don’t think I’ve had a formal textbook in a dozen years and yet I’ve been able to use quality materials that have been available on the web,” said Schroeder.

UIS hosted an Open Resources Symposium on June 24, 2010 on campus. Educators from 11 institutions attended the event to learn more about open-source learning.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Girl Tech camp teaches middle school girls hands-on lessons

The University of Illinois Springfield Computer Science Department is hosting a two day camp designed to teach middle school girls all about technology. It’s the second year for the Girl Tech event, which brings dozens of girls to the UIS campus.

“The research in the field indicates the number of young women going into computer science as a profession is dropping,” said Mary Sheila Tracy, Girl Tech camp director.

The camp was started as a local effort to turn the trend around and get girls interested in programming, robotics, computer hardware and much more.

“I think it’s really cool, because you learn about all this technology and it’s like really fun and exciting,” said Emily, a 7th grader taking part in the camp.

Participants used technology to create 3D animated stories, program robots, create digital movies and used computers to design their own hi-tech camp T-shirts to take home.

“It’s pretty much the most I’ve learned all summer and they don’t make it boring. You’re learning about a lot of stuff in a fun way, so it’s way better than school,” said Kassie, a 7th grader, who has participated in the program for two years.

This year, Girl Tech is also featuring mini-sessions on a variety of “hot” computer-related topics. Some of the topics being explored include computer intelligence, creating virtual avatars, cyber safety in social networking and controlling the behavior of artificial life forms.

Read our previous news release on Girl Tech

Friday, June 04, 2010

State Politics and Policy Conference kicks off with Old State Capitol event

The University of Illinois Springfield welcomed nearly 200 political scientists from around the country and the world to central Illinois during the 10th annual State Politics and Policy Conference (SPPC).

The conference began on Thursday, June 3, with a roundtable featuring four former governors from different states at the Old State Capitol in downtown Springfield. Former Governors Jim Edgar (R) of Illinois (1991-1999), Madeleine Kunin (D) of Vermont (1985-1991), Parris Glendening (D) of Maryland (1995-2003) and Bob Taft (R) of Ohio (1999-2007) took part in the discussion.

“This is something that UIS does very well. We do it all the time. Not only do we focus so much on state politics and improving government, but bringing the academic and practical together,” said Chris Mooney, UIS political science professor and co-chair of the event.

Bridging the gap between politicians and the academic world was the overall theme for the conference. Politicians admit they can learn a lot from political scientists, but it’s all in the presentation.

“I think they have a great amount of talent in the academic world. We have some great challenges. The problem is they have to be able to translate that information to the public and public officials in a manner they can make use of it,” said former governor Edgar.

The SPPC Conference runs from June 3-5, with sessions on the UIS campus and a banquet in the rotunda of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. Alan Ehrenhalt, Director of Information for the Pew Center on the States will be speaking on the topic of “Governors: Success and Failure”.

For a full list of events and times visit All events except the Friday night reception are free and open to the public.

Read our previous news release on the SPPC Conference