Inspired by the NDLTD, a group of faculty and staff joined together to create the Digital Media Institute at the University of South Florida. We created our community back in 1999 with the following goals in mind:
- Improving the quality of e-documents, particularly theses and dissertations.
- Researching ways authoring tools, particularly Microsoft Office 2000, can be used to facilitate electronic theses and dissertations.
- Researching how technologies alter graduate education, including mentoring relationships, topic selection, intellectual property, writing processes, and publishing practices
- Working with tool developers to keep abreast of new tools for researchers and writers
- Providing an open forum for the exchange of ideas regarding the evolutions of new media scholarship.
- Providing training workshops, reference materials, and support for graduate students interested in contributing to the University of South Florida's digital library of electronic theses and dissertations.
While we are excited about engaging our undergraduate students in this research and support endeavor, our greatest efforts have occurred at the graduate level. Since creating our community three years ago, my colleagues and I have analyzed how Microsoft's Office 2000 can be used to better support students’ needs as writers of multimedia scholarship and faculty members' needs as mentors of electronic theses and dissertations. Using case study and ethnographic methodologies, we have researched how communication technologies can improve graduate education, particularly academic scholarship. Following Walter Ong, who theorized "Technologies are not mere exterior aids but also interior transformations of consciousness" (82), we are researching how technologies alter graduate education, including mentoring relationships, topic selection, intellectual property, writing processes, and publishing practices.
In the preliminary stages of our investigation, we focused on examining the Office 2000 suite, yet we expect to investigate related tools for writers, including bibliography, and quantitative and qualitative data analysis tools. We chose to focus initially on Office 2000 because it is used by so many other members of the NDLTD. Office 2000 includes all of the necessary components (word processor, database, spreadsheet, presentation graphics, electronic mail) necessary to author a thesis or dissertation, and all of these components can be used to produce HTML code, as well as native-format documents. In addition, Office 2000 has powerful features for collaboration and multimedia authoring. Outlook-- Microsoft's email and calendaring tool--serves as a framework for document workflow, calendaring, sharing and exchange. For example, regardless of their locations in time and space, faculty and students can use Outlook to provide students with an integrated set of reviews and links to grammar and punctuation references. From any document in Office 2000, faculty and students can use NetMeeting to synchronously discuss documents, including audio/video-based discussions. They can invite scholars outside the committee to respond to drafts. Numerical data, as well as graphical representations of it, can be published out of Excel in such a fashion as to permit limited manipulation and re-analysis from a Web Browser. More extensive analyses can be formed by “roundtripping” the data back into Excel.
Throughout our research, as we work with Office 2000 tools in proposal preparation, research, and thesis/dissertation writing, we are asking "What tools are really useful? What motivates or dissuades innovative use of tools?” Some graduate students are maintaining a Case Study Journal where they reflect on how use of software tools influences our research, writing, and relationships with mentors. In turn, some faculty are reflecting on ways the tools influence mentoring, scholarship, and teaching and learning. Jude Edminster, a doctoral student in Rhetoric and Composition, is conducting an ethnographic investigation of our project; see http://dmi.usf.edu/edminster/ETDProposal/.
Ultimately, we expect our research will reveal ways faculty and graduate students can use software tools and plug-ins to critique and develop theses and dissertations, including insights into necessary training and resources. We believe this work is an important first step toward transforming our graduate programs so they better prepare students for the Knowledge Age.
Results of our research can be viewed at our project home: http://dmi.usf.edu.
- Moxley, Joseph M. "New Media Scholarship: A Call for Research." Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning (Scheduled Publication Date: November/December 2001)
- Moxley, Joseph M. "Dissertating in a Digital Age: the Future of Composition Scholarship" Invited Chapter. Reinventing the Discipline in Composition and Rhetoric and a Site for Change. Edited by Sheila Carter-Tod, Catherine G. Latterell, Cindy Moore, and Nancy Welch.
- Moxley, Joseph M. American Universities Should Require Electronic Theses and Dissertations. (Educause Quarterly, No. 3 2001, pp. 61-63.)
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