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James Frazee Senior Academic Technology Officer at San Diego State University


Dr. James P. Frazee is the Senior Academic Technology Officer and Director of Instructional Technology Services (ITS) at San Diego State University. He has written and presented widely on the subjects of obtaining, managing and leveraging large state and federal educational technology grants, designing faculty professional development programs, strategic technology planning and using technology to push curriculum reform. In 2015, Dr. Frazee was honored with the United States Center for Digital Education Top 30 Technologists, Transformers and Trailblazers Award. In 2016, he received San Diego State University's President's Leadership Award "In recognition of innovative, forward-thinking and community-based work." As Senior Academic Technology Officer, he has led several high-level, strategically important initiatives, most recently and notably around immersive learning. For instance, his team is actively engaged with Microsoft on a HoloLens research and development project with Pearson Global Education. Specifically, ITS/SDSU partnered with Microsoft, Pearson and Texas Tech University to create holographic standardized patients in collaboration with the SDSU nursing program. As part of this effort, SDSU is working to identify effective practices and content for pilot studies with Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. Further, in 2017 James co-led the planning team for the first annual CSU Immersive Learning summit that attracted over 150 stakeholders from across the 23-campuses of the California State University system.


We've spoken to James ahead of the event and here's what he shared with us:

Q: How has technology improved the student learning experience?

"Technology enables convenience. Now, students can take their classes at anytime and at anyplace. Here at San Diego State University, when we offer two courses side-by-side, one face-to-face (F2F) and the other fully online, the online course fills first - without exception. So, the students are voting with their mice, and the online modality is the clear winner. 

Further, technology enables convenience in our F2F courses as well. For instance, we have course capture capability in all of our learning spaces. This means the instructor can record their lecture, as well as an media they are sharing, and automatically make it available via our learning management system. This allows students to “rewind” their professor. Students really value this technology, especially students for whom English is a second language, and students who have an instructor for whom English is their second language. 

Capture technology also provides the professor with analytics detailing student viewing patterns. So, the instructor can see who watched the video, when they watched it, what device they used to watch it, and - most importantly - what did they rewind. If a high number of students rewind the same section of material over and over, they are clearly bumping up against this element of the content. This information can inform instructional design improvements, and creates a space for having a conversation with a faculty member about other ways of making sure their students understand the material." 

Q: What are some of the most advanced technologies used in class and out of class today?

"One technology developed here at San Diego State University is called the Learning Glass. This recent EDUCAUSE blogpost and this video do a great job of explaining how the technology is being used both in and out of the class. Essentially, the Learning Glass is new technology for recording lectures that allows instructors to write lecture notes while maintaining face-to-face contact with students. It’s a transparent whiteboard paired with our Capture system. The instructor writes normally, left to right, then the recorded image is flipped so students can view the notes correctly through a display. It enables both synchronous (live streaming) as well as asynchronous (via an archived version) viewing. 

Here at San Diego State University, we’re also using learning analytics (the digital breadcrumbs that students leave behind them when using our various academic technologies) to personalize the student learning experience. For instance, we use learning analytics in historically challenging courses such as Organic Chemistry (O-CHEM)to identify students at risk of not succeeding. The identified students are then nudged toward an intervention, and in the case of O-CHEM the intervention that we’ve found most promising is Supplemental Instruction (SI). It’s worth noting that in nearly every instance students who attend SI Sessions significantly outperform their non-attending counterparts. Further, these differences are between 1/2 to nearly a FULL letter grade higher." 

Q: How will education evolve in the future?

"As I will describe at the Future EdTech event in London next month, virtual and augmented reality is changing how people work and learn. For instance, physicians can practice performing surgeries; first responders can simulate how to react to situations that are extraordinarily dangerous or infrequent; and military personnel can experience live-fire scenarios without leaving the safety of their base. With this as context, San Diego State University launched the Virtual Immersive Teaching and Learning (VITaL) initiative. VITaL will serve as an incubator for research on the next wave of virtual and augmented technologies that can enable experiences that would be impossible or out of reach in a traditional learning environment. VITaL utilizes skills, knowledge, and expertise from across all areas ITS and engages with faculty from across all colleges at SDSU. Situated within a new Learning Research Studio, VITaL promotes experimentation with curriculum design and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Offering a smorgasbord of AR, VR and 360 video tools, VITaL is designed to leverage partnerships with key industry players. 

Q: If you were a student again, what would the perfect University be like?

"For me, the perfect university would be affordable. Here at San Diego State University, we have an initiative dubbed Affordable Learning Solutions and the focus is on encouraging faculty to move toward the use of high quality Open Educational Resources and other more affordable instructional materials. By reducing course material costs, more students can acquire the resources they need to succeed. 

I think that another way that the university experience can be improved is by increasing flexibility and convenience. By making it easier to get to get the courses you need e.g., by offering courses online and by providing credit for previously obtained skills and knowledge via competency-based education, we can increase the convenience factor. Another way to make the student experience more convenient is by minimizing bureaucracy and increasing articulation between schools so that classes “count” and transfer easily from one school to the next. For me, there would also be opportunities to be involved in interdisciplinary research and to be mentored by faculty members and more advanced students. I would also want to be able to explore careers by experiencing internships and project or problem-based learning where I’m working with a client from the community to help them solve an authentic, complex task. 

Finally, and most importantly, the perfect university would be fun. It would be a safe place for growing up, making friends and experimenting." 

Q: What is different/unique about San Diego State University?

"San Diego State University is the oldest higher education institution in San Diego. Since its founding in 1897, the university has grown to become a leading public research university. Each year, SDSU provides more than 36,000 students with the opportunity to participate in an academic curriculum distinguished by direct contact with faculty and an international emphasis that prepares them for a global future. With over 92,000 applications for Fall 2018, SDSU is a top choice for high caliber undergraduates in the USA.Because San Diego State University is situated on the international border with Mexico and the nearby City of Tijuana, we are a large, urban and incredibly diverse Hispanic-serving institution. Our proximity to the Pacific Ocean and beautiful beaches makes us extremely popular, and San Diego State offers credit-bearing courses in watersports such as surfing, sailing, wake-boarding and scuba diving. Along these line, the residence halls (dorms) all have swimming pools and beach volleyball courts. Importantly, San Diego’s position on the Pacific Rim makes it a robust economic hub for a variety of industries such as tourism, bio-tech, telecomm and wireless technologies, as well as the various branches of the military especially the Navy and Marine Corps who have extremely large bases here. 

Most of all, what makes San Diego State University unique is the people and our culture of innovation and entrepreneurism.  Leadership Starts Here is a bold statement of our ethos. It is a fundamental principle that guides our actions and an enduring promise fulfilled through the lives of our students, faculty, staff and alumni. SDSU is a hub of student invention and innovation, and FORBES magazine ranked SDSU No. 23 on its list of America's Most Entrepreneurial Universities, while U.S. News and World Report ranked SDSU’s entrepreneurship program No. 21 among the nation’s public universities and Fortune ranked the university among the top 25 most entrepreneurial in the nation.Finally, San Diego State University faculty continue to win significant research funding. Last year, they secured $134 million in public and private funding—a total of 783 awards." 

Agenda Sessions