OGDEN — As part of an ongoing push to increase digital resources available on campus, Weber State University has established a Digital District and is the second university in the state to become an Adobe Creative Campus, the school announced Tuesday.
Focused in Lampros Hall on campus, the Digital District includes a variety of tools to help students, faculty and staff explore the ways technology can complement their studies and instruction. Resources include a podcast studio, mobile SMART Board TVs, technology-enhanced collaboration spaces and an active-learning classroom, according to a press release.
“The creative solutions and spaces you discover here will inspire you to embrace and better utilize technology in whatever role you find yourself at the university,” said Brenda Kowalewski, associate provost for high-impact educational experiences and faculty excellence at Weber State, in a video about the district.
As members of the university community use the space, they will have access to support staff who can help them work through any issues they run into. Faculty also will be connected to instructional designers and teaching experts to help them develop both online courses and technology-enhanced in-person classes.
The school’s commitment to developing digital literacy among students, faculty and staff, which is demonstrated in its Digital District, is what helped it earn the distinction of an Adobe Creative Campus, according to Karen Steele, head of education in North America for Adobe.
“As a Creative Campus, Weber State leadership and faculty have recognized the value for preparing your students for success in the classroom and the global economy,” Steele said when announcing the designation.
Weber State joins the University of Utah as one of two Adobe Creative Campuses in the state, and 42 in North America. According to the Adobe Creative Campus website, receiving the distinction aids schools in recruiting, gives faculty leadership opportunities and connects a campus community with materials and workshops to better help them use the Adobe Creative Cloud, a collection of more than 20 programs and services including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere Pro and more.
Efforts to establish the Digital District and become an Adobe Creative Campus began in 2016, Kowalewski said during the announcement. The work developing the Digital District was expedited due to the rush to shift classes online and an injection of federal CARES Act funds during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think the CARES funding, its purpose is to improve the digital side of education — the virtual classes, the technology behind online and virtual courses, which the Digital District, that’s one of our goals here,” said Ryan Belnap with the school’s Creative Academic Technology Solutions.
But long before the pandemic, approximately five years ago, the university saw a need to begin equipping all of its students — no matter their discipline — with a level of digital literacy that would improve their career outlook, Belnap said.
Many of the components necessary to give students the technological education they needed to prepare them for a job already existed at Weber State, but they were scattered throughout campus. Belnap said after a series of field trips to other universities, one of the moves Weber State decided to make was to consolidate the school’s digital offerings into one physical and one digital location.
Speaking about the Digital District, Belnap said, “Everything is here so that if a student, faculty or staff have a question, they can come to this location and find the answers.”
The next step, he added, is to recruit the campus community to use the new resources, which he is confident they will once the pandemic subsides. He said it’s also important that the Digital District begins connecting with faculty from all parts of campus so that they begin using the tools and create assignments to encourage students to do the same.
The Digital District, according to Belnap, will create new opportunities for collaboration and will break down existing barriers for those who are unfamiliar with technology.
“Digital technologies are moving forward all the time; there’s always something new to learn, and that can intimidate students and faculty,” Belnap said. “I hope that this would give them confidence to succeed. Student success is at the base of all that we do here.”