The institution’s use of technology enhances student learning and is appropriate for meeting the objectives of its programs. Students have access to and training in the use of technology. (Technology use)

Compliance Judgment

X     In compliance     Partially compliant     Non-compliant


As stated in its mission, Francis Marion University emphasizes liberal arts education while offering new academic programs with innovative technology [1]. The commitment to enhance student learning through technology appears in Goals V and VI of the university’s Strategic Plan as well. In particular, Francis Marion seeks to “develop the technology on campus to address future needs of students, faculty, and staff and administrators” and “maintain investments in information resources and educational support services” [2].

The University provides for the acquisition, installation, maintenance and use of technology with its operating budget, state funds appropriated by the legislature, and state Educational Lottery funds. Additionally, the University Technology Fee of $106 per student per academic semester helps to support and enhance student learning through technology [3].

Campus Technology, led by the Chief Information Officer, reports to the Vice President of Administration [4]. The four operating units within Campus Technology include the following: Campus Applications and Data Services (with five staff members), Desktop Support, Network Operations and Systems (with three staff members each), and Instructional Technology and Media Services (with five staff members) [5].

Primary Infrastructure

Campus Technology provides and supports robust, secure network connectivity for all students, faculty and staff. All university buildings and classrooms have both wired and wireless connectivity. Designed and implemented in three main nodes, the campus network architecture allows any one node to fail and the remaining two will support campus traffic with a minimum of service disruption. The network partners with Clemson University through the Internet 2 initiative and provides a 10 gigabit backbone.

All administrative, classroom, and student residence buildings have access to the wireless network. The wireless access points connect to gigabit wired connections which then connect to the primary backbone. The wireless (Wi-Fi) infrastructure supports IEEE 802.11 (a/b/g/n/ac) standards. Two Wi-Fi networks are available. The unsecured Wi-Fi guest network provides basic internet access to visitors of the University. All students, faculty, and staff with valid credentials have access to a secured Wi-Fi network for work or personal devices. The secured Wi-Fi network connects to all administrative and academic systems 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.

Student Access and Support

All registered students receive access credentials to administrative and academic resources. The administrative resources, called Swampfox Web, provide students the capability to view course schedules, view open classes, register for classes, pay fees, check on financial aid, view account activity,  and access other administrative functions. Academic resources include secure access to the Francis Marion University network (wired or Wi-Fi), student email, print services, library services, and the university’s learning management system, Blackboard. The University automatically registers students in the Swampfox Alerts system, the University emergency alert system.

Many questions about password management can be answered by visiting the Campus Technology webpage where all students can find access anytime to an online, self-service password manager [6]. New students are automatically enrolled in the password manager database. If a password expires, or students forget it, they can use this utility to change or reset their password or unlock their account as needed. The Campus Technology website has a full description on how to use the password manager utility [7].

Incoming students have an orientation session, which includes a review of the technology services available to them. These topics are also described in the Pre-Orientation Booklet available on the Francis Marion website [8].

Francis Marion operates a technology Help Desk to support students and faculty and staff. Normal business hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday during the fall and spring semesters. The Help Desk serves as the single point of contact for all technology-related support issues and may be reached by telephone at 843-661-1111 or in person at the Stanton Academic Computer Center in Room 108.

The Office of Desktop Support at Francis Marion University monitors the Help Desk to provide necessary support for faculty and students. One recent goal has been to reduce the number of incoming service requests by providing web-based training and materials. The training initiative and provision of materials reduced the number of tickets from 1,353 in 2014-2015 to 906 in 2015-2016 for a 39% decrease in overall number of tickets submitted to the Help Desk system [9].

Off-Campus Access

In addition to secure, full access to on-campus technology resources, students and faculty can securely access limited resources from off campus. Students and faculty may connect to library research tools and materials securely using their network sign-on credentials. Faculty can also connect remotely to shared resources such as departmental and shared disk drives through the my.fmarion.edu portal using their network credentials.

Public Computer Labs

There are six computer labs on campus available to all students:

  • Rogers Library (51 workstations)
  • Stanton Academic Computer Center (31 workstations)
  • Cauthen Education Media Center (40 workstations)
  • Student Residence Hall (12 workstations)
  • The Writing Center (9 workstations)
  • The Tutoring Center (6 workstations)

Lab operation hours for the Library, Academic Computer Center, Media Center, and Residence Halls appear on the university’s Campus Technology website [10]. Students swipe their keycard to access the Student Residence Hall lab. The Writing Center and Tutoring Center also publish operating hours [11,12].

The Writing Center uses technology to help students with developing strategies for challenging topics, organizing research, and correcting grammatical errors. With its 60-minute online tutorial service, students upload their paper to an electronic whiteboard where the student can converse with their tutor through a webcam and headset with a microphone. Changes can be made to the paper simultaneously in order to mimic an in person tutorial. [13]. Among the 1,193 students surveyed about overall Writing Center services in 2016-2017, 94% reported they would recommend the Writing Center to other students [14].

Media Center

The Media Center provides a 12-workstation lab dedicated to Modern Languages. These workstations are equipped with special software as well as headphones and microphones to learn Spanish, French, and German and practice pronunciation.

The Media Center operates a broadcast quality television studio partnership with the Mass Communications Department. The studio is equipped with two stage sets, studio lighting, chroma key screen, and three cameras with teleprompters. From the adjacent control room, operators can capture video from any camera or computer source and output to a variety of recording formats or live broadcast. The Lowrimore Auditorium, located in the same building, has three remote control cameras and a computer with a connected graphics digitizing pad. All of the different video sources can be captured from the auditorium and recorded. Select events from the studio and the auditorium are recorded and made available to students for playback.

In addition to recording academic events, the Media Center records local civic programming, athletic events, and other special university functions. Local government Channel 11 broadcasts some events live. Others are scheduled for multiple airings as delayed broadcasts. All athletic events are streamed live over the internet and recorded for later viewing on demand.

In senior exit surveys, graduating seniors assign favorable ratings to Francis Marion computer services in general, and the Media Center in particular, as seen in the Spring 2017 summary of results for support services on campus [15].

Technology in Academic Programs

Beyond the University providing computer labs for all students, some departments in the College of Liberal Arts and the Schools of Business, Education, and Health Sciences have classroom labs of their own with dedicated resources available for that area of study as shown in Table 1 below.

Number of Labs
Number of Workstations
College of Liberal Arts
English, Modern Languages, and Philosophy
English courses held in SACC 112 use that lab for Adobe Creative Suite for Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator for upper level courses
Fine Arts
The Fine Arts labs workstations are all using the Adobe Creative Cloud software for creating and editing images in the digital photography courses
Mass Communication
The Mass Communication lab are workstations dedicated to video editing using Final Cut Pro software from Apple
Political Science & Geography
School of Business
The School of Business lab computers are configured with special tax preparation software for a partnership with the IRS, and Solver, a business analytics and optimization tool
School of Education
School of Health Sciences
The School of Health Sciences has two locations, the Lee Nursing Building (LNB) and the Carter Center for Health Sciences (CCHS). In LNB there is one computer lab equipped with 21 workstations. In the CCHS, there is a Microbiology Lab, Skills Lab, Anatomy Lab, Computer Lab, and two Sim Labs, each with Control Rooms. Among them all is a total of 16 workstations. The Sim Lab is equipped with video recording and playback of eight channels

Table 1. Number of Computer Labs and Workstations in Academic Departments

Francis Marion University has 80 classrooms plus another 15 classroom labs for a total 95 classrooms. The University equips 93% of classrooms with an instructor’s workstation connected to the campus network and a video projector. There are 28 classrooms with Smartboards or touch video displays and 18 classrooms equipped with document cameras. All of the classrooms have some form of multi-media (VHS/CD/DVD) playback. The Media Center also has seven video projectors on rolling carts for temporary use or backup in the rare event of an equipment failure.

Learning Management System – Blackboard Learn


Francis Marion uses the Blackboard Learning Management System. The Blackboard Collaborate Web Conferencing module supplements the basic course delivery system. The University has a current project to implement the Community Engagement and Content Management modules in 2018. The fall and spring semesters deliver 1000-1100 courses to approximately 4,000 active students and 350 faculty each semester. Blackboard Learn operates in a self-hosted environment in the Stanton Academic Computer Center on virtual servers and a dedicated database. The climate-controlled server room has an emergency generator to provide electrical power in the event of a loss of commercial power to keep critical systems, including the Learning Management System operating at all times.

Student Information System Integration

Blackboard interfaces to the Student Information System such that it operates on data directly from Registration. The system of record for any student information, course definition, and enrollment data is always Registration. Blackboard operates on a working copy of Registrar data. This information is refreshed in a batch process once per day.

Academic Integrity with Respondus

Francis Marion University has recently licensed special software from Respondus for faculty and students who utilize the online testing capabilities of Blackboard [16]. The Respondus LockDown Browser, which has been installed on all public and departmental lab computers, is a specialized version of a web browser that limits the user to only being able to connect to Blackboard and connect to a test. The LockDown Browser user cannot print, access other applications, or any other activity normally available while the test is active. The University also licenses the Respondus Monitor service in which a student’s test may optionally be video recorded via an inexpensive web camera.

Blackboard Utilization

Faculty are encouraged, but not required, to take advantage of Blackboard and its many resources for their courses. Every semester instructors receive a new, empty course shell for each course. Once students register and satisfy all financial and other obligations, they are automatically enrolled in their courses.

Campus Technology at Francis Marion tracks Blackboard utilization [17]. The data indicate that approximately 65% of courses utilize Blackboard. Faculty often use Blackboard to present the course syllabus, assign reading materials, and post assignments which represents the typical usage pattern for the traditional student experience in which students meet regularly in a classroom setting.

For courses taught purely online, or hybrid courses with a mix of online and traditional classroom content, faculty take greater advantage of Blackboard’s features. In these situations, faculty post to the site, and students submit their work online. Grading can be completed online within Blackboard and then directly posted to the gradebook. Group collaboration features include discussion boards or interactive web conferencing. Giving quizzes, surveys, and tests online in traditional, blended, and online-only courses–non-existent just five years ago–is commonplace in online courses and increasing in frequency in all others. Finally, integrating publisher textbooks and test bank materials directly into Blackboard courses has increased. In these cases, the course professor selects a publisher (e.g. Macmillan or Cengage) and what materials to use, such as the textbook as an ebook, selected assignments, ready to use tests, or questions from question pools developed by the publisher. Students access the publisher materials directly through Blackboard, and the publisher posts results, typically grades, back to Blackboard.

Blackboard Training

Each academic year Campus Technology offers an online instruction workshop to faculty. For the most part, the workshop covers generic principles of online instruction independent of the learning management system employed [18]. The workshop provides faculty with instruction on how to engage students who will most likely never meet each other, key content to include in the online syllabus, alternative assessment methods, management of the online classroom, and assignments. Some parts of the workshop focus directly on Blackboard-specific topics, such as how to create test questions from scratch and how to use the Collaborate Web conferencing tool for synchronous online meetings. Since 2011 a total of 64 faculty and staff have completed a four to six week course in online instruction [19].

These online courses were originally offered through Central Michigan University before being offered at Francis Marion. A breakdown of the participation in these courses is provided in Table 2 below.

Faculty Participation in Online Instruction Certification
2011Central Michigan University
2012Central Michigan University
2013Francis Marion University
2014Francis Marion University
2015Francis Marion University
2016Francis Marion University

Table 2. Faculty Participation in Online Instruction Certification


  1. Catalog 2017-2018, Mission Statement, p. 7
  2. Strategic Plan, p. 3
  3. University Technology Fee
  4. Organizational Chart
  5. Campus Technology Staff
  6. Self-service Password Manager
  7. Password Manager Utility Instructions
  8. Pre-Orientation Booklet
  9. Help Desk Assessment
  10. Lab Hours
  11. Writing Center Hours
  12. Tutoring Center Hours
  13. Writing Center Online
  14. Writing Center Survey
  15. Student Ratings of Computer and Media Services
  16. Respondus
  17. Blackboard Utilization
  18. Online Instruction Workshop Syllabus
  19. Workshop Cohort Numbers