Texas Tech University

Professor Taking Higher Education to a New Dimension

April Chavez

February 8, 2016

Professor Taking Higher Education to a New Dimension

By: April Chavez on February 8, 2016

Dr. Jon McNaughtan, Assistant Professor of Higher Education in the College of Education, is taking his class, Funding in Higher Education, to a whole new dimension – the 3rd Dimension to be exact. With assistance from the University Libraries' SHAPES (Sharing and Helping Academics Prepare for Educational Success) program, which provides design and printing of abstract concepts in three dimensions, McNaughtan is using a 3D model that represents funding in higher education to teach his students exactly how public institutions are funded.

Dr. John McNaughtan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Higher Education in the College of Education at Texas Tech University

Funded by a grant from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) and in partnership with the University of Houston, the SHAPES program is the first of its kind, providing 3D model design and printing services specifically to faculty members across campus completely free of charge for the duration of the grant.

"Our goal is to increase access to resources for our faculty," said Associate Librarian Ryan Litsey. "While a 3D model isn't your typical library resource, we are creating models on demand for faculty that will allow them to better serve their students."

3d printing team group photo

3D printers and their models are being explored as ways to create excitement, complement curriculums, and increase access to objects such as animal anatomies or molecular models that may not be readily available to educational institutions. When asked how and why he wanted to utilize this technology, Dr. McNaughtan said, "Students often think that their tuition is what keeps an institution up and running. My goal with this project was to present them with the reality of all of the different stakeholders and the complexity of funding in higher education in a more concrete and hopefully easier to understand way."

Scott Ridley, Dean of the College of Education, is a strong believer in the value of partnerships, whether they are across the state and nation, or across campus. "Education is evolving and it must include active partnerships and collaboration. I am excited that our faculty are exploring new ways to work with other departments on campus. This resource offered by the University Library opens up enormous possibilities for news ways to engage learners," said Ridley.

Dr. McNaughtan isn't the only one on campus using this innovative 3D approach to teaching. SHAPES services are in higher demand than ever as word of mouth about their services has spread across campus. Thus far, the 3D printing services have been utilized for a wide variety of teaching applications, from music to linguistics, from nutrition to chemistry, and even finds the staff of the department printing a four-foot, fully functioning model of a wind turbine.

As part of the partnership, all model designs created at Texas Tech University and the University of Houston are housed in an online database which allows each university to easily share designs without having to duplicate work. Most of the design work of the 3D models is being completed by current TTU students from a variety of disciplines including engineering and architecture. The students have been able to take what they have learned through the SHAPES program and apply their new skills and knowledge in their own classroom experiences.

The SHAPES program plans to conduct research in the near future as to how these 3D models affect and alter student learning in the classroom.

"These models are making it easier to visualize abstract concepts, which not only appeals to the different learning styles of our students, but also allows us to consider how these models can help students with disabilities, such as a visual impairment, put a form to diagrams and models from textbooks," said Litsey.

Litsey serves as the primary investigator for the SHAPES grant along with co-investigators Nora Dethloff, Kenny Ketner, Ryan Cassidy, Matt Mceniry, Le Yang, and Camille Thomas. Other members of the grant include Katie Devet and Chisholm Allen, both library staff, and Carolina Aguilar, a student assistant.

When the grant expires at the end of this fiscal year, 3D services will continue to be offered at a nominal fee for all faculty. Typically, models can be printed in 12-52 hours depending on the size and complexity of the desired model. For more information about the SHAPES program or their services, you can email libraries.shapes@ttu.edu. For information on graduate programs in the College of Education, contact gradrecruitment.educ@ttu.edu.