Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning

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Columbia Center for New Media Teaching & Learning
Motto Purposeful use of technology in education
Founder(s) Frank Moretti,
A. Maurice Matiz,
Established March 1, 1999
Owner Columbia University
Location New York, New York
Dissolved July 1, 2015

The Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL) was established on March 1, 1999 under the Provost Office at Columbia University. The mission of the Center was to enhance teaching and learning through the purposeful use of technology and new media. CCNMTL staff worked closely with faculty partners to provide support ranging from the construction of course websites to the development of elaborate custom-made projects. CCNMTL used the design research methodology, an iterative cycle of discovery, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. CCNMTL was part of Columbia's Information Services Division, which included the Columbia University Library System.


In 1998, a Columbia University Task Force representing a broad cross-section of junior and senior faculty and administrators produced a platform of seven far-reaching recommendations embodied in a strategic-planning document of May 1998, entitled “Implications of New Media Technologies for Columbia's Educational Programs.” The Task Force recommended that the University provide incentives to encourage a larger number of faculty members to adopt at least some level of new technology in their teaching. The Task Force committed itself to the notion that any viable program fostering the integration of informational technology must be structured in such a way that the value of risk-taking would be clearly evident and occasional failures would be viewed as opportunities for future success. In this regard, it was deemed to be of the utmost importance that a means to achieve broad implementation of digital technologies be found. The Task Force unanimously agreed upon and mandated that the University create a service, support, and development group to provide assistance and advice in matters of digital and communications technology and new media to Columbia University's faculty and instructional staff.

In collaboration with faculty, this new group would help to create innovative pedagogical approaches to course content through the use of advanced technologies that would significantly alter and enhance various instructional environments. The same organization would serve as the campus hub for technology initiatives as they relate to the classroom. Activities would entail developing means to augment academic quality and learning environments at Columbia University. Hence, the Task Force gave its wholehearted endorsement of what was to become the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL) as a collaborative effort building on the success of Academic Information Systems (AcIS) and the Institute for Learning Technologies (ILT). CCNMTL, rooted in the pedagogy developed by ILT, is buttressed by the superior network and computer systems provided by AcIS. Thus, the University's intention to combine inventiveness and the efficacious use of advanced instructional technologies and their broad dissemination was realized in CCNMTL.


The Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning, was led by co-founders Frank Moretti and A. Maurice Matiz till Moretti's death in 2013. The group was then led by Matiz reporting to the University Librarian and Vice President for Information Services, James G. Neal. The University's Information Services Division also includes the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship.

CCNMTL Services[edit]

CCNMTL's service philosophy is to provide the most supportive environment possible for Columbia University faculty who invest their time and energy in new media technologies for their courses. The Center's educational technologists have extensive pedagogical training and offer advice and direction to faculty who wish to discover and develop best practices in the educational uses of new media.

These efforts often lead to the creation of a course website that offers students convenient access to online course information, including custom content, selections from Columbia's Digital Library Collection, and communication tools. CCNMTL's educational technologists assist faculty and instructors interested in using CourseWorks, Columbia University's course management system, and Columbia Wikispaces, a service from that provides a wiki to every registered course at Columbia University. In 2008, CCNMTL also launched Columbia on iTunes U, which allows Columbia students, faculty, and the public to download free lectures, seminars, and other Columbia-produced media content to mobile devices or personal computers via Apple's iTunes. Additionally, CCNMTL offers workshops for Columbia faculty and instructors who wish to explore uses of new media in teaching and learning.

Project Development[edit]

CCNMTL projects are defined as more extensive efforts in which the Center creates flexible tools and engaging study environments that faculty can shape to fit their particular classroom context. CCNMTL projects start with a project proposal from a Columbia University faculty member.

All CCNMTL projects focus on overlapping areas of innovation to support student inquiry and improve students' understanding. Its projects include visualization and modeling tools; real-time data collection tools; data sharing programs; annotation and study tools; media archives; training environments; simulations and multimedia study environments. Projects emphasize collaboration, interaction and student activity. They promote better communication, personalization and the multiplication of spaces, both real and virtual, in which students are invited to study, research, communicate and learn.

Design Research[edit]

CCNMTL is a unique service enterprise that creates new tools for teaching and learning and researches their implementation. Design Research is the methodology behind the Center's efforts, supporting the exploration, development and application of digital technologies to enhance education at Columbia University.

Through an iterative cycle of research, development and assessment, CCNMTL and its faculty partners experiment with innovative uses of technology within university courses and generate advanced knowledge in the field of new media teaching and learning.


Developing partnerships with campus departments, institutes and other centers is a focus for CCNMTL. The Center looks for partnerships that leverage expertise in diverse fields and lead to innovative results. CCNMTL fosters potential partnerships through open forums, conferences, and by sponsoring events like the New Media in Education Conferences and the University Seminar on New Media Teaching and Learning.

Sample Projects[edit]

While each of CCNMTL's projects pursues its own objectives, the unifying feature across these efforts is the innovative use of learning technologies and the high level of interaction among faculty and technologists as they share ideas and collaboratively design curricular resources and tools. Projects emphasize collaboration, interaction, and student activity.

Mapping the African American Past
Mapping the African American Past (MAAP) is a public Web site created to enhance the appreciation and study of significant sites and moments in the history of African Americans in New York from the early 17th-century through the recent past. The Web site is a geographic learning environment, enabling students, teachers, and visitors to browse a multitude of locations in New York and read encyclopedic profiles of historical people and events associated with these locations. The site is further enhanced by selected film and music clips; digitized photographs, documents, and maps from Columbia University's libraries; and commentary from Columbia faculty and other specialists.

Millennium Village Simulation
The Millennium Village Simulation is a Web-based simulation of economics and survival for one family and their village in a sub-Saharan African village. In a virtual world of extreme poverty, disease, and environmental variability, students are challenged to help a family of two survive and prosper over a fifty-year period. By making decisions regarding the family's allocation of time and financial resources, students develop a greater understanding of the manifold disciplines—such as agronomy, nutrition, economics, epidemiology, public health and development management—that constitute sustainable development and how those disciplines interact with each other in "real world" scenarios.

The Civil War and Reconstruction - 1850 -1861
A House Divided: The Road to Civil War, 1850-1861 is a course that begins by examining how generations of historians have explained the crisis of the Union. After discussing the institution of slavery and its central role in the southern and national economies, it turns to an account of the political and social history of the 1850s. It traces how the issue of the expansion of slavery came to dominate national politics, and how political leaders struggled, unsuccessfully, to resolve the growing crisis. We will examine the impact of key events such as Bleeding Kansas, the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, and end with the dissolution of the Union in the winter of 1860-61.

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