LSS began in the mid-1950s as the Language Labs, with Tom Goldsworthy as its first director. Its primary focus was to provide a place where students could listen to audio materials as they practiced a variety of foreign languages. The first labs were housed in Bascom Hall, where the language departments were then located. A second location soon was developed in the Social Science building. In the mid-1960s, Van Hise Hall was built for the language departments, and the Language Labs moved to our present location on the second floor.
Goldsworthy worked hard to improve the language lab facilities and services. Many materials were created here at the UW including one of the most extensive collection of African languages tapes in the world, and many synchronized slide/tape shows and synchronized bilingual videocassettes. He also helped form the first national professional organization for language lab directors, (NALLD) and became its first president.
Over time, the number of languages and departments gradually increased. About 1970 the School of Music added materials from their music appreciation courses, and a few other departments also added non-language materials. By this time the Language Labs had also become an independent department (no longer part of the Spanish Department), reporting directly to the Dean of the College of Letters & Science. Accordingly, the Language Labs changed names, becoming the Labs for Recorded Instruction (LRI). During the 1970s many more materials were added, an AV Equipment Pool for Van Hise Hall was started, and several new technologies, such as video, became staples of LRI services. One particularly innovative service was a free videotaping service whereby faculty and graduate instructors could view and thus improve their own teaching.
Goldsworthy retired in 1981, handing over the directorship to Read Gilgen. The 1980s saw huge growth and diversification of services at LSS. In 1983, the Video Resource Center (a grant-funded operation in the School of Social Work) was taken over by LRI, thus adding a whole range of video production capabilties. In 1982, LRI received funding from L&S to begin a Faculty Computer Familiarity Program (FCFP) whereby faculty were loaned a personal computer for month to learn more about this exciting new technology. In 1985, LRI once again was asked to provide training and support for PCs throughout all of L&S. Also in 1985 a satellite dish was added to allow for downlinking of foreign language programming. In 1986, the language lab itself was completely renovated, including remodeling and state-of-the-art language lab equipment.
With its added College-wide clientele and expanded services, LRI once again underwent a name change, becoming L&S Learning Support Services (LSS). LSS continued to grow, adding staff, and increasing its service reach to the College. Network services and electronic mail, a student computer lab (InfoLab), and a closed circuit television distribution system typify much of this growth. During this time Gilgen also served as editor of the IALL Journal (International Association for Language Learning Technology) and in 1999 became President of the IALLT (formerly NALLD, founded by our first director).
In the mid-1990s LSS began to recognize that it was ignoring its instructional technology mission in favor of computer support that more properly should come from other campus sources. With the support of the Dean, LSS refocused its efforts in 1998 more directly on instructional efforts. One result of this effort is the IN TIME program (Instructor Network for Teaching in a Multimedia Environment), which provides small grants to help instructors implement technology in their teaching.
In 2002, LSS received a major grant from Hewlett-Packard to implement a "mobile language learning environment." As a result, three lab classrooms have been updated with laptop-based computing and language lab capabilities, and wireless devices (laptops, tablet PCs, and handheld PCs) are being used in the classroom.
In April 2007, after 26 years at the helm, Read Gilgen retired. Bruno Browning, LSS associate director for the past 15 years, was appointed the new LSS Director in May 2007.
LSS history is still being written, and we look forward to exciting times ahead as technology continues to enhance the power of the instructor and the learner.