Back in late May, I made my first trip back to EMU’s campus in Harrisonburg, Virginia, since moving last fall to “the cornfields of Iowa,” as my boss Jack Rutt likes to say. It was a short trip, just three days on campus, but on Friday the 24th I facilitated a workshop primarily geared toward graduate program faculty and administrators.
I wanted to get as many folks from EMU’s growing number of graduate programs together to talk about online education and digital pedagogy. All these programs are at different points on the online education spectrum: our MS in Nursing program is nearly all online, while our new MA in Biomedicine program does not have any online components, and the other programs fall somewhere in-between. So I wanted to folks to learn from each other’s experiences more than anything else, and hoped that the experience would inspire some to step further into ed-tech and online education.
In our opening session, we went around the room and introduced ourselves, and I also asked folks to tell me 1) their hopes for the workshop, and 2) their frustration with technology as it relates to teaching and learning. Two strong trends emerged from each:
- Hopes – Reflections here were often prefaced out of a sense that we’re behind the curve at EMU and need to “catch up” when it comes to ed-tech. This assumed that “catching up” was important and therefore gaining better mastery of ed-tech was important. What really gave me hope was a general eagerness and curiosity to do just that. There was also a hope expressed that faculty would have adequate support in this journey. Yes, indeed!
- Frustrations – By far the most common response here related to the rapid pace of technological change, and how this creates a sharp challenge for faculty who are (in my own experience as both a student, teacher, and staff-helper to faculty) extremely busy doing what they’re already doing, with very little time to learn more about ed-tech and digital pedagogy. There was also a concern here that the technology/tail not wag the education/dog, something I’ve heard in other settings.
Here’s how the day unfolded from there…
Morning: Learning from each other
- Breaking out into small groups by program to discuss
- Question 1: What kinds of online teaching and learning has your program engaged in the past?
- Question 2: What roadblocks do program admins and faculty face when it comes to adapting to developments in digital teaching and learning?
- Reconvene large group, each small group reports findings
Lunch and learn session: Digital writing capture
A demonstration which showed digital writing tools such as the Wacom Intuos line of digital writing tablets, and how those can be used in synchronous online class sessions. This began to address a concern from MBA faculty that some instructors do extensive handwriting of accounting formulas, and therefore need to be able to translate that into the digital world without sacrificing the practice of handwriting.
Hands-on session: Moodle+WebEx
Our synchronous online/virtual class session platform is WebEx, which is integrated into our Moodle site. For this session I had a test course created in Moodle and added all the workshop participants as “students” to the course. We then all had a chance to see how faculty can schedule WebEx sessions from within their Moodle courses, and we all were able to “get our hands dirty” by entering a WebEx sessions from within our test course. This was old hat to some faculty present, but still served as a good refresher.
Closing: Baby steps toward innovation
I concluded our day together by asking the following questions in light of what we learned throughout the day…
- To faculty: What’s one innovative pedagogical idea you’ve wanted to try, but haven’t?
- To admins: What support structures and processes would help build ed-tech capacity in your programs?
Due to time constraints, I had to leave these questions open-ended. But that’s the beauty of having this here blog! In my continuing work with faculty and administrators, I hope to partner in ways both very concrete/how-do-I-use-this-and-use-it-well?, but also the more strategic and organizational level. Because there are deep needs at both, and it’s been a pleasure in my work over the past year to try and address both.
So: How can I partner with you for ed-tech innovation?