Monday, September 21, 2009

7. What I once believed: Train faculty how to operate the technology

This is what faculty support offerings look like at many institutions:
  • The IT department offerings are about “How to use (operate) our course management system,” and “How to Use Photoshop.”
  • The faculty development program's offerings are about “Using collaborative learning in the classroom,” and “What to do on the first day of class.”
In other words, there is a sharp division of labor. Most IT units help faculty mainly with “how to” use the technology, while many teaching units mostly help faculty with “how to” teach (they ignore the technology, which is the business of the IT department).

This isn't an arrangement I ever recommended. But I didn't initially question it, either; it seemed the natural way to do things. I did notice that at most institutions the attendance was low at the workshops. Nor was there much sign that average faculty members used other forms of service (e.g., web sites, phone-in for help) unless they had to (for example, when using the course management system was required).

Does your institution divide support this way? Are support services mainly about “how to?” Please use the “COMMENT” button below, just to the right of my name, to add your observations about how your institution handles these tasks.

(As you may know, this blog post is part of a series, “Ten Things I (no longer) Believe about Transforming Teaching and Learning with Technology”. To see a summary of the whole series, where this entry fits, and links to all the completed posts, see


  1. The trend here is to involve faculty in teaching new applications to faculty. So, for example, we have workshops on using clickers in the classroom, but these are led by faculty who use clickers in the classroom and not IT folks. I'm not sure if that ensures success but I've been to some that have fairly robust attendance.

    The other thing we are working on is creating a "virtual learning commons" with online tutorials from either Atomic Learning or so students and faculty can learn new applications from tutorials.

  2. I think the best approach is the blended approach. The "IT expert" people on the same team as the "how and why implement and the classroom". This not only builds community but creates opportunities for the experts to "cross train" each other. Which builds a better support structure for everyone.

    I do agree with the previous comment. Peer based training (faculty to faculty) is best. However, getting faculty trainer to the point of mentoring other faculty takes a powerful support team behind him/her. The stronger the team the better for all.

  3. Personally, I think faculty make the best instructors. I use faculty to teach workshops all the time. Faculty who know the technology as well as the pedagogy can "talk turkey" so to speak.

    IT specialists who also may teach or are also familiar with pedagogy also make good instructors.

    The goal is a good mix of the two and not too heavy with one or the other. You need a good balance so you can accurately convey how the technology integration supports the instruction.

    We run weekly camps during "down times" and faculty who have attended previous camps or use the technology in their courses facilitate each of the sessions as well as lead round tables at lunch and are available for assistance during hands-on sessions.

  4. Hi, Steve.

    I think you've hit the nail on the head with this posting. It doesn't make sense to separate faculty development from technology training. Learning how to use the technology does not guarantee that it is used in a pedagogically or economically sound way.

    This is a relatively easy thing to fix too - form an integrated Office of Teaching and Learning with secondments/guests from IT services and the faculties working with professional instructional designers.

    Best regards

    Tony Bates,

  5. I've posted a more complete response on my blog.

    I believe the separation identified above does exist. I also think there are other sources of separation that can contribute negatively to outcomes.

  6. About five years ago we combined our Teaching and Learning Center and our Technology center to a Center for Instruction, Research, and Technology. The results have been very good. We have mix of technology people, graphic designers, and instructional designers that can give faculty that have an idea for something a "360 degree" look. We have happy faculty and better access to resources. This group is directed by a faculty member and continues to use faculty for training and adivsory committee. We think it is a success.


What do you think?