Monday, September 28, 2009

8. Support strategy: Help a few faculty; teach one new technology after another

The topic of this series of blog posts is how to use technology in ways that, over time, result in substantial improvements in teaching and learning. When I say "substantial," I am pointing to hopes that many have had for educational evolution, perhaps even revolution, triggered by the use of technology. Each Monday I describe something I once believed about how to make such major, long term improvements, a belief I question today. Last Monday, we discussed the content of faculty support offerings (services focused either on technology OR on teaching/learning).

Today, I'd like to hear your observations on scale of faculty support: size of the change in teaching practice by faculty, number of faculty helped, time scale (frequency of change of topics for support), and total budget for support.

Traditionally small support budgets for faculty have divided among two or more units (one in the technology unit, perhaps someone in distance learning, staff in the library, staff in the teaching center, staff in colleges or departments).

Historically, many of these units would respond to technical changes as quickly as possible ("Which technologies are the subject of the most buzz this year?"). Then the unit would offer faculty workshops during the term and during the summer to help faculty learn to use that new technology. To attend such a session, faculty would need to set aside more than hour (sometimes much more) and go to a different building. Limited interest, that time requirement, and size of computer labs would combine to limit attendance: a few faculty at a time. Help desk operations would assist one faculty member at a time.

Costs: Because only a few faculty members could be helped at once, because each person was being helped to master a major technology, and because the topics of support might change rapidly (with expenses to develop each new support unit), the cost for each faculty member receiving support (including the faculty member's own time to attend and to master that new technology) was probably substantial (though it was rare to see estimates of such total costs).

Outcomes: Even after backbreaking effort by each tiny support unit, it's possible that only a few faculty could describe how they had improved teaching and learning in their courses by using that support. And I'd guess that no academic department could describe any cumulative improvement in teaching and learning made in one their degree programs over the years with aid from a technology support unit.

Is this a good description of what used to happen, or what still happens? What have you seen? (Depending on which URL you used to see this post, you can post your observations either by clicking on the phrase "Post a Comment" below or else by clicking the word "COMMENTS" to the right of my name below.)

1 comment:

  1. It seems to me that a way to reach and support faculty among the smaller schools is through their faculty development program. What development monies we have at Guilford College are controlled though faculty development and these go to any faculty member, including part timers. We are also currently trying to find ways to involve our alumni in faculty development. So far they are showing lots of interest.


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