Online Courses, Sure!

As the academic year kicks off again my pile of to-read has once again become unmanageable. The result is that in between Blackboard, i>clicker, and Wacom tablet questions I am trying to sneak in an article here and there.

Inside Higher Ed has published, Survey on Faculty Attitudes on Technology, along with an article of the same name to compliment the survey which does a fantastic job summarizing the results and pointing out some interesting findings. The survey results are probably not alarming, faculty are skeptical of technology (especially online courses) and it’s place in the educational process. However, those who have taught online courses, are less so. So if you’ve never taught an online course you probably don’t think there is much value in them, but if you have you are more likely to think there is some value in them. That’s pretty much what I would expect, but it also reveals an interesting viewpoint that is often overlooked and highlighted in the quote from Cathy Davidson, we are looking at the wrong problem. Maybe we can use this information to develop professional development programs to help them become more comfortable with technology.

This seemed to match up with another issue that is on my short-list. Recently there has been a huge push to create more tech savvy law students. Whether you focus on research skills necessary for lawyers in today’s marketplace, technology competency to get the job done faster, or just wanting to improve the learning experience by leveraging new technology – the conversation is a constant, and the results are often mixed. As you can imagine there is a lot of finger-pointing going around. Who’s responsible for creating tech savvy students; faculty, technology specialists, parents, employers, the world?

While this survey was not focused specifically on this question, it helped to further expose a potential problem – maybe we are approaching it wrong. Perhaps the problem is not that students need to change, but that everything in education does to reflect a new environment. Car companies falter, businesses shutter their doors, but education presses on in the same manner wondering why people are getting bent out of shape. As a recent grad of a library science program I wonder often how my education will actually translate to the workplace. So far, I’ve mostly relied on myself to learn what I needed to – and it leaves me feeling a little bewildered and unnerved! It would seem I’m in the majority.

At BCLS I’ve spent a good deal of my energy on trying to demystify technology to faculty, who then adapt a tool they find interesting for their own use, and then we work together to bring it into the classroom. It’s a very slow and time consuming process, but very rewarding. There are also many failures too. We keep trying to rectify problems and know that some day we will find the solution, and often times solutions are not even possible yet – and when you see a conversation with a tech convert go from fear to “I am thinking of a technology that doesn’t exist yet” talk about #winning.

Now time, staff, buy-in, energy, etc… are all stretched, but I for one would love to know your thoughts. How can we make higher ed more tech savvy in subtle ways, so that when asked if an online course is as good as a face-to-face course, someone might shrug their shoulders and say “Sure, could be”?

I’m a one man show and I try to do one-on-one consults, share information on email whenever I can, which happens to be the preferred contact method, do luncheons with demonstrations, smaller lunches with liaison librarians, and generally run around evangelizing everything ed tech I can.  You?