Home' Campus Technology : May 2013 Contents 1) Evaluation and Analysis
Faculty are not sheep. They are a highly diverse group, ill
suited to one-size-fits-all instruction. Not surprisingly, IT
training programs that assume faculty are all at the same
skill level tend to fail. Miserably.
It's a lesson that Suzan Harkness, director of the Center
for Academic Technology (CAT) at the University of the
District of Columbia, is happy to share. In her view, before
you can help faculty members with their IT needs, you first
have to understand what those needs are. And that takes
constant evaluation and measuring. This analytic approach
drives much of the work of CAT, which focuses on profes-
sional development for faculty in online and hybrid learning,
but also influences face-to-face instruction.
Since 2009, Harkness has been using basic data-processing
tools including Microsoft Excel to track and analyze faculty use
of training and technology tools. "I love to look at the data and
learn from it," she says. Her three years of collected metrics tell
her exactly how many faculty are currently using Blackboard
(47 percent) and help explain shifts in usage. When she no-
ticed a 15 percent dip in Blackboard use recently, for example,
she was able to trace the decline to retirements among full-
time faculty along with an increase in adjunct hiring, prompting
her to provide additional assistance to the newcomers.
Underlying these top-line numbers is a noteworthy level
of detail. For instance, Harkness created a scale that rates
each faculty member on use of Blackboard and other class-
room tools. Utilizing usage data in Blackboard, she does a
quick "binary analysis," checking yes or no on a list of items
for each instructor. Are they using banners? Buttons? Color
schemes? Course information? Assignments? Groups?
She then sorts faculty into buckets, ranging from nonusers
and minimal users---those who have done little more than
set up a course page and issue a curriculum---to medium
and heavy users. Using these categories, she can then offer
individual faculty members very specific help.
"Not many people do [this level of tracking]," concedes
Harkness. "It's interesting what we've been able to do with
it. We can target individual faculty. Some don't want [more
training], and that's fine. But we get great accolades."
A variety of training options are on offer for faculty, includ-
ing boot camps every fall and periodic workshops through-
out the semester. In two years, Harkness and her staff of
eight have served up 307 workshops to 506 faculty mem-
bers. At some level, says Harkness, "we've trained almost
every faculty member we have hired."
CAT's training program has its roots in an effort that started
three years ago when a faculty group was tasked with de-
veloping a strategy to increase online learning at the univer-
sity. A content analysis of 14 existing online courses revealed
some good attempts, but unearthed problems with collabo-
ration and communication. Using a small seed grant from the
university, Harkness worked with Quality Matters, a faculty-
centered, peer-review process that is designed to certify the
quality of online and blended courses. She also began an ef-
fort to educate faculty about pedagogy, build online courses,
and, ultimately, certify some faculty in online instruction.
"I've tracked faculty all the way through the training,"
Harkness says. "Faculty who have been to our workshops
have made greater use of Blackboard and teaching appli-
cations in general." More analysis of direct student benefits
is on her list, but her research shows that fewer students
withdraw from online courses that have been reviewed by
faculty peers, and students enrolled in these courses earn
higher grades and are more likely to pass.
Like UDC, Marist College (NY) is also a big believer in
analyzing faculty use of technology, says Josh Baron, senior
academic technology officer. The school conducts an annual
survey about its Sakai learning management system, includ-
ing questions about how faculty use the technology and the
impact it's having on teaching and learning. At the same time,
says Baron, "we run reports on which tools in the LMS are
being used the most and by which type of user. All these help
Fewer students withdraw from
online courses that have been
reviewed by faculty peers.
CAMPUS TECHNOLOGY | May 2013
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