Monday, March 6, 2017

Designing Organizations to Support Tech on Campus #SXSWedu

Designing Organizations to Support Tech on Campus
SXSWedu 2017 Panel

  • Kimberley Barker, Librarian for Digital Life, University of Virgina
  • Ben Bederson, Assoc Provost of Learning Initiatives, University of Maryland
  • Lauren Owens, Associate Director, Online Learning Initiative, University of Pennsylvania
  • Kristin Palmer, Director for Online Learning, University of Virginia
  • Y. J. Kim, Researcch Scientist in the Learning Systems Lab, MIT 

What is your mission?

Palmer: Make sure all initiatives map to the cornerstone plan at their institution.

Kim: Transform teaching & learning at MIT around the globe through the use of digital technology.

Owens: Impact tech enhanced education on campus and beyond. MOOCs, technology infusion projects, online masters or pathways to credit, research.

Bederson: Inspires & supports effective teaching, equitable teaching, efficient teaching, and engaging teaching. 

Interesting (to me, Sandy) that some digital learning groups/departments were created in the wake of Coursera. Applies to U. Maryland and U Penn.

Pros & Cons of Organizational Structure

Lead with pedagogy first. Humans still learn by the same mechanisms they always have. Must focus on evidence based practices as we incorporate technology. Key value is gaining credibility with faculty. Not trying to sell an approach.

Pros at U Penn are a "top down" blessing from the Provost in reaching across the different campus departments and schools. Allows work for interdisciplinary projcects. But it is difficult for people who don't work with them directly to understand what they do.

It's interesting to me (Sandy) that there is confusion over who helps with what between these learning departments and the IT departments at the campuses. Just like K-12!

There is difficulty in reaching faculty because professors are often in silos of their individual schools.

Notes from the General Discussion and Audience Questions

To get uninterested teachers using technology, start with a need and show how tech can meet it. Make yourself available. Also, have events with best practice sharing. Meet people where they are, face-to-face.

This may seem obvious: The tech must work well, be documented well in understandable language, and be supported.


Strategic approaches to communication helps. Know where your audience is. Email? Twitter? Can't guarantee people will read, but every communication should have a value add. Think of the people you are trying to reach as a customer base. You have to get the "customer" interested in what you have to offer.

Engage the expertise of faculty to assess if tech you are using is effective.

It's difficult to assess overall efficacy when data is not transparent. Institutional reputation is at stake in higher ed. Student privacy also has to be protected.

Analyzing tech use should help us assess teaching effectiveness. Maybe faculty will be knocking down the doors of those who can help them teach better with tech!

Some universities, like MIT, will be looking to reach more into K-12 and across the globe to bring education to more people.

The voice of the student will be increasingly strong in helping figure out next steps in where technology needs to go in education.

U. Penn seeing push back form students in flipped classrooms. It's more work for students, even though studies show they learn more from it. Also movement toward active learning in the classroom.

U. Maryland students pushing for reduced textbook costs (which could mean more digital content) and a repository of historical syllabi so they can make more informed choices in their courses. Otherwise, they just want the technology to work!

All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.