Jun 03 2013

Q&A with Instruction Technology Specialist Sam Harris

An expert weighs in on the future of education technology and pedagogy.

Each year, EdTech creates a list of the best higher education technology blogs. This year, we were thrilled to include Maryville University’s Learning Design and Technology blog, run by Instructional Technology Specialist Sam Harris. Sam was kind enough to answer a few questions about his work at Maryville and his motivation for blogging.

EdTech: Can you describe your role as an instructional technologist? How did you arrive here?

Sam Harris is an Instructional Technology Specialist at Maryville University and an EdTech must-read IT blogger.

Sam: My role at Maryville University is to simply help faculty incorporate technology into the classroom. This may seem simple, but it really means I conduct a variety of different tasks, which include: running professional development sessions for faculty, administering the different technologies on campus, including our LMS (Desire2Learn), and meeting with faculty individually to assist with and champion the use of technology.

I got into instructional technology as a graduate student, earning a master’s in technology with an emphasis on training and development, working for the Center for Academic Technology Support at Eastern Illinois University, where I performed similar functions as I do today. That really introduced me to this world, and I’ve been all in ever since.

EdTech: Which technologies will be the most important over the next five years?

Sam: As the world is becoming more open, students are demanding anytime and anywhere learning, so I think the technologies that will stand out in the next five years will complement that paradigm shift. Things like lecture capture, mobile apps and mobile devices will continue to become more important, and institutions, if they haven’t already, truly need to develop an overall strategy in order to stand out.

In addition, I feel like MOOCs are really starting to be figured out (and monetized), and I expect them to stay in the news as a true business model develops (which we are already starting to see with some universities incorporating them — Georgia Tech, for example).

Finally, with the ever increasing competition to bring in and retain a diverse, well-rounded group of students, data analytics will become increasingly important as we all work to truly understand our campus populations, which will help to best assist our students in reaching their goals.

EdTech: Can you give an example of a professor or course where technology and pedagogy work perfectly together?

Sam: One great thing about Maryville is that we have a very large buy-in from faculty in terms of using technology in the classroom. For example, some instructors are using our lecture capture system to conduct a flipped classroom model, and many others are doing truly unique things in the classroom. I think if I had to pick one great example, we have an instructor who is “gamifying” her classroom and using our ePortfolio system to send students badges after they complete certain tasks as well as using our LMS as a “leaderboard” that displays student achievement. I’ve found it to be an extremely creative way to incorporate technology into the classroom.

EdTech: What is the next big thing in instructional technology at Maryville?

We’ve invested heavily within the last year in technologies that truly cater to student needs. We have rolled out campuswide a lecture capture system, an ePortfolio system, a fleet of tablets for faculty to use in the classroom and data analytics tied into our LMS. I think the next few years will be aimed at pushing these technologies to our campus population.

EdTech: What motivates you to blog?

Sam: Well, as the world is becoming more “open,” we are finding that our faculty are starting to have a diverse set of needs in terms of how they choose to learn about instructional technology. So, I see blogging as fitting two needs. First, it helps me to learn and grow. Second, it helps our faculty find out about instructional technology from someone they trust to give them good information.

Check out Sam’s blog at blogs.maryville.edu/learn/news and follow him on Twitter.


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