Mar 12 2020

FAQ Five: What Are the Best Ways to Help Faculty Manage Classroom Devices?

As excitement around active learning spreads, IT must ensure faculty are properly trained to effectively use technology in the classroom.

Understanding what technology can and cannot do is imperative before you begin planning how to use technology in the classroom. Technology Enabled Active Learning (TEAL) spaces can unlock a new approach to course materials and how faculty structure their limited time in the classroom, but they’re not something you should stumble into.

Deciding whether to incorporate the use of student devices is an important decision that must be thought through in excruciating detail. If faculty choose to leverage student-owned devices, they should know exactly how, why and when to do so before the first cable is pulled.

If faculty aren’t prepared to leverage the technology for a meaningful purpose, students are likely to blame the faculty for not being tech savvy, which can lead to frustration with the instructor and poor faculty reviews.

Here are five questions higher ed IT teams and faculty should ask as they consider moving forward with active-learning environments.

What’s the most common challenge faculty encounter with classroom tech?

Lack of training and poor reliability can be a problem, but if faculty are not leveraging the technology for a specific purpose, successful use in the classroom is almost impossible. Students are more likely to feel frustrated, blame the faculty for not being tech savvy and leave poor faculty reviews.

What is the best approach to active-learning training?

Don’t wait until the room is 100 percent ready before you engage and train your faculty. If we’ve done our jobs right, faculty should be exposed to the new technologies before implementation and work with their teams to make necessary adjustments to the course syllabus. This should result in specific uses for the technology during class sessions. In-person training is still necessary, but focus it on specific, faculty-provided use cases. As with all learning, provide multiple options for faculty to absorb training (online videos, basic instruction, hands-on experience) to enhance absorption of the training material.

Should classroom tech deployments emphasize consistency or variety?

Technology in the classroom is not a one-size-fits-all situation. However, if you are strategic in your deployment decisions, you may be able to achieve both consistency and variety. Think of it like buying a car: You could buy the standard entry-level sedan with very few features and still get around town. Or, you could buy the exact same car, but with all the bells and whistles. Same model, different experience. Once faculty get comfortable using the standard technology (entry-level sedan), they will be much more comfortable with the extras. We must also determine how the systems will be used, as some institutions have less variable pedagogy and content than others.

How can IT staff increase buy-in for new solutions?

Start small. If possible, build a demo space so faculty can get comfortable with the technology, and use this opportunity to fine-tune the tools to fit their needs. Be willing to let a room go underutilized if necessary. The availability of the space may drive tech-savvy faculty to adapt their course in order to secure the space. This will increase faculty excitement and accelerate the process of redesigning course content.

How can IT best support faculty in adopting and optimizing classroom tech?

A top-down approach is best. Find a champion at the college or department level to help encourage faculty to utilize new technologies and push faculty to find new ways to engage with their students. Develop a robust support network that includes AV support, IT support and instructional design support. Creating new technology-enhanced spaces is an investment, and an investment in support infrastructure is just as important.

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