A New Approach to Class Visits

Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies (DTLT) class visits are opportunities for us to get involved with classes in a face to face setting. In years past, class visits from DTLT were step-by-step demonstrations. As a student I was in several classes where DTLT visited, and we would be taught how to use tools like iMovie, Timeline JS, and setting up a domain on Domain of One’s Own by watching a detailed process of creating something. These class visits tended to last for the full class period, or a significant portion of them.

Now that online learning and Domain of One’s Own are in the University’s 2020 Strategic Plan, DTLT has to be able to scale up not only because we want to reach more faculty, but also because when there’s a projected increase in online learning, we want to make sure we are collaborating with faculty so their students are getting the most out of their online course experience. In addition, the Strategic Plan states that in Fall 2017, all incoming students should be introduced to Domain of One’s Own. The last two freshman classes were a bit over 1,000 students. Going to 50 – 75 minute long classes that average about 15-30 students each, and demonstrating tools step by step was just not sustainable. Even when we did those kinds of class visits, students would still go to the Digital Knowledge Center (DKC) with questions we had gone over in the class visit.

In place of the “old” class visits, we came up with “new”  scalable, introductory, conceptual, and pedagogically crafted class visits. Instead of class visits that span the length of the class period, we will do a 10-20 minute introductions to the tools, and explain the student support resources such as the DKC and DTLT’s documentation. When students make appointments at the DKC, they can go by themselves or they can go in small groups. They can also drop by the Center, and if one of the tutors is available, they can sit down with them right then and there. In addition to showing students their support resources, we will briefly explain to the students how the tools and/or platforms the students will be using relate to their assignments and projects, and what they could use them for outside of coursework. We believe these class visits will be less overwhelming for students, and will give them a chance to reflect on what we’ve shared with them, as well as empower them to learn the technology more organically.

Students, however, are not our only audience for these new class visits. These are designed to empower faculty as well. Faculty members are strongly encouraged to reach out to us in advance of their class visit, because every visit is unique, and is tailored to the course. This allows us to collaborate with faculty more and help them understand and use the technology they are teaching with. When want to help  faculty be confident when using digital tools and platforms. If they run into an issue, we reassure them that they can ask us for help. Furthermore, faculty are also highly encouraged to be present during the visit, because it shows their students that their professor can also be a point of contact when they’re confused or stuck, and that everyone is learning together.

Moving forward, we also believe these new classes visits will break down the barrier between DTLT and the students and faculty. In my experience working as an (Entry Level) Instructional Technology Specialist, I’ll often hear that i’m the “expert” when it comes to technology. Understandably so, that makes the prospect of using digital tools and platforms seem overwhelming. While there will always be those who are more hesitant to try technology that is new for them, we believe that our new class visits model will show students that they have many support resources, and that faculty can always get pedagogical and instructional support from DTLT. As my colleague, Jeff McClurken frequently tells his students, we’d prefer them (and faculty) to be “uncomfortable but not paralyzed.”

Featured image CC0 by Steinar Engeland, Unsplash