The following is a fictionalized scenario, a day of a life of a teaching and learning center based on some futuring work I did for an internal planning retreat for the Center for the Enhancement of Learning & Teaching (CELT) in Summer 2012. I wrote up this scenario based on the outputs of several workshop exercises designed to get the team thinking about the Center’s “business model” and services repertoire and how we can change this to continue to add value to our faculty, students and administration as the university adapts to the changing landscape of higher education in the United States.
“Well, Dr. Smith, I think it might improve your students’ engagement with the course if you interacted with them more often in the activity stream of the class Google Circle. Perhaps 2 or 3 additional comments or responses each day would do the trick,” Suzanne said. She enjoyed working with UK’s new crop of Virtual Professors, even though her only face-to-face contact with them was over Google Hangouts. It had been weird conducting faculty consults with faculty who never came to campus (or even lived in Kentucky) at first, but the economics behind the outsourcing of certain programs really couldn’t be argued. In today’s economic climate, it was simply too expensive for UK to build a Transmedia Communications department that was on campus full time. In order to keep costs down, UK had simply contracted with a group of Ph.D.s who worked together virtually for several universities to deliver Transmedia Studies education. CELT, however, was still responsible to help these Virtual Faculty improve their course delivery and student engagement.
Suzanne had been eased into this way of working after CELT hired its first virtual staff member a few years ago. Again, communicating and working with a team member who was never physically present in Lexington had proved challenging, but the use of Google Hangouts and the CELT Google+ circle had made it much easier. In fact, most CELT team members used Google+ (like Google Chats and Circles) throughout the day to update each other on their status and location, and often to open a quick Hangout to discuss a teaching and learning problem or to bring in a backup team member virtually for a few moments. Speaking of which, now that her 9:30 consult was over, it was time to check in with Steve one timezone back in Wisconsin. Steve was a great team member – always present, always engaged with the rest of the CELT team. CELT had really needed his skills in hybrid course design, but due to family, he had been unable to move to Lexington. With the infrastructure CELT had begun putting in place a few years earlier, it was easy to accommodate him.
After her meeting with Steve to discuss their research project with Dean Speaks and the College of Design on an analysis of the studio education model and how to apply this to other disciplines, Suzanne hustled out the door to her 11am meeting with the Department of Multimodal Communications to discuss best practices for moving their program into a fully hybrid mode due to increasing problems with space on campus. Enrollments had increased over the past few years, but new classrooms had not yet come online due to the political in-fighting in Frankfort, and UK had not been able to save enough money from the cutbacks to build new spaces. With UK’s classroom physical plant aging, more and more programs had begun to move to hybrid models to make the best use of remaining spaces. UK had merged DLP and CELT a few years ago to acknowledge the reality that all classes were now on a continuum somewhere between fully face-to-face and fully online. As she ran out the door, Suzanne waved to her colleague Anna, who was busy in her office providing real-time instructional support to Dr. Jimenez’s Entrepreneurship MOOC, which had broken the university’s previous enrollment records with 12,000 students around the world.
After lunch, Suzanne took her laptop down to Coffea to recharge and to enter her client meetings and other notes into Highrise. It had been a successful meeting with the Architecture faculty. They had finalized the plans for the Center’s SOTL project for the year and started a Google Doc to begin collaborating between the 5 faculty members and the 3 CELT team members on the findings and write-up of the project. Suzanne wanted to get the notes on her interactions with the Architecture faculty into Highrise not only to be able to collect the data for CELT’s accountability reporting to the Accountability Based Budgeting committee, but also to be able to share this information with her fellow CELTics for their later consultations with these faculty members.
Speaking of which, her director, John, just messaged her on Google Chat. What can you tell me about Dr. Blake and Dr. Murray in Political Science? Jane and I are meeting with them now to talk about doing some course redesigns around Project Based Learning? Suzanne pulled up their client files on Highrise and sent the links to John and Jane, who promptly pulled up the files on the Highrise app on their iPads. She also sent him the link to the Backpack page on PBL for good measure. Wait for it, she thought. 3…2…1… TEXT FROM JOHN: Can you join us via Hangout? She smiled. It was great to be able to join the meeting virtually rather than have to run across campus in this blazing heat. A quick 15 minutes later and Suzanne was updating the CELT wiki page on Project Based Learning thanks to some data that Cory, the CELT grad student dug up after a quick text message from Suzanne during the meeting. Yikes! Her iPhone 7 buzzed. Time for the meeting with IT!
She packed up her gear and walked up to Hardymon to meet with the Business Intelligence team from UKIT to discuss the new real-time student analytics tool they were using to send data from HANA to Google Glass. The idea was that, by sending student data from the SIS and campus LMS that data on student performance could be sent to the instructor in real time as an augmented reality overlay during class, viewable through a Google Glass unit the university had received as a grant from the Google.org Foundation. After the meeting, Suzanne stayed behind for a bit to talk to the ATG director about their workshop tomorrow on Teaching with Augmented reality. Most students now had smart phones that could deliver a quality AR experience and several teachers were now hopping on board the mLearning revolution. CELT and ATG had anticipated this trend a few years ago and had begun preparing to be able to offer such services.
<bee-deep! 3pm!> Her phone reminds Suzanne that it’s time to run over to the Little Library for a CELT meeting with faculty from Anthropology, Business, Design, Fine Arts, Engineering, Biology and Philosophy to discuss progress on the interdisciplinary Design Futures degree program the university is developing. John sends her a quick text message: Still in the Political Science meeting with Jane. Bring Steve in to help until we get there. Thx! Suzanne sends a quick GChat message from her phone to Steve: Can you help out with the DF meeting for a bit?A quick reply is forthcoming: No problem, Suze. Beam me in on this Hangout. A link is in the chat reply. Suzanne enjoyed the work CELT did these days as a trusted advisor to departments and faculty on campus, helping them to develop new programs and course redesign to meet the needs of an increasingly consumer-oriented student population. The university had begun to change rapidly to meet these needs, and thanks to careful foresight and planning by CELT a few years ago, they were ideally positioned to help the university through this transitional period. Fortunately, this was a really efficient meeting. Most faculty had gotten used to using Sharepoint and Yammer as a collaborative tool and the workflow process in SAP and the UK Protal made it really easy to confirm who had done and seen what prior to a meeting. All parties were well-prepared and Jane’s facilitation skills really helped move things along.
So, Suzanne, John and Jane were able to arrive back at CELT HQ a little early to prepare for the weekly “Teaching and Learning with CELT” webshow. CELT had put its studio to many purposes over the years. Lately, CELT had turned to producing a weekly 15 minute webcast packed with teaching tips and sometimes, interviews with key partners, faculty and willing administrators. CELT’s staff had grown to about 15 after the merger with DLP and some investment from the previous President, but there still weren’t enough bodies to do all the work. Webcasts were one way CELT tried to use technology to reach a broader audience. Steve appeared via Hangouts and the conversation with the four of them (plus Samir, their able GA) was free-flowing and informal, focused today on ways to use text messaging in the classroom. Yes, text messaging was pretty old school, but it had proved to be a gateway to other ed tech for some slower-adopting faculty.
A quick 20 minutes later and Suzanne was finally back in her office to catch up on email. While some of the collaborative technologies like Google+ and Yammer had served to greatly cut down on email, nothing, it seemed, could kill that beast for good. She also took the time to hammer out a quick blog post on the Google Glass collaboration with IT and put it in the editorial queue for John’s approval.
<bee-deep! 5pm!> Yes, it was a little “good night, John-Boy,” but today’s CELTics liked to end their work day together by grabbing some coffee together in their break room and discussing the days events. It wasn’t required, but their Director, John, always came and encouraged the rest of the team to come by, let off steam, and share their learnings for the day. Everybody came, though not every day. It was a great bonding ritual that helped everyone to stay connected as a team and get to know each other and their passions and current projects better. It had become even more important once CELT had merged with distance learning and started to grow a bit.
Half an hour and some strong coffee later, Suzanne was on the bus back home. She pulled out her cell phone to send a quick email to Bai Lin, their CELT associate in China to help prepare her for some potential issues Steve had identified might come up for this evening’s online courses so she could offer some support. Once the university decided to schedule late night hybrid and online courses to ease enrollment pressure and meet student demands for a more flexible learning schedule, CELT had to provide service round the clock. Hiring a teammate at UK’s China distance branch that was opened this year made it possible to do that without asking anyone in Lexington to stay up late and work the night shift. Oh, occasionally there was a quick call for help on GChat, but those fires were quickly doused. She powered down her phone with a smile. What a great day! Busy, but incredibly satisfying. She loved her work with CELT!