Key Challenges in My Work
At Colorado School of Mines, we are just now launching our online program. This makes us late to the game, but with the luxury of benefiting from others’ struggles and successes in online learning. One of the biggest challenges my team faces is managing the massive culture shift to accept online learning as a valid medium alongside the traditional face-to-face courses at a STEM school. Change is slow in higher education and I must always remind myself of that. Plus, this truly is a benefit to the students at the end of the day.
In my 12-week long collaborative builds with faculty, I spend a fair amount of time at the front of the build persuading faculty that online is a valid modality and how to manage the pace and expectations of the build. My ID2ID partner, Lucy Wolksi from Arizona State University, also spoke of wanting to get to the actual work of the collaboration sooner.
Strategies for Tackling Those Challenges
At first we wanted to set up a taxonomy identifying where faculty fall within motivation and building skills, but upon consultation with my institution’s Senior Assessment person, we realized the error of our ways. We were trying to put relationships and personalities into boxes, which is a very black and white way of thinking. Collaborations and relationships are rarely so easily identified and labeled and there’s lots of grey space. In truth, every faculty member we work with is an individual bringing various levels of motivation, concerns, and technical skill to collaborative builds. Our original goal lacked empathy.
Our goal and strategy to not waste precious time in the collaborative build kick-offs shifted to more of a faculty survey. This survey allowed faculty to self-identify what motivated them, what concerned them, and what online skills they possessed. Having this information early-on would allow us to focus on the strengths and build from this place. Now, if a faculty member shared that they didn’t know how to use a computer, we’d be in trouble, but that usually isn’t the case. I recently identified from the survey that a faculty member is motivated by deadlines, so I knew exactly how to motivate this person. We put those dates on our calendars and so far, all deadlines have been met.
There are three main insights gleaned from this experience. 1) It’s always wise to bring in additional support and critical thinking on a project. Inviting an assessment expert into our ID2ID plan helped us expand our thinking to be more empathetic. 2) It’s important for me to understand my faculty collaborators to the best of my ability. By addressing their motivations, concerns and skill levels up-front, valuable time can be saved. This also allows us to get on the same page faster because 12 weeks isn’t much time with a full teaching load or research agenda. 3) I appreciate my institution more now. Though it’s hard to be on the front-line of an online culture shift, I really do enjoy working with faculty at my school. They are brilliant and by honing my ability to meet any faculty member where they are, I can become more effective in my work.
Thank you Penn State ID2ID program and Educause for this amazing, free PD opportunity. I has allowed for me to continue my self-guided professional development in a very meaningful way.