An adventure in facilitating cross-campus communication
Bouncing around a university campus and working across multiple departments, it becomes quite clear that lots of instructors are doing cool things that nobody else knows about. Meanwhile, I receive requests to help improve courses of instructors who just don’t know what is available or possible, expecially with fancy Internet technology. And as much as the tech people and curriculum coaches want to deny it, our assistance isn’t anywhere near as rich as what you can get from a fellow colleague in the trenches, who can tell you how something works in the gritty, non-ideal classroom world. They have tried, failed, re-tooled, improved, and honed their methods into something that works better than it used to. The real trick in improving campus-wide instruction is to find a way for these relative Experts to showcase their methods as a reference for the relative novices (or even veteran instructors who are new to a particular strategy and don’t want to start over from scratch).
The buzz-term from synergistic, leverage-maximizing, outside-the-box paradigm shifters who hit the ground running and give 110% is to “Get out of your silo.” But if there is nothing to look at when you peek your head up, then what’s the point?
So after about a year of pondering how to approach this problem of collecting resources from the Experts and creating an ideal sharing platform that makes it as easy as possible to both share and find the great ideas that are happening on campus, I said, “Screw it, I’ll just make a blog.”
The methods are simple. I record a 15-20 minute conversation with an instructor who shares their idea. I pare that down to a 5-10 minute video focusing on the meaty details of what they do, how they do it, how it has improved their courses, and what they would recommend to the colleague who stopped by to ask their advice. As a bonus, if the instructor has something that they are interested in trying but would like some advice about, they get to broadcast their question to the campus to see if anyone has something to offer. That’s what we in the educating about educating business call a Personal Learning Network:
Along with the video, any supporting documents, like sample grading rubrics or instruction guides are posted so that teachers don’t have to create everything from scratch. It’s one thing to have a good idea. It’s another to have the logistics figured out already so that you can actually use it. (For example, you can see my original project outline, recruitment flier, and sharing prompts, so you can more easily implement something like this for yourself.)
Without too much of what I would consider actual “work,” the Expert Down the Hall page has started on ESU’s blog platform (which I have a couple of format issues with, but it functions, and that is the trade-off of something more easily navigable through the university’s main website than a WordPress blog would be). If I can keep adding quality content on a routine basis this has the potential to fill a huge gap in campus-wide communication and be a tangible benefit to instructors and students. But that’s just my opinion. I’m no expert.