A broad UW partnership maximizes how technology supports teaching and learning
You might assume that immersing yourself for a full week in Canvas, the UW’s new learning management tool, would be strictly an exercise in technology. But for the 36 faculty who redesigned their courses with Canvas and other learning technology tools as part of the Technology Teaching Fellows (TTF) last summer, it was a lot more.
“You can add all kinds of gizmos and whizbangs to a class, but that doesn’t mean students are going to learn better,” said participant Betsy Evans, Associate Professor of Linguistics. “The pedagogy has to come first.”
Ben Marwick, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, agrees. “The priority through the TTF workshop was always maximizing benefit to students. Technology was part of that solution, but the primary intention was improving teaching and learning.”
That intention was baked into TTF, thanks to the broad partnership that put the program together—UW-IT, the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), UW Libraries, and the Provost’s Office, including advice and support from experts at UW Tacoma and UW Bothell.
“We had a wide variety of smart people with great expertise to support our faculty to improve the quality of teaching and learning,” said Gerald Baldasty, Senior Vice Provost for Academic and Student Affairs. In particular, Baldasty said, TTF co-facilitators Beth Kalikoff from CTL and UW-IT’s Tyler Fox blended their impressive respective knowledge of pedagogy and technology to keep a tight focus on teaching and learning.
According to the Provost’s TTF Coordinator Brigid Nulty, the program attracted an equally wide variety of smart participants. “The 17 faculty members in the first of the two cohorts represented 16 different departments. There were very different levels of comfort with the technology, too,” Nulty said.
Most participants found this diversity to be an unexpected benefit. “It was great to explore the technology of delivering a class with colleagues from many other fields,” said Chemistry Lecturer Colleen Craig. “It gave me a chance to look at how I’m delivering my class with new eyes.”
Communication Principal Lecturer Lisa Coutu agrees. “One of the biggest benefits was the community among faculty across units, to talk to people who have such different teaching needs and challenges,” she said. Coutu, like a number of her TTF colleagues, is continuing those connections, inviting a faculty member in Arabic and Linguistics to monitor and critique her Canvas-enriched course, and reviewing the ways she plans to use technology tools with Colleen Craig, in Chemistry.
Among other things, Coutu is using the “virtual office hours” function of Canvas to be more available to her professional graduate students who aren’t usually on campus. She’s also using Tegrity lecture capture software to post short lectures about upcoming readings. Evans, Marwick and Craig are putting more lecture-oriented content and quizzes online, allowing them to do more small group work and interaction in their large courses.
“We want to equip faculty to try new things,” Nulty said. “The more we can get the conversations going, the more we can create a culture where it’s common to talk about teaching and technology, and understand they can work together very well.”
“Before TTF, the thought of learning Canvas and Tegrity was totally overwhelming,” Coutu said. “Now I see they’re giving me more ways to engage my students.”