Continuing Ed – Instructional Design

March 14, 2011 1 comment

Moodle has been a big part of my work-life since last summer when Springfield College announced that we were migrating to that platform.  Just about all of the training that I have been doing has focused on what I call “push button” issues – how to set up a course, how to add content, etc.  There’s a lot more to creating a good course, though, then just knowing how all the bells and whistles work.  You need to understand the basics of good course design and how to build a learning environment where students will succeed.  I got a taste of how to do that last summer when we received our official Moodle training, but I have always been interested in learning more.  When I saw that Simmons Continuing Education was offering an online course in instructional design, I jumped at the chance to take it.

Taking an online course in instructional design was an interesting experience because we got to operate in a virtual classroom that exhibited the design principles we were learning.  By far, the most important thing I learned was the theory of backwards design.  As you can probably guess, the idea here is to start by asking yourself, “What should my students be able to do/know at the end of my instruction,” and then build the course backwards from there.  The last step is to develop the activities the students will perform in order to reach those goals.  It seems so simple, but it’s amazing how many times people do just the opposite and end up with less than desirable results.

I’m not a master at backwards design yet, but I’m a real convert because of the link it creates between exercises and outcomes.  My hope is to incorporate it into more of my courses and to gently introduce it into my work with faculty so that we can improve the workshops that I do with them.  Since Babson paid for the class, I’m also planning on giving a short presentation for my fellow Reference Librarians so that I can share what I’ve learned.  Maybe I can get them thinking backwards as well!

Categories: Uncategorized

A Successful Semester

January 11, 2011 Leave a comment

I suppose it goes without saying that the Fall semester is our busiest time of year in terms of the number of information literacy (IL) classes that we offer.  I’m not necessarily sure why that is, because the need for IL instruction is just as great in the spring as it is in the fall.  I’m sure it has something to do with all of those fresh-faced first year students that show up in September, just waiting to learn.  The summer also gives faculty a little more time to prepare, I guess.

Like a lot of libraries, we count just about everything that we can for assessment purposes and the number for our Fall 2010 IL classes are in.  We taught 112, which translates to 132 hours of teaching (most classes run for an hour, but some run more – others less).  I wasn’t really surprised to see those numbers.  They are pretty close to average for us (4 Reference Librarians plus our supervisor who teaches a small handful of classes) when compared to the last couple of years.

However, I was surprised to see that I taught 36 of those 112 classes (42 of the 132 teaching hours).  That’s 32% of the classes we taught.  People who know me will tell you that I’m not one to toot my own horn too much, but I will say that I was quite proud of my accomplishment.  It came at a price, though.  Just about all of my time was spent scheduling, preparing for, and teaching classes last semester.  A lot of ongoing projects got set aside, but I have been able to catch up on things during the holiday break – just in time to gear up for the spring semester, which starts in just a few days.


Categories: Uncategorized

Taking the Show on the Road

November 22, 2010 Leave a comment

A few posts ago, I explained how all of the Reference Librarians were being trained on how to use Moodle.  The idea was that we would learn how to create Moodle courses and then we would act as assistant trainers for faculty.  Our first round of training was with the School of Human Services faculty on the Springfield campus and that went really well.  Faculty learned the basics about how to place content into their courses and to customize them and we learned what worked, and more importantly what didn’t work, in the workshops.  We took that knowledge and prepared for the second round of training, which required us to travel to all 10 of the SHS campuses across the country.

I was assigned to Houston and St. Johnsbury and hit the road with Bridget Gunn, our interim Educational Technologist, and Marsha Jones, the Associate Director for Technology Services in October.  The trip to Houston was my first visit to Texas, but we did not have any time for sightseeing.  We ran three, four hour, training sessions in two days and got about three dozen faculty members up and running with their Moodle classrooms.  St. Johnsbury was a little less hectic with only two training sessions and about two dozen faculty members.  Although Houston and St. Johnsbury couldn’t be more different in terms of climate and culture, I was struck by how similar the faculty were in both locations.

For example, we always had a small group of people who claimed that they were computer neophytes and would probably need lots of help.  Another smaller group would be made up of people who had enough technology experience to pick up everything very quickly.  Then there was the third group comprised of the remaining 70-80% of the faculty who had enough technology experience to follow along, but weren’t what you’d call experts.  Regardless of their level of expertise, they were all willing to give it their best effort and to help each other when necessary.  I’ve always said that I would rather teach a group of people who were willing to learn, but didn’t know anything about what I was going to cover than a group of people who refuse to make an effort to learn something new.  I got my wish in Houston and St. Johnsbury and it made the traveling, the hectic schedule, and the inevitable computer glitches that we ran into worthwhile.

Up next, creating a plan to train the non-SHS faculty on the Springfield campus!

Reaching Out With WebEx

September 26, 2010 Leave a comment

It was a busy summer.  If you ask any of my fellow coworkers, I’m sure that they’ll agree.  As you read in my previous post, a lot of the summer was devoted to getting up to speed with Moodle, but that wasn’t our only experience with new technology.  We also got a crash course in WebEx – a pretty fantastic web conferencing software that allows users to meet, share information, and get work done – all online.  For a long time, WebEx was limited to corporate users, but it has been steadily expanding outside of the boardroom and we picked it up after experimenting with a similar service called Illuminate.

So what’s a library going to use WebEx for?  The real question is, “What can’t we use it for?”  The official reason we go WebEx was to support the new 100% distance classes being offered in the School of Human Services and we’ve already started to use it in this capacity to train faculty.  No one here in the library, however, thought that would be it.  Up until now, we have done all of our information literacy workshops for the SHS campuses (10 across the US) using video conference technology, but WebEx will allow us to create more interactive workshops.  And that’s not all….

One of my professors in the School of Physical Education and Health Education asked if I could help with two of her Ph.D. candidates who are preparing their literature review.  “No problem,” I said, but one of them was in Maine.  They assumed that we’d have to converse through e-mail, but I told them about WebEx and asked them if they’d like to give it a try.  They were more than happy to give it a shot so we “met” online last Monday and I answered her research questions.  During the hour, I was able to speak with her, share my screen so that she could see what I was trying to demonstrate, and I even let her share her screen with me.  It was an experiment, but everyone agreed that it was a big success.

The more we use WebEx, the more we see the potential it gives us to reach out to our students.  How would you use WebEx?

Categories: Uncategorized

Moodle Training

Do you Moodle?  I do or at least I’m starting to learn how.  Moodle is an open source learning management system similar to BlackBoard and my college has just adopted the platform.  The plan is to migrate classes over from our current system into Moodle over the course of several semesters in a staggered fashion.  A handful of classes will be taught using this system this fall, but before that can happen, the faculty members and support staff need to be trained.  So, we’re all taking an intensive 2 week online course in the nuts and bolts required to build an online class.  Then we’ll take another 2 week online course that focuses on online pedagogy.  Once that’s done, we will supposedly be ready to mentor the faculty members teaching this fall.  🙂

I’m not privy to all the planning decisions, but I don’t think that the Reference Librarians were originally supposed to be included in this first round of training.  At some point, however, there was a concern that there would not be enough mentors to work with the faculty, which is when we volunteered/were volunteered by our Director.  I actually think it’s a great idea, because it will give us another opportunity to help faculty embed information literacy objectives into their courses.  I’m not sure they know about that yet, though!

I have actually found the training to be very interesting – especially the sections that deal with online pedagogy.  I still struggle with the process of applying proper pedagogical principles and practices to course content so it’s been a great opportunity to learn from others.  I also think it’s something that we all have to get more comfortable with as time goes on, because I believe that more and more teaching is going to move online.  We’d better be ready for it or we will be left behind.  As for me, I’m moodling along.

Categories: Technology

Library Retreat … To Another Library

On June 3 we had our annual library retreat.  Normally, we use part of this day to engage in some kind of exercise that will improve library operations and then we do something fun.  This year, however, we decided to devote the whole day to a service project at the Springfield Public Library.  Like a lot of public libraries, Springfield has struggled in the last year with budget cuts and layoffs.  As a result, the staff has not been able to complete several projects.  There’s nothing we love more than a challenge, though, so we arrived bright and early at 8:30 to tackle whatever they could throw at us.

I, along with two other Reference Librarians, spent the day shifting the entire fiction collection in order to remove a row of shelving.  We didn’t quite make it all the way through the alphabet, but got close enough so that the SPL staff can finish the job.  Who knew there were so many different fiction authors!  Some of the other projects included sorting and packing summer reading kits, completing some original cataloging, mending damaged items, and staffing the circ desk in the children’s section.  In total, we donated 80 hours of work to SPL!

PE Technology Fair

April 24, 2010 Leave a comment

What on earth, you ask, do climbing walls and librarianship have in common?  Well, it’s kind of a strange story.  It all started when I asked the Dean of the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (I’m the liaison to those departments) if their professional conferences includes a vendor fair of some sort.  This was soon after I had registered for Computers in Libraries and I was thinking about the technology librarians are exposed to at most library conferences.  I know, from my liaison work, that more and more technology is being integrated into PE programs across the country, but I wasn’t sure if our students or even our faculty got exposed to any of it.

The Dean replied that he wasn’t sure, but that he was very interested to hear more about what I had in mind.  After a quick e-mail explaining how library conferences usually include some sort of venue for librarians to learn more about technology, such as the “petting zoos,” he quickly arranged a meeting with the two of us and the appropriate faculty members.  Long story short, they decided to throw a small trial technology fair in the spring semester.

One of the vendors who came was company that sells the TreadWall systems that you see me on in the picture.  Imagine a climbing wall that just keeps on going.  I stayed on for around a minute and a half and was wiped out!  It’s an incredible workout.  In addition to that, we had demos of more well know tech like Wii Fit and I gave demonstrations in what wikis are and how PE teachers might use them.  All in all, it was a huge success and the PE faculty hope to have another vendor fair in the fall.

Before I wrap up, I should point out that I wasn’t responsible for organizing the fair itself.  One of our faculty members, Kathy Mangano, did all the legwork necessary to make it happen.  We all joked, however, that I was the one “responsible” for giving her more work to do with my question about technology at PE conferences.  You never know where an innocent question will take you!