Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Faculty Peer Community to meet Instructional Technology Support Crunch

Over lunch today, I was pondering faculty development as I read an article from Educause Review, "Faculty 2.0" .

It starts out with the tired stuff about how faculty are under a change crunch (though it's enlightening to see all the change issues listed). It also points out that as we approach the time when faculty adoption reaches the voluminous majority on Rogers' curve, our support resources will be highly taxed--scaling up support under our current models will be a problem. Many are already calling it an instructional technology support crisis.

To some extent on my campus, we are seeing this with our course management system right now. Early adopters have long been using the system and innovating with it, and now the middle majority is propelling usage to all-time highs.

Most interestingly, the article ends with a call for campus support units to not just throw more people and money at the challenge, but to design systems that scale for enterprise-wide delivery. Our excellent campus help desk knowledge base is one of those where we are seeing significant ROI.

The article's best nugget:
"Real-time professional development puts increasing pressure on faculty-development centers to be much less place-centric. The centers may evolve into clearinghouses where faculty members can share with each other on a peer-to-peer basis....Just as academic libraries are moving away from being the atomistic centers of their colleges or universities, faculty members need to become the critical component in a broader network of peer-to-peer professional development."

Basically, peer support is the way to meet this growing need. (And faculty most prefer this method of IT learning as Carl Berger, Cheryl Diermyer and I shared last year.)

In "Social Networking Technologies: A Poke for Campus Services", Christoph, Berg and Berquam stated the need for campus IT staff to engage with their campus and work to enhance services by learning from social networking technologies.

If we mash-up the problems and solution presented in the "Faculty 2.0" article with the methodology recommended in the "Poke" article, we can envision a system for faculty peer support focused on best teaching practices.

Call it Facebook meets the campus Teaching and Learning Center.

If I were to add a new row to the matrix outlined in the "Poke" article, it might look something like:

Core Campus Activity:
- Faculty Development (Teaching w/ Technology)

Connecting on Ideas:
- Teaching profiles (discipline, area of expertise, course topics, course demographics-large/small/online/etc)
- Tags or categories that link to matches in other profiles
- Messaging
- Best practice repository

Making Connections:
- Academic Technology
- Teaching Center
- Faculty
- Portal services
- Deans' offices

I would love to see some type of a faculty/staff social network (not to mention a student learning network) wrapped around, or within, our course management system.

ELGG might be a way to make this a reality. The University of Manitoba's Virtual Learning Commons is the only example I have seen that has implemented such a system, but theirs is a network for students.

Have you ever seen a social network for instructors? What types of instructors would even use such a system? What would motivate them?

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