Instructional Tech Workshops: Find a Champion, Tell a Story

Now that everyone is here; let's get started.

Now that everyone’s here; let’s get started!

Inside Higher Ed has a post by Matt Reed “Workshops Don’t Work” that treads the familiar territory of low faculty turnout for workshops. However, is it that workshops do not work or is there a gap between what librarians and instructional tech coordinators think faculty want or should know, and what faculty really want?

I’ll get back to Reed’s post in a moment, but for now I’m curious to hear how you plan your workshops? Do you conduct surveys? Speak to faculty members with whom you have a close relationship? Plan workshops around new or changing technology on your campus? Whatever your process, please share it. Especially as summer is the time when most of us are planning next year’s offerings.

To get back to Reed’s post though, he talks about finding an early adopter and letting that person spread the message virally, or in pre-Internet speak, by word of mouth. But, does it take more than that? Is word of mouth good enough or could one do more?

Two examples from last year include teaching with teleconference and digital storytelling. We worked with a few faculty members who were interested in using the teleconference technology in their classes. In one course, Dr. Jay McDaniel used teleconferencing to facilitate cross-cultural learning between his students and students in China. In another course, Dr. Jay Barth used the same technology to engage with his students from the Democratic National Convention.

Instead of hoping a faculty member will spread the word, instructional technologists can work with them to create workshops and tell the story. Foregoing the workshop model, setting up a time for coffee with a few interested people is another method. Further, telling a story takes more effort than standing up in a meeting or sending out an email. With multiple modes of communication, it may involve using social media repeatedly throughout the process, talking about the project often, writing blogposts, and contacting the marketing / communications department.

The last workshop I co-taught was with Dr. Amanda Hagood and it was on how to use digital storytelling in the class. We were approached by the Religious Studies Department, because faculty members heard about the assignment and were interested. Beyond working with an early-adopter or a champion and telling their story, a key part is to always circle back to how the technology was used in the classroom, what assignments were created, and the outcomes on student learning. Working with faculty members to develop workshops may be more successful than going it alone. By sharing rubrics, assignment descriptions, student work, and what worked and what didn’t work, attendees are able to leave the workshop with something they can use in their own classrooms.

While finding a champion and telling their story helps, what works for you? And again, please share your process for identifying needs and creating workshops.

[Updated: 6/24/2013] For more on this topic, please read “Workshops Work…Sometimes” on Derek Bruff’s blog, Agile Learning.

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