Tuesday, October 01, 2013
Not Everyone is a Digital Native
Yes, everybody could probably improve their skills, but making students sit through a 15 week course is too painful for words.
Some students truly do need more help, but even they probably don't need a whole course.
Why not develop some SHORT online video tutorials for some of the basic questions that seem to repeat a lot, and make those available for free somewhere on your IT website? This is how I teach my intro stats students to use SPSS (not the most user-friendly program) and they appreciate it, because they can go at their own pace and re-do the sticky parts if they need to.
Best of all is that this job provides the best kind of financial aid to our better students!
BTW, "doc" gave me a terrible insight into the future of software in the lease-don't-buy model being implemented. What if you are automatically shifted to the Newest And Worst version whether you want to or not? Could get ugly.
I would bet that there are already tons of web tutorials on stuff like this. I bet you need a good curator (e.g. librarian) and someone with the time to sit down with people guide them through a website with many helpful links to the one video to get them over their rough patch quickly (student work-study help), and you'd be set.
Also, if you do write a post about how doing A before B is overrated (outside the context of developmental math), that sounds like a joy to read.
Also: please, not too much emphasis on researching thru Youtube and Google. Those are skills in and of themselves, and there is a steep learning curve when figuring out good search phrases. In-person works far better.
Can you tell I'm over 50?
And then second: please, for the love of all that is holy, do not dump this problem on your college librarians! Academic librarians are fabulous people, but we have not generally been trained in, nor do we have extensive experience with, teaching basic computer skills to underserved populations. Public librarians are fabulous at this; academic, not so much.
This is our third year of offering the class and institutional research suggest it has increased student retention.
A lot of students confuse research questions with computing questions. "I can't get a PDF in this database" can mean their browser is out of date (i.e., refer to computing help) or they aren't using the right keywords and search strategies (i.e., refer to librarian).
So by far, the trickiest part of this is making sure the front-line student workers are highly trained and know when to refer a problem. You don't want the frustrated, non tech-savvy student on a deadline transferred to three different people just to solve a simple problem, so the frontline folks have to be really good at sussing out where exactly the problem is. In my experience, to make this sort of model really shine, you have to invest good time into staff and training.
For relatively simple questions like "how do I attach a file?", it's a great source of walk-in or phone-in help.
It's a great combination of just-in-time-learning and deeper engaged pedagogy. More than that, it gives us a way to support our graduate student that goes far beyond the common TA position, providing the grad students with a terrific credential and level of experience as they enter the academic or alt-ac job markets. And we get to give our students the opportunity to interact with mentors who are right in the thick of doctoral research...an intellectual pursuit which for many undergraduates is not something they have really explored or imagined.
Work study students can be great for tech support...but I always argue that the Instructional Technology Fellowships allow us to put the emphasis on the Instructional, rather than the Technology...so students and faculty can get that basic "how do I...?" help, but also get some of the thoughtful critique that will help them understand "why should I...?" and help them be more adventurous and adept at figuring out future problems themselves.