Faculty Projects and Engagement Awards

There was an article (subscription required) in the Chronicle today about a Harvard Law professor planning to use SL to host parts of his course — not a novel idea, but one that shows there are people willing to jump at new opportunities. After reading it, I spent a few minutes bouncing around the professor’s blog and found a great pointer to a post showing some of the work in action. It may not be novel, but it sure looks interesting and could lead to some very engaging opportunities. I smell a pilot plan for the Spring.

This leads me to expose a few thoughts we tossed around yesterday as it relates to engaging faculty. Currently we do a thing called the MTO (Multimedia Teaching Object). The idea behind the MTO is that we do a scheduled call for proposals by PSU faculty and then help those that are accepted build a teaching object — usually a Flash piece or a series of illustrations. There is more to it — an open sharing license comes to mind — but for the most part it is a small program that takes some serious resources and staff time. To do something this focused well, you need a host of developers and instructional designers working at break neck pace to produce very small tangible outcomes. It has a tendency to burn people out.

We started talking about how we could take that program and expand and contract it at the same time. So if you jump out a level from a program like that and created a larger umbrella program that you could create many smaller more targeted opportunities (MTO might be one of them) we could become more strategic and agile with our faculty projects — I started calling it the Engagement Awards. The idea is if we are researching SecondLife, then we could do a targeted Engagement Award Call related specifically to that — the same could hold true for podcasting, blogging, wikis, and anything else we have running around in our collective heads. That would get us off the Flash treadmill and into a whole host of opportunities to work with faculty. Every project would be connected to a set of outcomes — a “profile in success” like piece for our webspaces, a white paper, and hopefully an invitation for the faculty members to participate in our annual TLT Symposium. I am not explaining this very well, but the idea is to create targeted opportunities to engage with faculty throughout the year that are more in line with our resources, interests, and capabilities. I could see many of these targeted calls looking at emerging things that I know faculty would be interested in.

Does this make sense and who is doing this in Higher Education that I could benchmark against?

3 thoughts on “Faculty Projects and Engagement Awards

  1. I think this is a great idea (and not just becuase I am likely to benefit). It seems like it would diversify your work and thus make it more interesting and rewarding to you, and engage faculty more directly in shaping how technology gets used across the university. It would allow faculty to explore something they are interested in, while giving both your team and the faculty members real data about how technology plays out in real classrooms. I am not sure I get how SL might be useful, but there are lots of technologies out there to be tried.

  2. We have a program called “Inquiry Through Blended Learning” – basically a bunch of profs apply to the program to get funding for doing projects. We then work with the approved faculty to design, implement, and deploy stuff ranging from custom software to media to workshops.


    Faculty seem to love it, and I’m a big fan because it brings a nice variety of work across my desk 🙂

  3. I think one of the first steps down a path like this is to revisit how we “engage” faculty to begin with. For example, how are we getting the word out to faculty about these calls for proposals? And are calls for proposals the best way to engage people at all? As a technology unit, I think we need to constantly challenge ourselves to be high touch as well as high tech. Events like the TLT Symposium are a great way to get people together and talking F2F. How could we develop more, smaller opportunities like that throughout the year? Ideas like having staff members adopt a college, asking for referrals from faculty we already work with, hosting an open house event, etc come to mind. To view it through a different lens, if we were a (small) business, what would we be doing right now to grow our business and drive more traffic through the door?

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