Learning about the tools and technology available with the use of the Sakai program and discussing inter-school collaboration were highlights of a recent trip to Wheeling, WV, for seven Tusculum College faculty and staff members.
The group recently returned from the Learning Asset Management Project (LAMP) summer Pedagogy and Technology workshop, held this year at Wheeling Jesuit University, one of 15 Appalachian College Association schools who make up the LAMP, which also includes Tusculum College. Through the College’s participation in LAMP, the Sakai program is available to all staff, faculty and students.
Attending the workshop were B.J. Roberts ‘04, instructional technology specialist; Gary Quinton, instructional technology specialist; Barth Cox, assistant professor of film and broadcasting; Corinne Nicolas ‘95, associate professor of English and director of the Gateway Program; Dr. Rhonda Smith, director of the School of Business and assistant professor of management; Amanda Waddell, director of career development, and Heather Easterly ‘00, director of faculty services for Graduate and Professional Studies.
According to Roberts, the workshops are a valuable opportunity to sharpen skills in teaching with technology, to develop a course, to investigate collaborative projects with faculty from other schools and to become a more integrated member of the LAMP community.
“There were a variety of workshops that were aimed at helping both staff and faculty learn more about Sakai and its tools,” said Roberts. “As a group we came back felling like we had learned a lot and are excited to share what we learned with our colleagues.”
The workshops were structured to maximize interaction among faculty from across member schools, to have them work together in teams (often discipline-related teams) with the goal of energizing them toward working collaboratively through LAMP even after the workshop is over. Roberts added that this was facilitated by workshops that included shared meals and various non-traditional experiential learning activities that further solidify the camaraderie and collaboration.
Others that attended the conference also felt it was a good investment of their time and effort.
“Prior to the Pedagogy and Technology workshop, I was unaware of several tools and features at our disposal through Sakai,” said Waddell. “Many of these have the ability to make our work more accessible and student friendly.”
She added, “I had always thought of Sakai as a data management tool, rather than a true teaching tool. But, by the end of the week I had numerous ideas about how to utilize Sakai in my own day-to-day activities, ideas that were simple and easy to implement and can increase student learning.”
According to Roberts, all expenses (with the exception of travel) were covered by the College’s participation in the LAMP coalition. Faculty and staff of LAMP member institutions attend the workshops at no charge, including the cost of instruction, lodging and meals. The College covered transportation for the group to attend.
“This was a good opportunity for faculty and staff, regardless of whether they were beginners, at medium level or advanced users of Sakai, to increase our awareness of Sakai’s capabilities,” said Roberts, “And, as Tusculum is the largest user of Sakai in the consortium, it was great that we had such good representation at the workshop.”
In fact, one of the biggest users at Tusculum College, and at one time the largest user of Sakai in the entire LAMP consortium was Cox, who was using Sakai in all his film and broadcasting courses. As a result, Cox was asked to be one of the presenters at the workshop, and his presentation focused on the Mneme (Test Center) tool.
Cox said Test Center is a powerful tool on Sakai that allows for more flexibility in the ways educators are able to use it, particular in creating randomized tests.
“I use it that way in all my classes, and it allows me to create pools of hundreds of questions and then generate multiple short tests that students can retake. It exposes them to more information each time and also serves as a review,” said Cox.
In addition, there were a variety of workshops provided, including special sessions on the tools available on Sakai and a sneak preview session on the newest version, Sakai 3.
Cox is also excited about the rolling out of Sakai 3 next year. “There are some great features that I’m really excited about,” he said, including the currently on-hold portfolio tool that would allow students to manage an online portfolio for professor review in areas like the learning outcomes used at Tusculum College.
“It’s more like the look and feel of Facebook or other similar social networking sites that people are familiar with,” Roberts added.
“Overall there was a lot of useful information presented,” Cox said, “Much of it is actually very simple to use.”