Teaching centers with limited resources often find it challenging to be able to meet the needs of all faculty. In this episode, Chilton Reynolds and Tim Ploss join us to discuss how the Teaching, Learning, and Technology Center at SUNY Oneonta has leveraged its impact through the use of a faculty fellows program. Chilton and Tim are instructional support technicians in the Teaching, Learning and Technology Center at SUNY Oneonta.
John: Teaching centers with limited resources often find it challenging to be able to meet the needs of all faculty. In this episode, we examine how one teaching center has leveraged its impact through the use of a faculty fellows program.
John: Thanks for joining us for Tea for Teaching, an informal discussion of innovative and effective practices in teaching and learning.
Rebecca: This podcast series is hosted by John Kane, an economist…
John: …and Rebecca Mushtare, a graphic designer.
Rebecca: Together we run the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at the State University of New York at Oswego.
John: Our guests today are Chilton Reynolds and Tim Ploss. Chilton and Tim are instructional support technicians in the Teaching, Learning and Technology Center at SUNY Oneonta. Welcome.
Tim: Thanks for having us.
Rebecca: Today’s teas are…
Chilton: I’m drinking English Breakfast right now.
Tim: I’m drinking dark roast coffee.
John: We have a lot of that type of tea on this show.
Rebecca: Yeah [LAUGHTER]
John: And I have a ginger peach white tea today
Rebecca: I have lady grey. Look at that! Multiple episodes in a row that I’m not drinking my normal tea.
Chilton: What is your normal tea?
Rebecca: English afternoon.
Chilton: English afternoon, there you go.
John: All through the day.
Tim: It’s still morning, I think, right?
John: She drinks it morning, afternoon and evening.[LAUGHTER]
Rebecca: Right, yeah.
John: We’ve invited you here to talk about the Faculty Fellows program at SUNY Oneonta. Could you tell us about this? What is it and how did it get started?
Tim: Our director Michelle Rogers-Estable came on two, three years ago. She wanted to have a program where faculty like to do deep dives on software that faculty know really well. She wanted to have a support system setup for that kind of software. And of course, Chilton, myself and our other colleagues in the TLTC are pretty good with software. But we can’t do a deep dive on every flavor of it out there, because they would just be too much. So, our director wanted to have the cohort of people who could peer teach faculty how to use software deeply. And so we set up the Faculty Fellows Program. And faculty receive a stipend from us to be Faculty Fellows. And basically that makes them consultants that we can call when we have other faculty who want to know how to use a particular software that we have faculty fellow experts in, we can put them in touch with those faculty and they can learn how to do deep dives on deep software.
Chilton: And the thing I’ll add to that is that we like to have actual narratives of how faculty are using the software. So we learn software all the time, we learn how to use them, but to actually have narratives from faculty on what they’re actually doing with it in the classroom or doing with it for their research or how they’re using it is really powerful for other faculty to be able to hear. So, when they hear about something from us, they might not really get an idea of what it is, but when they hear from other faculty members they’ll be like “Oh, that’s what that means. I can do this with this, I can actually do some statistical analysis with this, or I can do better video conferencing with my students.” So, to have those narratives from their peers, I think, is really powerful as a part of that.
Tim: Yeah. People don’t want to hear from us level nerds. [LAUGHTER]
Rebecca: How many fellows do you have? And what’s their time commitment over? Is it a year?
Tim: So, currently, we have five Faculty Fellows and it’s a year-long commitment. We do half years if people have other obligations, but usually it’s for a year.
Chilton: When we start off I think our first year we had three… Is that right?
Chilton: And then we moved it to five. Second year and now in the third year of this, we’ve continued with five
John Kane: Do you select the software packages or do faculty propose them when they’re applying to be fellows?
Tim: Faculty propose them based on their own expertise. And we go like “yeah, we don’t know much about that software. So yeah… [LAUGHTER] come show us.”
Chilton: In the beginning of last year, we did a call and said “Hey, what’s something that you things like you’re an expert on that you would be willing to share with other people.” And they submitted on different things and we chose from that pool to be able to do that. And as far as the time commitment…
Tim: Its a year-long commitment, in the broad sense, but as far as time commitment, as far as what they do in exchange for the stipend, is they do a couple of broad trainings for us a year. They show up at events that we host, where we’re showing off all the various things that we do, giving people an idea of how we can support them. And so we have the Faculty Fellows show up for those events. And then they’re kind of on call as consultants to us and other faculty as needed.
Rebecca: Can you give us an idea of what kind of software that Faculty Fellows have been the experts in over the last couple of years that you’ve been doing this?
Tim: The big one where we’ve seen high demand, high response has been Qualtrics Survey Software. We have a couple of faculty in psychology and another one in fashion marketing, who have done deep dives since graduate school in doing surveys and Qualtrics was their software choice back then. And that’s what they’re our experts in and it’s been fairly popular.
Chilton: We started that with just Qualtrics, but it turns out they take all that information and actually put it into SPSS. And so they started off as Qualtrics, but they’re really now Qualtrics ,and SPSS, statistical analysis experts. Because it turns out there’s a lot of faculty that are interested in doing more statistical analysis of things, especially qualitative data, being able to code it and then they’ll get some information out of that, which they haven’t been able to do in the past.
Tim: And we’ve got another faculty fellow who’s an expert in Articulate Storyline software that gets a lot of like “Oh, that looks really interesting.” And then people kind of back away when they see that it takes a little bit of time to work with, but we’re working on that. We certainly could use more interactive online content in our online stuff, online classes. That’s getting better. [LAUGHTER] But that one hasn’t quite caught fire the way Qualtrics did.
Chilton: We also have one for Zoom actually, for video conferencing. That faculty fellow has been very supportive in talking about how he’s currently using it in the classroom and giving some ideas on that. And then our final one right now is on Web 2.0 Tools. We have a faculty member who teaches online educational technology, and so is interested in using lots of different types of tools for Web 2.0 and so she’s been focused on helping support faculty when they want to do a deeper dive into a lot of different softwares that are interactive.
John: How do you work with the fellows? Are you working with them individually? Are they going off on their own and just checking back when they need assistance? Or does that vary depending on the fellow and the tool they’re working with?
Tim: I kind of think of them as consultants for us. We’re pretty broadly known across campus as the people to contact when you need help with software. And that is we, the TLTC, Chilton and myself. And we can’t do deep dives into every kind of software out there, so when it’s appropriate, we usually contact the fellows. Either we ask them for help, or we ask them to take over working with a faculty member or a staff member on the software that they’re interested in.
Chilton: Yeah, so we don’t have faculty contact them directly. We’re kind of the..
Tim: …first contact point naturally, I think, just because it’s software and technology.
Rebecca: How have other faculty responded to having this program available or working directly with other faculty?
Tim: We haven’t really assessed that. [LAUGHTER]…. So I can’t give you anything more than just like, off the cuff, it seems to be working.
Chilton: Yeah, we’ve had faculty that are happy when they find out there’s somebody they can go talk to, so we call it “anecdata” [LAUGHTER]…… but it’s anecdotal. But our anecdata on this is that they are happy to be able to go talk to somebody who has used it extensively in their research, who’s used it extensively for a while to be able to talk with them about it. So, I think specifically about the Qualtrics fellows right now, when somebody finds out that they can go talk to them, when we’ve had them do presentations, there’s been a lot of feedback to say “we’d love to do more with them.” That’s kind of how we came across the “Oh we should do something with them on SPSS as well” because we did a presentation on how to use Qualtrics. And they were talking about moving into “How do you actually analyze all this data once you get it?” And they’re like, well, we can do that too. And we said to other faculty, like, “We would love to hear more about how you do that.” And so that’s where we started talking about doing more deeper dive into statistical analysis with all this data as well.
Rebecca: Do you find that the faculty who are engaged with this program are focused more on their own research or is it more about using technology in the classroom?
Tim: Certainly with Qualtrics, it’s their own research. Articulate Storyline is more… online classroom. So yeah,I think it’s balanced. It totally depends on the software. But Qualtrics is certainly inherent to a lot of faculty research. And so that makes sense that that’s where that ends up. Zoom i think is being used more for keeping track of students who are away on internships or otherwise off campus so that they can have interactivity face to face with faculty.
Chilton: Yeah, with our student teachers traveling around a lot that’s where it’s taken off a lot for us has been in the education department and so it’s been good to have faculty be able to talk with. But again, that’s mostly in the classroom, not as much for research.
John: Do you get more applicants for fellows positions then you have positions opening or do you generally end up with about five applicants per year?
Tim: We’ve had to turn down a couple of people in three years.
Chilton: We’ll say this year so far, we’ve just continued with the same fellows we had from last year. There’s a lot of positive feedback on those and so we haven’t put out a call this year. We’ve just continued the same fellows that we had from last year. And we’ve talked about doing a call possibly next semester to maybe add one more in and that’s still to be determined.
John: But you expanded the scope of what they were doing as in the case of adding SPSS to Qualtrics?
Rebecca: Can you talk a little bit about some of the challenges of running a program like this?
Chilton: Our faculty fellow for Articulate Storyline is actually in the health center and she’s created a whole training online. It’s a full course that’s all about safe practices for students and so it’s really student focused outside of the classroom. So, I think the biggest challenge that we’ve had with that one specifically has been that she has really great examples, but they’re not classroom examples. And it’s a really large project that she’s done. So it’s overwhelming for some faculty, when they hear about it. They’re like “That sounds great. That sounds magnificent. I’d love to do that.” But, the amount of time she’s put into it is much more than a faculty member is willing to put into it. So, we’re in the process for this year trying to find some classroom examples… smaller, more manageable examples… for faculty so that it can be more useful for them and we can hopefully get some more faculty be involved in. That’s one challenge. The other big one was, last winter, we wanted to have, we call them “Tech Talks” on our campus where we have faculty talking, and we wanted to do one that was highlighted all of the Faculty Fellows. So, we invited all the faculty fellows to come for one day, we had different tables for every single one, all five of them in one room, and the day of had a huge snowstorm and nobody showed up, but the five faculty fellows! So it was a great, fascinating conversation that we had among the seven of us in the room, because it was all people that were passionate about the tools they were using. We just went around the room and shared because even the faculty fellows didn’t even really know what the other faculty fellows were doing. So, to have everybody just kind of have a chance to share was great, but we just missed an opportunity to be able to widen our audience with that. So we will not be doing that in January next time. This year we’re going to try and do that at a more appropriate time for non-snow events and see how that goes.
John: We do something similar. We have about nearly 100 workshops typically in January, but we use Zoom with all of them. So, that way people can participate remotely or present remotely if they’re stuck in a snowbank somewhere.
Chilton: Yeah, just as a side note, do you ever have it where there’s multiple presentations going at the same time when you’re trying to Zoom them all at once?
John: We do. We have three accounts, I have my own and then we were able to get our CTS to provide two others. We run, typically, three simultaneous sessions or up to three at a time.
Chilton: They have to be in separate rooms then for them to work though
John: Yes, we reserve a block of rooms from the campus. And since it’s in January, and there’s no other classes going on, we’re usually able to find space.
Chilton: I think that’s going to have to be on our radar for moving forward. I’ve always envisioned them being in the same room so people could kind of wander around in one room, but that wouldn’t work for something like that.
John: Ours are more full workshops, they’re not just about specific technologies. It’s various teaching methods and so on.
Chilton: Yeah. Very nice.
Rebecca: It’s almost like a little mini conference.
Chilton: And what do you call yours?
Rebecca: Winter Breakouts.
Chilton: Oh, nice.
John: And we do another set of spring breakout workshops right after the spring semester. Those tend to be the time when we can get the most faculty attending.
Chilton: Yeah, we’ve had something that’s happened in January that we’ve called boot camps up until this year. It’s to help prepare people for some training they’re going to be doing later in the semester. And we realized we need to rename those now, as we’ve changed the focus of what we’re doing there. So it’s no longer really a boot camp, we get people prepared. It’s more in that vein of what you’re doing, where it’s just kind of like a mini conference. So I’m always curious to hear other names so we can figure out what would be good to call it for moving forward.
Rebecca: Ours is clearly super uniquely named. [LAUGHTER]
Tim: We’re totally stealing it. [LAUGHTER]
John: We inherited it and people have gotten accustomed to it.
Chilton: There’s a lot of power in the name of that and once they know it, then yeah.
Rebecca: If it’s not broken, you can’t change it. [LAUGHTER]
Chilton: Yeah [LAUGHTER]
John: Although this year, for the second year in a row, we have to do truncated spring ones because CIT is earlier relative to our semester. So, we only have a few days squeezed in there between our semester and the start of the SUNY Conference on Instruction and Technology.
Chilton: And we’re in a similar boat. So, you do your spring training after the end of the spring semester.
Chilton: So even though it’s June and officially it’s summer, right?
Rebecca: We do it in May.
John: Yeah, it’s late May, first week of June, depending on where the semester falls because a lot of people have kids and they take off during the summer or they travel or they go to other places. And usually, though, there is a week or so after finals have ended where a lot of people are still on or near campus.
Chilton: Yeah, we start with the same thing. It feels weird to call it spring when it’s now summer break for students. Even though it is still spring, but then we do…
Tim: Yeah, commencement is usually at the end of that week.
Chilton: Yeah, so we’ve done some stuff in there too, and called it Spring Boot Camp. Actually, we had a Spring Boot Camp this past year. And then did some stuff before the start of the fall semester and called that our Summer Trainings. It just always feels weird to me to have a spring thing when summer break has started. [LAUGHTER]
John: Although fortunately, it doesn’t really feel like summer here typically in late May or early June.
Chilton: A good point.[LAUGHTER].
John: We’ve sometimes have had snow flurries during that time.[LAUGHTER]……That helps.
John: When I first heard about your program, what I liked about it is it lets you extend your center by providing a network of faculty. And it sounds like a growing network of faculty who can help support other faculty, which gives you a bit of leverage in reaching more people and providing a broader range of support.
Chilton: Well said!
Tim: Yeah, that will be a summary right there. [LAUGHTER]
Chilton: And that was what we’re excited about with it… was the fact that it was bringing in more faculty to be able to engage with us in some different ways. And, honestly, some of them don’t need our services a lot because of the people that are out in front of things and are exploring things in new ways. And so some of these faculties we wouldn’t see otherwise. And so to be able to engage them into our center, it’s a great way to be able to support them and feel like they can be supported when they’re out in front of even us on some things.
John: Those are people you’d like to connect to and have as part of your activities.
Rebecca: I imagine that some of those fellows, although not technically fellows anymore, continue to be a network of support for the center and continue to engage.
Tim: Yeah, once we know who to call… absolutely.
John: We do the same thing, but we’ve never had stipends to give them… So, that way, at least you can feel a little bit better about sending people to other people for assistance.
Chilton: Well, another part of that too, is it gives them something they can put onto their vita, it gives them something that they can talk about and be able to have a name for it and be able to have a stipend kind of gives it a little bit more weight for them. So even if it doesn’t show up to you’re going to trainings, you still have something that you can kind of be able to tout as a part of that.
Tim: Right. It’s shocking that, yeah, money has value [LAUGHTER]…. Was that too blunt?
John: As an economist, it certainly seems reasonable. People respond to incentives. [Laughter]….. Are there any other topics we haven’t addressed?
Chilton: The only thing I would add is that, at this point, we don’t have any past fellows yet. We’ve continued to retain them and keep using them. So once we’ve got them on the hook so far, we haven’t let them go. Because we’ve been really happy with the feedback that we’ve gotten, and they seem to be happy with the support they’re getting from us. So we have no past fellows.
Rebecca: Just a growing cohort
Tim: …a growing cadre.
Chilton: Yeah, a growing pool.
John: So, we always end with the question, what are you doing next?
Tim: Oh, I don’t have my Outlook calendar handily available, so I don’t know what I’m doing next.[LAUGHTER]…. But,I think I’ve got something. [LAUGHTER] I think we’re going to try and expand the fellows program so that we can have more areas of expertise available to us and to have a better finger on the pulse of what faculty value as far as technology in the classroom. That’s a nice side benefit of the program.
Chilton: Yeah, and then outside of that, we are getting deep into accessibility in our center. So our Provost just put out a statement that all syllabi have to be completely accessible and posted on Blackboard by next semester. So, we are getting sucked up by that now, in a good way. A lot of time is spent on going around to the departments and individual faculty. It’s amazing how when you just say syllabus, everybody then interprets that to mean other documents as well. So people are looking at not just their syllabus, but then also other things as well and try to make them accessible.
Tim: Yeah, and that’s an okay interpretation.
Chilton: Yes. [LAUGHTER]
Rebecca: That’s a desirable interpretation. [LAUGHTER]
John: Sometimes it just takes a little initial prompt to get people thinking about these things.
Tim: Yeah, that. We’ve got a migrate people from turn it in over to Safe Assign in Blackboard, we’re having some revisiting budgets… that redundancy isn’t helping anybody. That’s boots on the ground stuff.
Rebecca: All important work that needs to be done.
Tim: Yeah, absolutely.
Chilton: It’s exciting and keeps us busy. I’ll say that. I think that’s it, anything else?
Tim: And we’re keeping the OER ball rolling.
Chilton: Yes. So open educational resources are moving along on our campus and really, we’re trying to support that.
Rebecca: Well, thank you so much for joining us and sharing this program with us.
Chilton: Yeah, thanks for having us.
Tim: Our pleasure, thank you for having us.
Chilton: It’s fun to be here.
John: If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast service. To continue the conversation, join us on our Tea for Teaching Facebook page.
Rebecca: You can find show notes, transcripts and other materials on teaforteaching.com. Music by Michael Gary Brewer.