I have to say that my current job, from which I retire soon, is only sporadically rewarding. Far too few are the conversations with faculty about translating a face-to-face course for an online presentation, or about how to use specific tools for collaboration or how to use something like digital storytelling in coursework. Even when workshops spark interest and I think those faculty will come back and get me involved in their specific projects, it doesn’t happen here very often. It’s not because they don’t know I have taught in higher ed for over 20 years and could help, it’s because . . . . Well, I don’t know what the reason is. My optimistic response is that faculty know how to teach and design their own stuff and just need the inspiration of a workshop, and then they’re off to do it. That’s what I would have done, if I had even gone to the workshop to begin with. We’re a world of makers and DIYers and the tools are pretty easy to figure out.
Some of the support consultations are about the college-licensed technologies that are more complicated and easily forgotten—Adobe Presenter, Adobe Connect, Respondus, Camtasia Relay. They can require remembering the right sequence of steps or they might have features that you only use once in a while. You know you can insert a video in a Presenter presentation, but you never did it after the demo and that was 6 months ago. Or you can’t remember why you can’t display a Word document in your Connect window, when it clearly says “share a document.” I do remember all those steps, having taught them in workshops (you remember how teaching teaches you first), so it’s no big deal for me to recall them for you. Not challenging, but no big deal.
Most of my work revolves around supporting how to use our LMS, though, and I don’t mean talking about optional ways to develop and present a course or how to implement a particular project using built-in tools, or even how to link outside the LMS to other tools and workspaces. I mean how to use as in what to click to add an attached document, or that you have to click submit whenever you do something (seriously). I have sat with people for hours saying click here, click here, click here, no not there, go back, sometimes the same people week after week.
Luckily I have the patience to do that and I’m glad they have someone to ask who won’t get frustrated, but on my end, it’s not intellectually challenging. I think I’m mostly being wasted here, but that happens.
Meanwhile, back to the LMS. I’m not part of the chorus of LMS haters—you know who you are. I like an LMS for the consistency it offers harried students and the convenience of having all your teaching stuff in one place for a course. Since most recently I taught online in addition to my full-time position, the LMS served as a good way to keep the jobs separate, allowing all my communication with students to not clog up my work email, for example. I like an LMS that let’s you grade and mark up written work without downloading a bunch of separate files, and one that has a wiki for peer reviews by students. I can’t subscribe to the argument that all faculty in higher ed could teach online without an LMS, knowing what I know, and yet, I can see that too many faculty still can’t master one after years of using it. Some of those people should only teach in the classroom, and some of them might prefer it and be better at it, but they do what is demanded here today, which requires an LMS. Which requires someone like me to answer those simple questions over and over.
Now this school is exploring choosing another LMS after everyone has been trained on the current one. Sorry I’ll miss that. Not. 🙄