Tuesday, October 11, 2011

PCC Technology Woes!

Shirlee Geiger is the current chair of the faculty Learning Assessment Council

The Fall term started with some serious technology issues at PCC. Email and phone communication were slowed, and occasionally did not function at all. The problems highlighted how much we have all come to depend on instant connection and contact. Some students would ask me, at the start of a class, if I got their emails. (The answer was usually, "No!") Their communications were routine and mundane -- about having to come late to class or leave early, or a question about a course requirement that hadn't been cleared up in the face-to-face session. These conversations got me to thinking about how email and voice mail have changed the nature of teacher-student relationships. I know that as an undergraduate (lots of decades ago!), I didn't expect access to my college instructors. I guess I vaguely knew they had offices, but I did not seek them out. I would watch some students try to sneak in quick one-on-one conversations with a teacher before or after class, but to me it always seemed sort of rude or intrusive. If the teachers had phones, I sure didn't know the numbers...And departments had secretaries way back then, who answered department and instructor phones and either passed calls through or took messages. I don't know that there was even a way to dial a teacher directly....All this meant that teachers were distant, to my mind, not exactly people. But I knew that they knew a lot of things. Because of that, I was sort of afraid of them.

I don't think distant, fear-laced relationships are optimal for teaching or learning, but it was what we had back then. I am guessing that, had I been able to call a teacher, or dash off an email, it would have made a difference in my attitude as a student. I think it would have helped....

Now students are used to sending off a quick email, and often expect a fast response. I put my phone number on my syllabus, and encourage people to use it... and they do! I feel, as a teacher, much more approachable than my teachers were to me. Things have changed. It didn't happen fast, but incremental changes have added up to expectations of routine contact between teachers and students, outside of classrooms. It has changed the profession of teaching -- how instructors allocate their time, and what a typical daily workload looks like.

This year, I am thinking that a similar thing is happening with program and institutional assessment. Lots of small changes -- in attitude, expectation, and routine -- are starting to add up. Assessment is now where email was a decade ago.... installed in our SACs, beginning to be used, but only starting to get embedded in our day-to-day work life. But I think a time is coming when we routinely will ask for the data. How did that change in instruction/curriculum/prerequisites/degree requirements affect student learning? We will want to measure, so that we can track the difference our innovations make....And we will look back and ask how we ever got by without our metrics....

Our accrediting agency, NWCCU, has noticed the changes at PCC, and is satisfied that we have "hastened our progress" to routinely use assessment of student learning to improve instruction and learning. Thanks are due to many, many PCC community members who stepped up to the new demands of the "accountability movement," and began devising and implementing ways to tell if we are making the difference in student lives that we are promising. To see some exemplary SAC assessment reports, go to http://www.pcc.edu/assessment

I am wishing the Tech people here at PCC well as they try to figure out the problems. There is no going back now -- not to the days before email, or to the days before assessment.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent analogy. Hope assessing isn't prone to server trouble.