In our work as OLTCs, people often ask us, “What do you do?” Although our full titles are Online Learning and Technology Consultants, we do so much more than provide technical support and “how-to.” We talk with faculty members and learn about their personal teaching philosophy. We ask them to tell us a story—the story of their course. Through these conversations, we listen to what they have gained through their teaching experiences. We form an understanding of how their teaching has changed throughout the pandemic, and we learn how we can collaborate with them to achieve their goals for their courses. Some professors want to learn how to set up their Moodle page or need assistance with setting up a quiz, while others further embrace the students-as-partners model which provides us with a unique opportunity to be able to move beyond the student/educator hierarchy and to work with faculty members to create compassionate teaching and learning experiences.
Today we’re going to talk about how a Needs Assessment can establish the foundation for our collaboration with faculty members.
First, we’d like to share our perspectives on who we are as OLTCs.
Who we are
“An OLTC is a source of support to educators by assisting in helping to facilitate learning and technological needs. As an OLTC we help execute ideas and goals by working collaboratively with a faculty member. We work in partnership with our OLTC team members to provide the best possible outcome.” Shannon Goguen
“An OLTC is someone who works in partnership with others, whether that is with faculty members or their fellow OLTC colleagues. We work together to achieve a faculty member’s goals for their courses. This could involve assessing their syllabi for accessibility and clarity, providing technical assistance and design ideas for their Moodle pages or assisting with course design. As students, we can combine our lived experiences with our knowledge of pedagogy and technical training to help faculty members to create effective learning experiences.” Christelinda Laureijs
What is a Needs Assessment?
A Needs Assessment is the first meeting between members of an OLTC team and faculty members. This meeting gives us an opportunity to develop an understanding of the faculty member’s teaching style, their course story, and their goals for the program. After asking some preliminary questions about the key information of the course, we ask the faculty member to tell us their course story. This first discussion ensures that we are all on the same page and that the course material, assessments and lesson plans are all directed toward the same learning journey. A course story aims to ensure that all content connects in a way that is learner-focused.
What is a course story? Most course stories summarize the development of a course from the initial concept to the current version of the course. An educator’s ‘course story’ is a combination of their learning objectives, goals, and pedagogy. Faculty members often give us a broad overview of the key themes of the course before letting us know of methods that have worked (and those that didn’t). Some faculty members talk openly about insights that they have gained from teaching the course, and others reflect on how their teaching methodology shapes their course framework. This opens the door to a broad discussion on pedagogy, past challenges and successes, and goals for the future. Based on this conversation, we can design a plan on how we might collaborate with the faculty member to achieve their goals. During the meeting, we might also give general efficiency recommendations and talk about resources that we could share.
After the Needs Assessment, we meet and discuss what we’ve learned. We compare our notes and decide how we can best work with the faculty member’s needs. From our meeting, we can shape a plan of action and delegate tasks. We can then give recommendations tailored to our faculty member’s goals.
A few weeks later, we schedule a Recommendations Meeting with the faculty member to summarize what we have worked on, to obtain consent for working on their Moodle pages, to share resources and/or to brainstorm further. We send our faculty member an email that is packed to the brim with resources. In these emails, we give tips and ideas on how to increase student engagement in class, share links to helpful tutorials and articles, demonstrate Moodle page design ideas, or share video tutorials and documents.
Our working relationship with the faculty member does not end after our Recommendations Meeting/Email. We maintain this relationship in a way that is suitable to their needs, offering help, support, and resources throughout the term.
Needs Assessment – Much more than Moodle
While we are always happy to chat about Moodle and educational technology with faculty, often our Needs Assessments can grow into a much broader conversation about a teacher’s personal teaching philosophy and pedagogy. When we consider many aspects of the course, it helps us to see the faculty member and their course(s) from a different lens. The Needs Assessment also gives faculty members a safe space to explain their course story and teaching approach. This can open the door to a wide range of topics such as:
How teaching has evolved during the pandemic, and exploring ways to teach effectively during the pandemic.
Developing new methods to build a course community and exploring ways to increase level of spontaneity in in-class discussions.
Brainstorming ideas on how professors can reach out to students.
Broadening the scope of student-educator interactions through in-class discussions and participation in group projects.
Re-imagining office hours as a way to build an understanding of the course material and student confidence.
Increasing student awareness of the resources available, whether that is on-campus resources or opportunities available through one-on-one interactions with the faculty member.
Helping students to practice resilience when approaching challenging course topics.
Incorporating different methods of student assessment.
Incorporating UDL and EDI principles in course design.
Brainstorming ways to achieve a faculty member’s “wildest dream” about their course.
We believe that faculty members appreciate the opportunity to gain a student perspective on their pedagogy. Sometimes faculty members just need the opportunity to voice their ideas and concerns. We are open to actively listening and collaborating.
We hope that faculty members appreciate that we carefully integrate their personal teaching philosophy with their specific needs and experiences. As OLTCs, we appreciate the many opportunities that the students-as-partners model offers. We are in the unique position of being able to take what we’ve learned about pedagogy and combine it with our lived experiences as students.
~ Shannon Goguen and Christelinda Laureijs