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Instructor’s Perspective: Enhancing a Course with Learning Technologies

We interviewed School of Professional Studies instructor Charlene Blockinger about her experience using two new tools: Blue Jeans (a videoconferencing tool available in Canvas) and the One Button Studio (the DIY video recording studio located in University Library 1 South). Blockinger observed that her courses were enriched by the inclusion of engaging guest speakers, holding virtual meetings with students, and using group conference calls. Here’s more of what she had to say:

How did you first find out about Blue Jeans?

CB: “My first experience with Blue Jeans was when a colleague who I was working with on projects for various different courses initiated a call with me using it. I found it fascinating. I was eager to learn how to use it when it was integrated into Canvas.”

Why did you decide to start using Blue Jeans?

CB: “I’m always reaching out for new technology I can use in my courses. Technology isn’t the easiest thing for me, and I want to be able to advance my own capabilities around technology – I come from a corporate background where I didn’t have to use it that much. So when I moved into higher education, it was like learning a new language.

When Blue Jeans was integrated into Canvas, I started to use it, and it’s been wonderful. In my master’s course for Foundations of Leadership that ran in the fall, I ended it with a Blue Jeans session. Students were on the session; I could see them, they could see me – it was just like being in the classroom!”

What are some other examples of times you’ve used Blue Jeans in your courses?

CB: “As my courses are taught online, most of the time I use it to introduce myself to the students. It makes the class feel more personal and helps them feel comfortable with me.

I’ve offered one-to-one check-in calls to students midway through the quarter, as well as group conference calls for other classes.

I’m continuing to perfect my management of how I use Blue Jeans and how it works best with the class, in terms of trying to strike a balance between not using it too often or too little.”

How have students responded?

CB: “It’s been very positive. At the end of the initial intro session, I asked if they wanted more, and they said yes; they liked it. I think they appreciated the chance to have a mid-quarter check-in, and I know they enjoyed the wrapping-up call, too.”

How have you used the One Button Studio within your courses?

CB: “I have used it several times for a series that I started called Conversations with 21st Century Leaders, which involved using the studio to record guest speakers.”

How did you find your experience using the studio?

CB: “Myself and a member of the Faculty Support Services team did a test where we just played around with it a little bit. It was just so easy to use; all you needed was a flash drive.

I went back over and did some tests by myself to make sure I wasn’t going to be struggling when I sent my interview subjects there. The first one went smoothly; however, on the second run through I encountered the issue of not having enough storage capacity on the flash drive. I went over to the Information Commons desk to ask for help and the issue was quickly resolved.

I feel very  comfortable with it. Like I said earlier, technology isn’t my strong point, but if I can do it and feel at ease with it, then anyone can! My interviewees also had a wonderful time with it and enjoyed the experience.”

Finally, how have you found your experience with the Canvas Learning Center, or the Faculty Support Services team more broadly?

CB: “Well, I first try to resolve the issue myself, but having the published drop-in hours is very useful. The staff members  are so welcoming, and the space is never too crowded. The student workers are great and seem really interested in learning what I’m having difficulty with as a faculty member – the entire group is just wonderful!

I sign up for many information sessions about new tools or software that I might be able to use in one of my courses. For example, I’ve been working to learn more about Nebula for a new course that I’m teaching in the spring, and I’m always interested to hear more about new learning tools.”

If you’re interested in learning more about what tools such as Blue Jeans or the One Button Studio can do for you, don’t hesitate to request a consultation or visit us during mini-consultation hours!

Charlene Blockinger is an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University’s School of Professional Studies. She designs and teaches online and hybrid courses on topics that include intercultural communication and leadership.

Image courtesy: Mobility Shifts by The New School via Flickr