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Phase III

Page history last edited by Baynard 13 years, 1 month ago

Phase III: Technology Integration Strategies for Training the Media Studio Student Employees

 

Technology Integration Strategies - facilitating the development of experts

 

Our website stated that "the media studio is a do-it-yourself media production facility, with expert help available. All students, faculty, and community members may come here to work on video, audio, web and graphic design projects." But how do the student employees that work there become "experts"?

 

There's a certain amount of osmosis occurs. The studio was absolutely drenched with state of the art media production equipment and software. If the student employees are working there, eventually they get asked enough times to help people that they learned the most common things as they went along. One might call this the "lack of training" training program. The fact of that matter is that no matter how thorough a training regimen might be, it was the nature of the media studio environment that unique requests for help occured daily. Technology changes constantly so one is always learning. Over time, the student employees became better at handling a broad range of requests, both in terms of their technical skill and in their approach to patrons' needs. 

Additionally, I was always on the prowl for a "teachable moment". For example, a patron came to the studio and wanted to extract a video from Youtube to put in Blackboard. The student who's working doesn't know how to do it so they ask for my help. There might be another student employee working who also doesn't know it, so I called them over and demonstrated the technique so they could all see it. The floor and table layout in the studio encouraged cross-talk and sharing. It was designed to be a very collaborative space and this enhanced the technology training osmosis as ad-hoc groups formed and dissolved in an instant. It's a tribute to the original creators of the space that this dynamic played out so smoothly in the media studio.

  

There were three levels of student employees: trainees, junior consultants and consultants, with three tiers of pay. The media studio consultant job was one of the highest paid student employee positions on campus ($10.00). The leadership and influence these students had is tremendous. Each consultant was an expert in at least one of our main areas (web, sound, video, graphic design). I met weekly with the consultants, who in turn, met weekly with their respective teams. I sat in on team meetings occasionally. I required every employee to be on at least one team. This peer to peer support and encouragement was a cornerstone for employee skill development over time.

 

When I interviewed and hired the students, I asked them to be ready to demonstrate how to do something on a computer to a small group. I de-emphasized the technical expertise; I emphasized the show and explain aspect. They weren't required to specifically know anything when I hired them. I did require them to be able to demonstrate and to communicate. I made it clear that helping people was an essential part of the job. This approach seemed to work, as the student employees that worked with me in the media studio were outstanding. They were incredibly helpful and their knowledge base grew over time.

 

I have noticed a tendency though for students to become over-specialized. There was a certain natural tendency for students to drill deep into one area of expertise, to the neglect of the other three. Once there was a consultant (i.e. one of the leaders) that was not able to help a patron with a relatvely basic video request, one of the more common kinds of requests. This happened my first year and I didn't pay it much heed at first. This year though, when I was thinking through the training needs of the media studio, I decided that this was something I would address. I would develop structured cross-training for all the student employees.

 

First of all, I had to address the needs of the newly hired - the trainees. It was important to connect with them and ensure that they had the core skills they needed to provide a base level of support for walk-in patrons to the media studio. It was difficult to find times where I could meet with the ten or so new hires, but I eventually did. I called this "boot camp" training. Here's a list of topics I covered. It was a jam-packed ninety minutes that the students seemed to appreciate (one group even clapped).

 

When planning the cross-training modules, I met repeatedly with the consultants (the student leaders) to come up with the best topics to focus on. It quickly became clear that it couldn't be just about the technical training, that it also had to be about the act of assessing the patrons needs and then steering them in the right direction. This was the case for sound design, graphic design, video editing, and especially web design. Each training module contains an introductory component that briefly covers some meta-strategies for talking to patrons and determining how best to help them. The consultants were an invaluable resource in this. I often quipped that each of the four areas we served could be a career unto itself, but it was true. My own weaknesses were sound and graphic design, so I started with these as I had the most to learn.

 

As I developed the materials, I had frequent casual conversations with student employees about the nature of patron requests and the kinds of materials I was developing. I also alerted everyone that the training modules were coming and that they were mandatory. I was going to be asking a lof from them. For the student employees, I had designed the training materials in order for them to fit in with their academic work. For the students, their schoolwork comes first and their time is limited (Kovken & Hall, 2006). The personal bond and the feel of the workspace were essential ingredients. If I had developed the materials without discussion, I'm sure the program would have been much

 

I developed four training modules, one for each of the areas we support in the media studio. Each module contains an assignment, a primer on how to guide people to the correct help for that are, clear video tutorials for a particular piece of software, and directions on how to share the deliverable.

Training Module 1: Sound Design Intro and Audacity - make a soundscape

Training Module 2: Graphic Design Intro and Illustrator - make a large format poster

Training Module 3: Video Tools and Final Cut Pro - make a video

Training Module 4: Web Design Tools and GetWeb - edit an HTML template and FPT the web page

Most of the video tutorials utilize Screenflow, a great program that can recorded from the desktop, a video camera, the microphone and the computer's audio simultaneously. The beauty of it was that it also acted as a post production editing suite that enabled:

  • highlighting mouse clicks
  • "callouts" around the cursor
  • zooming and fading the video
  • sound edits, clips and trims
  • multiple export options

This combination of features made it a fantastic tool for creating eLearning materials that win accordance with Clark & Meyers principles of eLearning as outlined in their most recent edition of E-learning and the science of instruction: proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning. When one of my colleagues sent me a link to Screenflow's website, I felt an immediate "Aha!". The features resounded immediately with both my sixteen years of teaching experience and my formal study of instructional technology. I was very excited to start using this new piece of sofware for instruction.

 

The fourth training module has them develop a miniature ePortfolio of the other three modules, as the student employees are asked to edit a web page template that links to the deliverables from the other three (the sound piece, the poster, and the video). Before the training began, all the student employees completed a pre-training assessment survey. At the conclusion of the training, they completed a similarly designed survey for the post-training assessment. The results of the two surveys will provided evidence of learning. Formative assessment was done as each deliverable came in.  I hada chart hanging outside my office that tracked each employees progress. The chart sent the message that the training was important and core to our mission, as it hung just under our yearly goals.

I used eLearning strategies to deal with the challenges of training student employees: busy students, school work coming first, hard to meet with them in person (Sobczak, 2001). During the course of the training program, the students were asked to complete an average of one training every week and a half. The training modules could be completed independently and asynchronously. The program will lasted six weeks. Each module was designed to be completed in about an hour. Some of the modules could be completed from their dorm rooms.

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 Diversity - Instructional Design for Student Employee Needs

 

Our small liberal arts college was highly selective and the students were some of the finest in the country if not the world. That being said, it should also be noted that the students who worked in the media studio may be better at some things than others. It was important to design the program to play to their various strengths.

 

Each of the training modules was designed to have skippable parts. If there was a part the employee knows well, they could skip that step and move ahead. However, if the subject material was new to the employee, the steps were explained in depth, with thorough explanations included.

 

In a similar vein, if students had completed projects previously for some of the modules, they were allowed (and encouraged) to reuse materials they had made previously. For example, many members of the video team have already completed advanced projects utilizing Final Cut Pro. I asked them to watch the intoductory segment, but they were then allowed to submit a video they had made before. This catered to their need to not do busy work, to only do work that was necessary.

 

The teaching materials were direct teaching, as they were technically intricate and the students may not necessarily have had a strong background in any particular area. However, the assignments were open-ended and constructivist in design, as the student employees could apply the techniques in a way that was meaningful for them. For each module I tried to provide a bare minimum, but an open-ended structure. For example, in the Audacity assignment, I gave a sample outline of the finished product. But I also worded the assignment in a way that if they felt the desire to be more creative or to go outside of the expected parameters, there was plenty of leeway. Those with more experience were invited to be more creative.

 

Student employees were allowed to work individually or in pairs. The deliverables were only graded for completion, not for depth of response. Time spent on the training modules was paid time. The time they used could be their normal work schedule or outside of their regular shifts.

 

I deliberately structured the training to not overburden their very demanding lives as students. Each module was designed to take an hour. In the email instructions, I explained that if they reached an hour and weren't' done, to just submit to me the partially completed deliverable, as I wanted to make this as easy as possible on them.

 

The different assignments catered to different kinds of technical savvy and differing arrays of multiple intelligences. I started with sound as it was the most neglected of the four areas. It was certainly of appeal to those with musical intelligence. The graphic design module catered to those who were primarily visual learners. All of the exercises contained video and audio instructional materials, as these materials tended to be appealing to 21st century learners. The materials also provided opportunities for expression and creation. The HTML template editing in the web design module appealed to those with logical-mathematical intelligence. As most of these training modules involve movement of mouse and keyboard, there was at least some appeal to those that are kinesthetic learners. The interpersonal intelligence was less well reflected in the activities, but the media studio was a people rich environment and interpersonal intelligence always shined there. There were diverse ways for student employees to get involved with the training material and the technology in the media studio.

 

The asynchronous eLearning materials allowed student employees to learn at their own pace. They could repeat instruction as needed. They could work alone or in groups. They could seek help from me or their fellow students so their learning path was supported. They were emotionally invested as they felt part of a team and they knew their training was important. At the end of the day, the eLearning materials were the only way I could ensure that everyone was trained, as scheduling face to face training that suits everyone's schedule was impossible. The exciting thing for me was that if the concept succeeded then it could be scaled up without too much increase in production effort. I have already started reusing the different learning objects with faculty and classes that come to the media studio. Once a training module is "in the can" it can be shared and distributed with little or no effort.

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Steps and Timeline

 

Step     Date of Completion         Activity      (Topic / Sofware)

1           October 25                       Pre-Training Assessment Data Collected

2           November 4                     Module 1 Sound Training / Audacity

3           November 18                   Module 2 Graphic Design / Illustrator

4           November 23                   Module 3 Video / Final Cut Pro

5           November 30                   Module 4 Web / Getweb & Fetch

6           Ongoing until 12/2            Log Student Feedback

7           December 3                     Post-Training Assessment Data Collected

8           December 6                     Report Results and Reflect

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Approval  

This project has been officially endorsed by my departmental supervisor, the Director of Academic Computing Services.

 

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Reflections & References

 

 Clark, R. and Meyer, R. (2008). E-learning and the science of instruction: proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

 

Kathman, J., and Kathman, M. (2000, May). Training Student Employees for Quality Service. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 26(3), 176. Retrieved October 8, 2008, from Education Research Complete database.

 

Kornkven, S. and Hall, J. 2006. Enhancing campus IT services and student employee development through student technology services. In Proceedings of the 34th Annual ACM SIGUCCS Conference on User Services (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, November 05 - 08, 2006).

 

Sobczak, C., Prescott, J., and McRitchie, K. J. 2001. Bridging the service gap with student employees: curse or blessing?. In Proceedings of the 29th Annual ACM SIGUCCS Conference on User Services (Portland, Oregon, USA, October 17 - 20, 2001). Retrieved November 2, 2008 from ACM Digital Library.

 

I continued to read and re-read Kathman and Kathman as the goal of providing "quality service" to the library patrons resonates so strongly. Their conceptual model still seemed to be the gold standard, from my perspective, for a best practices model for student employees in the library. At the beginning of my capstone journey, I looked upon the media studio's needs for training and management as fairly unique. But gradually I realized I could broaden the scope of my research for best practices and techniques to include library, help desk and information technology student employees. All seemed to contain similar challenges, despite possessing vastly different skill sets.

 

Part of the increase in scope was due to dialogue with professional student employee managers at my own institution and through peer institutions. I was fortunate this fall to participate in the NERCOMP sponsored IT Manager's Workshop series. This three day program (9/11, 10/16, and 11/6) focused on the "practical knowledge and skills needed to succeed in management and leadership in higher education." It was an opportunity to network and to discuss best practices on other campuses. It was invaluable, though I am unsure of how to cite it. Amongst other conversation,  I swapped ideas and traded stories with other IT Managers on issues concerned with managing student employees.

 

The "Curse or Blessing" article did an excellent job of summarizing the challenges when supervising and training student employees. A quick excerpt "If all the students' schedules were analyzed, there would probably be oly a 30-minute block of time at 3:45 AM that would be open for a training class." This struck a chord for me. Another astute observation was that with full-time employees, training was a fairly straightforward manner that can be accomplished when hired. But hiring for students took place during the academic year so it is more of a challenge. I was inspired to institute the "boot camp" program though, and I've managed to train 90% of the new hires in person (two sessions). I looked into the idea of getting students on campus a few days earlier in order to provide training opportunities before the semester begins.

 

Kornkven and Hall gave me the idea of allowing students to attend job-related events, for pay, if they were related to professional development. I ran this one past my boss as it is a great idea: if students saw that an IT or media production expert was slated to speak on campus, they could seek my permission, then be paid to attend the event. This article has also given me the idea to try and use in house expertise (IT or Design) to run workshops for the students (i.e. a web designer for the college could come and talk to the web design group during their weekly meeting).

 

Clark and Meyer were very influential in terms of producing the e-Learning materials that I used in the training modules. I have read both the first and second edition. Their eLearning principles came to me as a matter of course when I was developing the training modules and shooting and editing the video tutorials, a job that took me countless hours as I wanted to make them as best as I could for the students.

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