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Phase IV

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

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


Hardware, Software and Materials Needed


The Media Studio was created about ten years ago with the help of a Mellon grant supporting the use of technology in the liberal arts. I had only worked there for about a year and a half. I had been attracted to work at a place that supported state of the art media production incorporated into the liberal arts mission. The layout of the workstations had hardly changed since my arrival, though I had tweaked a few stations.


The Media Studio contained fourteen computers (8 Mac Pro towers, 4 iMacs and one high-end PC). The mac machines ran OSX 10.4. The PC ran Windows XP. The core software for the training modules was Audacity, Adobe Illustrator (part of the CS3 suite), Final Cut Pro, Text Wrangler and Fetch. The preferred browser was Firefox 3. We used Vspace to store and share files online and GetWeb to access the college provided web space. Every machine needed a broadband connection. Students had access to the media studio all hours the library was open (typically 8:00 am until 1:30 am at night).

When I developed the training modules, I used a Macbook Pro running OSX 10.5. The screencasts were developed using Screenflow. The Macbook Pro contained a video camera and a microphone that were used extensively. I used Pbwiki to frame the training materials and the videos. I used vimeo or Vspace to house the video objects. I used google docs to house the introductory presentations, which I then recorded using Screenflow. I used a Flickr Pro account to host the images. The video tutorials in Vimeo required an up to date Flash plug-in on the viewers browser (Adobe Flash had nearly 100% browser penetration).


I used an H4 digital recorder to create the files for the Audacity tutorial. I used a canon digital video camera to record the footage use for the Final Cut Pro tutorial. I used a Nikon D90 digital camera to document equipment in the studio and the students involved in the training. This was all equipment that I had ordered since taking the position as the media studio manager.


The student employee consultants (leaders) provided valuable input as to what content should be covered in the training modules. I purchased and made available numerous sets of headphones to allow students to listen to the training materials without disturbing their neighbors, which was a frequent issue in the studio.

The large Y shaped tables and the floor layout encouraged collaborative learning and peer supported instruction. The dual widescreen monitors made it easy to share with small groups. The oversized tables encouraged ad hoc workshop meetings. The soft seating near the display area made for a comfortable meeting/presentation space. The wheels on the chairs maee it easy to rearrange the furniture to accommodate usage.

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Access Plan


Students could access the Media Studio any time the library was open, which was around eight in the morning until 1:30 at night, most days. Student employees were encouraged to use their work hours to complete the training modules. Training modules one and four could be completed outside the media studio, as the software and resources they required were free (if one had a computer). Nearly all students at our campus owned computers. Public computers were available in the dorms and in the library. The circulation desk distributed laptops. Every dorm room and residence was wired for Ethernet. There was wireless access across the entire campus.


No accommodations for students with special needs were necessary. In the future though all video production should include closed captions. The tables in the studio accommodated wheelchairs. One on one help was available as needed, by request. The modules engaged learners in a variety of modalities (visual, aural, personal, musical, and textual). The students were encouraged to complete the activities with a partner. The feeling in the studio was filled with warmth and support that encouragd exploration and learning. Everyone was constantly learning every day and the sense of “I don’t know how to do it but let’s give it a try” encouraged everyone to experiment and find innovative solutions to challenging problems.


The training modules were self-paced. If students knew something, they could skip ahead. If they needed it repeated, they could repeat it as many times as necessary. I have also made it clear that if they got to ninety minutes on a training module and hadn't completed something that it was okay to send me what they had completed so far.


The student employees were legally adults and thus were free from the liabilities and protections that K-12 students would require.

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Training Modules

Training Module 1: Sound Design Intro and Audacity

Training Module 2: Graphic Design Intro and Illustrator

Training Module 3: Video Tools and Final Cut Pro

Training Module 4: Web Design Tools and GetWeb 

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The students typically worked only a few at a time so there were plenty of computers for them to access during their shifts, except when we got to the end of the sester. I designed each training module to take sixty to ninety minutes to complete, so as to not overwhelm their academic activities. Students usually worked nine hours a week, though during peak academic crunch times, non-attendance increased.


The new hires received a training session (“Boot Camp”) to ensure that they had the core skills to support people that came to the studio. The modules were designed to increase everyone’s abilities in the different areas we support. They were also designed to improve the employees’ ability to assess patron needs to provide better service.


I used email (via a list serve) to announce the new modules being available and to remind them when training deadlines were approaching. All the students had email accounts through the college. I also hung a progress sheet on the wall of my office that was adjacent to the studio. I used our staff bulletin board to post comments regarding training deadlines and to send encouraging messages.


All of the machines were regularly updated. Every machine had anti-virus software that auto-updated. Regular updates for the Adobe Suite and Final Cut Pro were also carried out. User services was available when a machine was beyond our own diagnostic or repair capacities, which didn't happen.

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Reflections & References


When I prepared this phase of the studio training program, I went back to the roots of the media studio at our institution. The Alumnae magazine (Winum, 2000) provided my best written record of how the space came into being and the vision for its use. My over-simplification of the original vision was that the studio was conceived as a place where faculty could retreat from the world and reflect upon technology use as they developed projects and teaching materials side by side with students. There used to be two full-time studio employees, as well as regular hours visited by faculty and by librarians. There was only one full-time employee there at the time of the training. The faculty and librarian visits were a less common occurance. On the plus side, the studio was extremely popular with the students, who competed for machines, especially in the evenings or at the ends of terms.


Winum quoted prior President Fergusson as stating, "We fundamentally believe that the education that we give at Vassar is much more than just the transference of knowledge that can happen by computer as well as by people," says President Fergusson. "It would gut the very purpose and reason of what a liberal arts education is all about to think that it was transmittable simply by technology." I was proud of my training modules, but they only worked as a result of an integrated approach, where people and technology worked in sync. Winum quotes Balestri, the chief information officer at the time, "We believe that technology is important here as it forwards the mission of a liberal school," says Balestri. "It will not become a technological institute and we won’t substitute technology for the face to face encounters that characterize our education." The training module has worked because of the wonderful student employees. It was the face to face experience of the studio that made it an attractive place to work. Patrons came to the studio because there was fantastic technology and knowledgeable people that would help them. There was a similar albeit smaller lab setup in another location on campus; it was a ghost town as there wasn't the same kind of support available. Our institutional culture placed a high value on face to face interaction in a people rich environment and the media studio reflected that culture by offering 'high-touch' support in a technologically saturated production environment.


The Osborn (2000) article provided ample food for thought. The University of Wyoming model was on a scale of a different nature. Our media studio had about two dozen student employees supporting one technology space, with four different software packages. Their program supported twelve labs, eighty software packages, ninety student employees and four full time staff members. The management approach naturally placed a greater emphasis on remote management. However, it did feel like he could have been describing the students on my campus when he wrote, "Working with student employees can be a very rewarding yet frustrating experience. They often have seemingly unlimited reserves of energy and potential. However, they are often not willing to expend either of these things at work. Tapping into these reserves is the challenge that so many of us face when hiring and training students." The article made the excellent point that it is easier to teach technical skills than people skills. Olson, like me, hired people that were able to "explain something very technical in very easy to follow, simplified terms." He also supported hiring enthusiastic beginners who might be around a few years; hired people that were helpful and eager to learn. Olson also described the challenge of finding time in which to train people, which was the genesis of of this training program.


Olson set a high bar for documentation, something to which we aspired. They had written documents on everything. In the media studio we tended to rely too much on word of mouth and email. This reflected the people density difference between the media studio's one technology space and Univ. of Wyoming's twelve labs. We also documented useful tips on our web site, but we didn't have a private place for just the employees to see. I have started keeping better documents of training, partially as a result of reading the Olson article. Promotions will be based on records, not just recollection.


Some of the asynchronous skills training Olson assigned would be something I described as "busy work" or non-creative. The media production tasks I gave my students reflected common usage and traffic that we got in the studio; the tasks I assigned the student employees were miniature versions of assignments that professors were giving to students and then sending those students to the media studio for workshops. I chose these tasks as they were connected to ongoing teaching and learning involving technology. I believe this gave the training a relevancy and a cogency that contributed to their success.


Our institution often looked to Wellesley's example as a similar sized institution with similar students and resources. As such, I was very interested in Marjorie Rowell's (2001) description of strategies in recruiting, training and retaining student employees in the information services sector. Her major conclusion was that "the key to attracting large numbers of applicants turned out to be training!" I believed this was one of the major motivations for students to work in the media studio. They knew that they would develop marketable job skills if they worked there. One of the reasons the training modules have succeeded is that they were a structured expression of one of the motivators for coming to work there in the first place, the desire to learn.


There were many similarities to the situation at Wellesley. We both supported the practice of hiring of friends of current employees (there is no better outreach or honest description of our programs). We both gave student employees responsibilities for project and complex tasks. There wasan attitude of respect and friendly professionalism in both places. We also liked to give rewards (snacks, pizza, etc.). When the training program was completed we held a pizza party celebration to thank them for their valued contributions. Recognition is an important element, as those who are successful become consultants. Results are publicly shared and celebrated. Wellesley modeled many excellent traits that we would do well to emulate.



Osborn, J. (2000). Developing and implementing a comprehensive training and incentive program for student employees in information technology. In Proceedings of the 28th Annual ACM SIGUCCS Conference on User Services (Richmond, Virginia, USA). Retrieved November 8, 2008 from ACM Digital Library.


Rowell, M. (2001). Women and technology: how Wellesley College recruits, trains and retains student staff. In Proceedings of the 29th Annual ACM SIGUCCS Conference on User Services (Portland, Oregon, USA, October 17 - 20, 2001). Retrieved November 8, 2008 from ACM Digital Library.


Winum, J. (2000). Media cloisters: technology center. Vassar,the Alumnae Quarterly. Retrieved November 4, 2008 through Google. 


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