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Ooh, Shiny & New! Using a Project to Meet Colleagues

Pepperdine University School of Law spent several months planning and designing a classroom upgrade, fondly called the educational technology update (or ETU).

As a new member of the Information Services team, I joined the project in its initial planning phase. Funding had been approved but information regarding the ETU requirements needed to be collected. I spent the first couple months of my new job interviewing the School of Law Faculty. This was fruitful in two ways. The obvious, we received valuable input on what technology was needed in each classroom and thus secured faculty buy-in on this great change.

The less obvious reason why the Faculty interviews were fruitful is that it introduced me, the new Manager of Instructional Technology, to the Faculty.

There’s nothing like jumping in the deep-end to get to know your colleagues and gain respect.

I spent hours meeting with Law Faculty members interviewing them one-on-one about the classrooms, their expectations, their hopes, and their needs.

These meetings provided me with an opportunity to show the tenured and adjunct faculty that I was knowledgeable and credible in my field of Educational Technology. It also showed the faculty that I had a genuine interest in their opinions and skills. It also opened up conversation and started relationship-building. It showed my constituents that I was someone they can come to me for technical support, problem solving, and brain-storming.

As a new employee, I highly recommend communicating in person. Get out from behind the computer and off the telephone. Knock on doors, make your face and voice known, but above all, listen to what your colleagues say and follow-through with the best of intentions. Doing so will reiterate the fact that you a valuable part of the team.

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Making Lemonade from Workplace Conflict

I realized my experience is not limited to Educational Technology and Instructional Design. I’m also a Manager and a communicator, yet I have not written about these experiences. So I’ve added a new category to my website, Management. In this section, I will share with you my experiences in Management, Communication, and Project Management.

My first story relates to customer service, handling a tough workplace conflict, and how you can make lemonade from workplace conflict.

Let me set the scene for you. I was just out of college, recently hired at my second professional job. Awe struck at all the possibilities at my feet. A couple of weeks into my new position, my boss asked me to conduct a quality review of several of the online courses currently running. He showed me the form that was to be used, how to log in to each course, and asked me to send the results to the Professor of each course. He was even kind enough to guide me through the first couple of reviews.

No sweat, I got this. I am an Instructional Designer, after all. If I can’t evaluate the effectiveness of instruction in an objective way what else am I good for?

Wrong.

Buzz.

Try Again.

reviewI sent the quality review results to a Professor. I won’t go into detail about the actual report except to say that his students were not effectively being interacted with and course content seemed sparse.

Within a few hours I received a scathing reply email detailing how I have no right to provide feedback, would I give our President of the United States such a review, where did I get off, etc. etc. Choice words were used. I was blown away by his email, and not in a good way.

It was so negative, blaming me as a person, that I even sneaked away to the bathroom and cried a little. Oh poor me, fresh out of college newbie. What was I to do?

Well, there was a problem, it needed to be fixed.

As a new employee, I handled the situation the best I could. I assessed the situation and addressed the professor’s concerns as diplomatically as possible. But more importantly, I realized the professor was also “blown away” by the Quality Review. He was not informed that the Review would take place or given a reason for why it was conducted.

Once I realized this, I adjusted the Quality Review Process to include a “Pre-Review” phase. This included emailing the selected Professors and informing them of the benefits of the Quality Review while assuring them that the information gathered would be in no way used during their employee review.

Since changing the process, roughly 200 course sections have been reviewed, and I have not received any negative responses to the reviews taking place.

Consider the lesson learned- Open Communication is necessary for acceptance of constructive feedback.

Lesson 2- no matter what the situation is, try to look at it from different perspectives to see if a change is necessary to better the task in the future. Then take steps to make that change.

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