As part of my duties as Manager of Instructional Technology at Pepperdine University School of Law, I must encourage the use of Educational Technology by faculty. This is a common task of any Educational Technologist.
One of the challenges is convincing Law Faculty to use technology when their traditional classroom pedagogy is based on the Socratic Method or “inquiry and discussion between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to illuminate ideas.” Logically, you don’t need technology to have a discussion.
Another challenge is that when faced with something new, there is a learning curve to become comfortable in using the tool or technology. As an instructor, I know first-hand that it can be difficult to attempt something new in front of your students, there’s an inherent fear of seeming incompetent in the face of your students.
However students and learners, are increasingly in want of “innovative and stimulating” classes that utilize digital media and audio-visual learning aids to enhance instruction.
To bridge this gap of overcoming fears of incompetence and providing students with the technological-supported classes they desire, Educational Technologists, must help faculty feel comfortable with using Ed Tech. It’s also important that faculty are semi-autonomous in their use of Ed Tech so that they can proceed with instructing without the need of an IT support person present at the start of class.
Simple and meaningful user interface design is one of the first steps to getting EdTech used effectively in the classroom.
The School of Law recently completed an Educational Technology Update construction project to many of its classrooms. This project included the installation of computers, projection screens, touch screen monitors, and document cameras, among other instructional tools.
To encourage the use of these instructional tools, the Information Services team set out to create an easy to use control panel. The control panel is a 4″ touch panel that sits on the top of each lectern near the computer monitor and auxiliary ports. It controls the start up and display of all of the instructional tools available in the classroom.
It was important that the User Interface Design of this control panel was simple, easy to understand, and contained all of, but not more than, the features necessary to run a tech-enabled class session.
The approach used to decide on the final design was as follows:
- Gather Feedback
Research- I contacted several different professional schools and law schools in the nation and asked if they could share pictures of their control panel user-interface. Several other Ed Tech professionals also gave valuable insight into what they would do differently if they could re-design their control panels.
Design- After some deliberation with my Information Services colleagues, I developed 3 different iterations of the design with a flow-chart of the actions.
Feedback- Two design options were brought to the faculty (the end-users) for feedback and discussion. I made sure that the faculty represented a variety of skill-levels from the minimal-tech user to the experienced-power user. The designs were simple mock-ups on paper, that indicated the flow of the features. I walked each faculty member through the “pushing” of buttons, showing them what each action led to by flipping the paper mock-ups in order of the design flow.
Receiving input from the end-users is a strategic way of getting user buy-in. Many of the faculty I spoke to were very excited and grateful that their input was effectively utilized in the final design.
Redesign- I took the notes, comments, and feedback from the faculty on the initial design and created a final design. Instances in which faculty opinions conflicted I made a judgement call based on what I thought the majority of the faculty would want.
Implementing- I met with the technology vendor and worked through the final design. I had to be very specific and firm with our needs so that the design on paper was properly translated to the actual control panel.
The result was fantastic! The control panel does exactly what they need it to do with very few “clicks”, therefore, the goal of creating simple and meaningful design was accomplished. Many faculty that used to rely on Information Services to start their class technology have become autonomous. It’s been several weeks since the system was implemented and we’ve seen an increase of faculty using educational technology in their classes.
For any Educational Technologist implementing a new system, don’t forget to KISS. Keep It Simple, (stupid)!