The University Teaching Project is now entering its 25th year in providing faculty development for members of the William and Mary community. In 2010, the Charles Center and the Academic Information Services entered into a partnership to help expand its impact by communicating the range UTP activities to a broader audience. We chose an online magazine format, and Evan Cordulack, a technology liaison with IT and an extremely talented PhD candidate in the American Studies program, worked on the project for a year. The magazine got lost in the shuffle of budget cuts, hiring freezes and shifting priorities that plague even the most innovative projects, but some of the key insights of this work form philosophical grounding of our move to UTLP 3.0. Here is the story from the inaugural issue.
This online magazine is a collaborative effort designed to foster conversation and reflection about teaching and learning at William and Mary. The current focus of our work understanding and communicating faculty development programs offered by the Roy Charles Center. The Charles Center is recognized by most members of the college community as the hub for grassroots conversations and collaboration about teaching and learning. Historically these conversations focused more on practical solutions and less on capturing and communicating those ideas to a wider audience. As a result, some of the best ideas were shared only the small group of participants who could attend a particular presentation, and faculty members who couldn’t attend had a tough time getting the information.
Given the increasing pressures for more productivity, it seemed a shame to let valuable ideas float off into the ether. Last summer the Charles Center and IT’s Academic Computing group launched a partnership to explore ways to capture and share ideas broadly, working within the community-oriented roots of the University Teaching Project. Our goal was to search out good ideas wherever we could find them and then to use the best technology available to share those ideas in forms that would be easy to apply.
THE MAGAZINE METAPHOR
We’ve been working with participants in the Teaching Project since August, and we’ve been struck by how difficult it is to talk about improving teaching without seeming preachy and didactic. The best discussions are often organic, free-flowing and highly personal. The problems faculty members face in teaching tend to to be complex, and even the best ideas require some thoughtful consideration and experimentation to take root. We found very early on that technical tools like audio and video have to be handled with care to protect the spontaneity and integrity of discussions.
## STARTING LINE UP
After a semester of attending various events and joining faculty for a fair number of lunches, we were still spinning our wheels in trying to find a direction for the project. We decided to revert to the familiar metaphor of an online magazine to give us a framework to organize our work. The online format allows us a variety of tools–audio, video, text and images and to blend them together with the traditional organization structures of deadlines, issues, stories, authors and editors.
Our goal right now is to “publish” five issues this spring. This process will allow us to figure how how to best assign and cover stories, how to develop multimedia content and how to best involve Teaching Project faculty in sharing their stories. We also want to begin to develop a repository of fairly straightforward resources that faculty members can quickly apply in their own contexts.
* Feature Stories: We see these stories as being pretty traditional, similar to lengthier articles in Ideation or the William and Mary News, but focused explicitly on teaching. We’ll try to choose articles that have interesting stories and to identify additional useful resources. Articles will include concrete ideas that readers could apply in their own contexts.
* FAQ Articles: Many of the programs offered through the Teaching Project and the new faculty orientation actually are fairly straight forward presentations of information. These kinds of presentations lend themselves to being presented as lists of frequently asked questions. We’ll try to capture these types of presentations and add some of the contextual information that comes from the Q&A and discussion.
* Audio Feature. Audio provides an inexpensive way of sharing information with the additional richness of the human voice and with the convenience of using iPods or other devices to listen at times when reading is impossible.
* Video Features. The two of us know very little about video, but we have colleagues at the William and Mary News, the Swem Media Center and throughout the faculty who have convinced us that short, well produced video can add a lot to more traditional ways of presenting information.
* Columns, Editorials, Opinions. These are essentially blog posts. They can be short, topical, tied to web content from other places We’ll be trying to find a group of co-conspirators who will look at this as a good outlet for their thoughts and ideas.
## ON DECK: BEYOND THE MAGAZINE
While the magazine metaphor is a comfortable place to start, we’re well aware of its limitations, and we’ll be working to move into a more interactive model using social media and other applications as we get more experience in working with members of the Teaching Project group.