One of the most exciting opportunities for enhancing the Georgetown experience in the virtual environment this year has been the increased incorporation of student voices in conversations around teaching and learning. Since the summer 2020 session, CNDLS has been at the helm of designing and implementing the Instructional Technology Aide (ITA) program alongside contacts at each of Georgetown’s schools. The ITA program employs student workers eligible for Federal Work Study to support professors on virtual platforms and during online classes, both synchronously and asynchronously.
The program’s 12-student pilot launched over the summer, and its success quickly turned into a full-fledged student employment and faculty development program for Georgetown’s first fully online semester, with over 100 ITAs enrolled and approximately 250 faculty members with student support in their classrooms. ITAs have reported managing Zoom chats, creating breakout rooms, recording lectures, editing recordings, organizing Canvas courses, advising online engagement strategies, tracking attendance and participation, and technological troubleshooting. After this online year, the ITA program will continue into the summer and fall 2021 semesters, but adjusted to fit multiple modalities.
In order to learn from the program’s first year and incorporate feedback for its next iteration, CNDLS staff felt it important to talk to ITAs about their experience—what went well, their challenges, and, most importantly, what they believe professors should maintain in their teaching practices after this year of learning, whether the university moves to fully in-person learning or not.
From these interviews, a couple of things are clear. First, ITAs were generally excited to have the opportunity to work with professors and in classes that they may not have taken otherwise. In many cases, building a rapport with various professors helped build their professional skills and confidence. Second, ITAs overwhelmingly think that the program can, and should, be adapted for a hybrid learning environment. Finally, ITAs shared their suggestions for what professors should continue implementing after this year in order to create and sustain a successful hybrid or in-person learning environment:
- Professors should continue using Canvas to house coursework and lectures. This remains an easy way to centralize material for all students, regardless of how they attend class. Resources:
- Whether classes are fully in-person or not, this year has reinforced the importance of small group work. Professors should continue to use breakout rooms and small group discussions in any environment to boost engagement and incorporate all learners’ voices into the space. Resources:
- Professors should provide clear expectations and directions for classroom activities both before and after the activities to model transparency and ensure students’ success in discussion and participation.
- Professors should continue to develop collaborative assignments on a variety of platforms, like the GoogleSuite, to encourage multiple forms of participation and group work. Resources:
- Professors should continue to find ways to avoid lecturing for an extended period of time and continue to think about incorporating activities, discussion, and experiential learning into their class time. Resources:
- Finally, recording lectures and incorporating captioning in the live sessions and recordings is extremely important moving forward to boost inclusion of students living with disabilities that may hinder their ability to participate in-person or in synchronous sessions. Resources:
If we have learned anything from this past year, it is that centering student voices in conversations about learning innovation is essential, and the experience of ITAs provides a unique perspective at the nexus of instruction, faculty development, and student engagement. Moving forward, it is important for professors to continue to listen to the expertise of students to enhance the success of their classroom spaces, no matter the modality. If you have any questions or would like more information, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.