UCSB is experiencing a surge in the number of professors applying digital innovations to the structures of their courses.
GauchoSpace, a course management system developed for UCSB to help its teachers distribute class information, quiz students and post grades, has seen a rise in popularity among faculty this year, as has the i>clicker student response system. The handheld digital device, which has a series of buttons that correspond to options a professor can post in real time during class, is gaining support from instructors who use the device to critique their own teaching styles, electronically quiz students in class and monitor attendance.
Lisa Berry, an instructional consultant at UCSB, said the number of instructors applying these technologies to their courses is increasing dramatically.
“Unprecedented numbers of professors are utilizing new strategies to accommodate larger class sizes, despite furloughs and less TA support,” Berry said. “More than 40 new instructors attended introductory GauchoSpace training sessions this quarter.”
According to Berry, the record number of instructors investing precious time and energy into these technologies points to an exciting shift in classroom learning.
“[They’ve been working] to learn the nuts and bolts of the instructional technologies, devise creative ways to use the resources to support their pedagogy and, in some cases, completely redesign their courses,” Berry said.
English professor Mark Maslan is one of the many UCSB instructors spending considerable amounts of time becoming proficient with these new teaching tools. Maslan said he attended a two-hour training session on GauchoSpace in December and took a week figuring out the mere basics.
“I did find myself wondering while working on the site whether this was a cost-effective use of faculty time,” Maslan said. “There’s no question that the new technologies mean more work for faculty rather than less, which means time taken away from research and students.”
For physics professor Roger Freedman, however, the benefits of GauchoSpace far outweigh the costs, given the major economic and environmental advantages.
“Once upon a time we made photocopies of all handouts and distributed them to students,” Freedman said. “With GauchoSpace, we simply upload these handouts to the class GauchoSpace page. The savings in photocopying bills are tremendous.
As for the i>clicker, the instantaneous feedback it provides is particularly helpful, said Freedman. “The point is for them to get feedback about what they understand and for me to get feedback about what I need to explain in more depth,” Freedman said. “This instant feedback keeps the class vital, keeps the students engaged and keeps everybody awake. It’s so much more fun than an old-style lecture that I can’t imagine ever teaching a class without i>clicker.”