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What Would You Call My Job? Do You Do What I Do?

April 16, 2018

I work at a very small college and everyone here wears many different hats. However, I’ve found that my particular collection of hats stretches me over what would probably be three or four different departments or workgroups at other schools. This makes it very difficult to figure out what blogs to read, where to network, and generally where I fit in the professional landscape. So this blog post is almost like a singles classified ad looking for a connection.

Sometimes I am a Reference Librarian.

We have what we call a Personal Librarian Program, which essentially means that I personally attempt to make a connection with 1/3 of our students. The merits or effectiveness of such a program are beyond the scope of this post. What I do with students while wearing this hat essentially makes me a Reference Librarian. I meet with students about research interests of an academic nature or personal interest. I conduct the “reference interview” and find out what the student is really looking for. We work together to find information and discuss how that information can or should be used. It’s a very rewarding experience and I really enjoy it.

Sometimes I am the LMS Administrator.

We use Canvas as our learning management system and we’ve also integrated Panopto (video recording and hosting) with it. Many people on campus would say (and I agree) that both of these systems are my babies. I monitor these systems, make sure things are as they should be, help faculty with whatever changes they’d like to make but don’t remember how, etc. I work with IT and the Registrar’s Office to make sure enrollments and course creations are done right. I’m also always looking for ways to improve our use of both and am also looking for more tools to tie in and enhance our students’ experience.

Sometimes I am an Instructional Designer.

Online teaching is somewhat new to my school and prior to me getting here there was no instructional designer for our faculty to work with. I do a lot of one-on-one work with faculty to not only develop new online courses but also to improve the ones they’re already teaching. Also in this role I plan or deliver a lot of small-group and full-faculty trainings. I’ve developed a full “How to Teach Online” online course for our faculty to take and also a couple of Canvas course templates to get them started. We have a committee just getting started to develop online teaching policies and quality assurance measures and I expect to be heavily involved in that initiative as it gets going.

Sometimes I am an Instructional Coach.

One thing that’s really interesting about my work as an instructional designer is that it’s a really good way to start talking to faculty about their teaching overall. This is one of my newer roles and it came about because I realized our school didn’t really have anything like this for faculty and some of them were coming to me assuming I was it…so I became it. Sometimes this takes the form of one-on-one or small group discussions about teaching practices. Sometimes I observe a professor teaching and then I provide feedback. Sometimes (with the faculty member’s permission) I even elicit feedback from the students in the class to ask them to be candid with me about what they think could be improved in the course. One of my biggest struggles is trying to get more active learning to happen here. I recently saw this Newsweek article where Education Secretary Devos tweeted something about how classrooms need to be modernized. A bunch of public school teachers apparently tweeted back at her with pictures of what their classrooms are really like. Unfortunately, many of our higher education classrooms are still what Secretary Devos put in her tweet. Whether you are a fan of row and column lectures or not, it’s worth realizing that if the students coming to us are used to a more active style of learning, then we’re doing them no favors by taking the active out of their learning.

Sometimes I am a Student Technology Trainer.

I work with students to help them learn whatever educational technology they need for their schoolwork. That usually involves Canvas or Panopto but could also be Microsoft Office software. Sometimes it’s online presentation tools like Prezi. I’m also planning some time in the near future to survey our students to see what technology workshops would be helpful for next school year.

Sometimes I am the Classroom Technology manager.

Previously, our Network Administrator / general IT fix-it guy handled planning and implementing upgrades to classroom technology. With his increasing workload and my love of both teaching and instructional technology, this responsibility has been shifted to me. This involves me working with our AV vendor on the many classroom upgrades we very much need. It also involves me keeping track of which rooms are in need of repair and making sure the repairs happen. I don’t do the repairs myself because I don’t have those skills, but I do keep track of them. The year I spent in manufacturing as a Project Manager definitely helps here.

Other Duties as Assigned

I also do odds and ends. I plan and managing the library budget and pay the bills. I teach information literacy sessions. One semester, I co-taught a section of First-Year Seminar to see if having a staff member partnered with the faculty was good for the students trying to connect with the school. A few weeks ago, I was tasked with making sure commencement is live-streamed. Sometimes there’s just nobody else to do something and it falls to me.

So what am I?

What would you call me? Where do I belong? From what I’ve gathered from some schools around me, other schools would have one of me in the library, in both the IT offices and on the helpdesk, in a Center for Teaching and Learning, or somewhere else. At my school, I’m in a small glass office I call the fishbowl.

Do you or anyone you know do what I do? For most of what I do, I’m a one-person shop and I don’t really have anyone to bounce ideas off of. I am genuinely interested in connecting with anyone that finds themselves in a similar position. For all I know, there are a bunch of people like me. I’ve only been in higher education for a little over two years and I really don’t know what else is out there. I thought this would be a good place to start looking.

 

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