Arizona Western College is a small community college but supports a number of technologies that are available for use in the physical and virtual classrooms. The college has six satellite campuses, or learning centers, and serves a large rural community, therefore distance education is a priority and the college is committed to providing training on the various technology tools available. As a professor of history and geography, not all of the available technologies are applicable to teaching in my discipline or compatible with my teaching style and some technologies, such as smartboards, are available in a limited number of classrooms used by one or two departments. Also, classrooms equipped with computers for student use are reserved for certain departments, making it difficult for other departments, such as my own, to schedule classes that utilize technology. That said, five commonly used technologies at my institution include Blackboard learning management system (LMS), traditional smart classrooms (computer consoles for instructors that are connected to the Internet and AV system), Interactive Television Network (ITN), Adobe Connect, and Camtasia.
I use three of the technologies mentioned above, Blackboard LMS, instructor consoles, and ITN on a regular basis and believe I have sufficient training and competence using them for teaching and learning. I have been using Blackboard for seven years for all of my classes and am comfortable using the tools that are applicable to my teaching style and discipline. I use it in different ways for face-to-face and ITN courses than I do for hybrid and online courses and seldom encounter problems that I can’t easily resolve. For face-to-face, ITN and hybrid classes, the smart classroom is how I incorporate audio-visual tools into my teaching, including PowerPoint, YouTube, Prezi, GoogleEarth, and DVDs. Unless there is a computer malfunction, I believe I am competent using its various functions. I have been teaching ITN classes for the past three years and, although many instructors do not like teaching ITN, I embrace the modality and technology as a means to connect with students at campuses that are up to 140 miles apart. Wong (2008) noted that faculty can use smart classrooms to engage students and “create a richer, more compelling learning experience,” (p. 34) in the physical classroom, but what about engaging students in the growing online environment?
Two of the technologies that I would like to incorporate into my online teaching are Adobe Connect and Camtasia. New communication technologies have the potential to engage learners and both of these seem to be a good fit for my online courses that, as Manocheri and Sharif (2010) pointed out, might engage students who possess diverse learning styles. I have some familiarity with how both can be used in the online learning environment, however, I need training before integrating them as teaching and learning tools. Other professors at my institution have used Adobe Connect to hold online office hours and study sessions, so I am particularly interested in using it for those purposes. I had previously tried using Blackboard chat, but found that students were not receptive to the tool. I also think that having a live online orientation will benefit students and perhaps result in greater success rates. Camtasia is a screen capturing and recording tool that can be used to narrate and enhance PowerPoints. I had been using MyBrainshark, a free online tool, to narrate presentations, until the site closed down last year. AWC provides licenses and training in Camtasia, so as I update my online lectures, this is the opportune time to develop my skills.
Each August, the Distance Education (DE) department at Arizona Western College hosts “Camp Yuma,” a week-long technology training workshop for faculty. Although some sessions are geared toward new faculty, others include training on Camtasia, Adobe Connect, and other technology that seasoned faculty may want to learn. Technology training is also available at the annual Professional Development Day each Spring and as requested throughout the year. Free Camtasia training is available directly from Tech Smith, the company that produces the software, and Adobe Connect training is available directly from Adobe. Lynda.com is an all-in-one source for technology training that educators can access, including training on Camtasia and Adobe Connect.
Elliot, Rhoades, Jackson and Mandernach (2015) observed that training needs to be delivered to meet the needs of faculty. One challenge that full-time professors and adjunct instructors have is scheduling time during the school year to access face-to-face training. Although there are some online resources available related to Blackboard and other technologies, there is not a comprehensive online resource library. One recommendation I have for my institution is that the DE department produce training videos and quick help documents for the technology that is available through the college so that faculty have the opportunity to hone their skills. These could be organized in a Blackboard shell in which all faculty and staff are enrolled.
Adobe. (2016). Adobe Connect tutotials. http://www.connectusers.com/tutorials/
Elliott, M., Rhoades, N., Jackson, C. M., & Mandernach, B. J. (2015). Professional development: Designing initiatives to meet the needs of online faculty. Journal of Educators Online, 12(1), 160-188
Lynda.com. (2016). Online video tutorials & training. http://www.lynda.com/
Manochehri, N., & Sharif, K. (2010). A model-based investigation of learner attitude towards recently introduced classroom technology. Journal of Information Technology Education, 931-52.
Tech Smith. (2016). Camtasia 8 tutorials. https://www.techsmith.com/tutorial-camtasia-8.html
Wong, W. (2008). The case for smart classrooms. Community College Journal, 79(2), 31–34.