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Using Technology to Enhance, Not Obscure, the Human Touch

Attendees at the third Collaboratory event chat with Karyn Holt via a robot.

April 21, 2016

In a world where wristwatches can verbally converse with us, Drexel faculty and staff members are constantly exploring ways to keep pace with evolving technology. But it is far too easy to get seduced by gadgetry without thinking about how best to utilize it for education.

“Technology is a wonderful way to engage students with course content and with each other, but it has to be deliberate,” said Kristen Betts, a clinical professor in the School of Education.

Betts and Karyn Holt, an associate clinical professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions, presented on the Neuropedagogy of Online Learning (the intersection of neuroscience, psychology and education) at the Online Learning Council’s third Collaboratory event held last month. 

As the culminating event at the University’s e-Learning conference, the Collaboratory served as an interactive showcase where faculty and staff from Drexel’s various colleges and other local universities convened for a night of food, drink and innovation.

Via a roaming robot, Holt participated all the way from Alaska, navigating around the room using a remote control and having face-to-face conversations with her peers some 4,000 miles away.

“Online human touch is crucial. It’s about developing a positive classroom online — one where students really feel that they’re visible as individuals,” Betts said.

Every student is unique, according to Betts. Not only are they unique in how they learn, but also in the experiences and perspectives that inform their learning.

Technology helps instructors deliver specific, customized and timely feedback to students, no matter where they are. For example, Betts leaves both verbal and written notes on her online students’ papers and takes into account their learning differences.

Amanda Golasa, instructional media manager in the LeBow College of Business, and Larissa Mogano, senior video and multimedia tech specialist in the Office of Information Resources and Technology, presented “How to Compete with the Cat Videos your Students are Watching.” The title gives a nod to how students consume information on the Internet — and how instructors can take some of that behavior into consideration when designing online classes.

“We did some surveying and found out that students like videos to be between 20 to 30 minutes long and like to be able to see their faculty member on screen,” explained Golasa.

Also on display at the Collaboratory was a tableful of gadgets from the new Tech Lending Library, designed to give Drexel faculty a unique opportunity to experiment with emerging technology in teaching and learning.

The Tech Lending Library is funded by Drexel University Online and includes many of the most innovative gadgets on the market. A 3-D scanner, the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, a headband that measures brain signals and a hand-sized wifi-enabled projector are just a few of the tools available in Hagerty Library, Room 138. A full list of the equipment can be found on this webpage.

Faculty can borrow equipment to try out, just like they’d check out a library book. The ease of access allows anyone to experiment with technology, instead of being overwhelmed by it.

Full videos of the spring Collaboratory can be found on the Drexel Online YouTube channel

To learn more about borrowing equipment from the Tech Lending Library, contact techlend@drexel.edu.