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Episode 17 Transcript

This is a transcript of Episode 17 of The New Technologist postcast.

[wind chimes]

A: Hello from the College of Letters and Science Learning Support Services. My name is Ashley Cook.

S: I'm Sarah Shaw.

A: And we are here to talk a little bit about what it's like to be an online learning TA.

S: I'm a current graduate student in the School of Education. Prior to coming to graduate school and LSS, I worked in a library running a digital literacy program.

A: I've been working with LSS in some respect for about three academic years. I first started working there when I was hired by the Art History Department to produce a summer online course.

S: Probably my favorite part of the job is the, all the different content that we get to interact with. We've been working on courses ranging from African Storytelling to Vikings to Sociology and Psychology courses, a little bit of work for a Hindi Script tutorial.

A: I think it's really fun to be working in a class and then find yourself dipping in and out of the course material. For example, I worked on the Vikings class and my background is in Medieval Art History, so I found the content to be something that I had some familiarity with but also there was new stuff. It's almost like taking a speed session of the course cause you do have to familiarize yourself a little bit with the material. I also really enjoyed the different types of folks we get to work with. We're dealing with people, and we're dealing with folks who come in with certain ideas about how it's gonna go. Last year, I worked with a Professor Emeritus creating her first online course, so that was really a unique experience in terms of working with someone in a way that was helping make online learning accessible to the Professor and the students.

S: A big part of our job is figuring out how to translate material that's existed in verbal formats and like in in-person instruction into an online context. We're constantly trying to figure out how do we best convey this material, what's going to be most engaging for students, what is it going to be like for students.

A: I think we work with some of the most creative and interesting people. We are at the edge of what's new and exciting in education. We have all of this knowledge that's at our fingertips. In the past, it was useful for folks to do curriculum a certain way where folks would meet in the classroom and deliver content based off of a lecture style. We get to think outside of that box, and we get to think about how sharing information can look in the future.

[wind chimes]

S: What you're doing in the office day in and day out changes, uh, pretty frequently as different classes come in, but in general, I spend a lot of time editing and producing different types of media. So, whether that's podcasts or recordings of lectures or, those are the two big types. The other big piece is working a lot in Canvas and figuring out, um, how do we create an environment in Canvas that fits the class and the content. So, um, whether that's putting together quizzes or designing banner images, or, you know, building out, like, schedules for the different modules, there's, um, always a lot of different pieces in Canvas to put together for all the courses.

A: I actually love working on Canvas, which sounds, uh, like a silly thing to say, but once you get the hang 

of it, it's, it's really soothing. Usually the task that I'm gonna be assigned for the day or the week is something that I can achieve in, with minimal amount of stress.

S: [laughs]

A: And [laughs], it just, I don't know, it feels good to be able to go in and accomplish these smaller tasks that in the back of my mind I know are building up to this bigger idea that feels valuable to me. I didn't have any background in media production, so over the course of several years, I learned about editing video, and at one point, I even managed a team of videographers which is something I didn't have any experience in, but the folks at LSS trained me how to do it.

S: I think regardless of what your tech background is, the only thing you need to be successful in this position is a willingness to learn whatever the new piece of tech is cause even with my background coming from tech, there have been a lot of new pieces of software or tools I've had to learn because online learning is so new and so there's new supports being developed and released every day.

A: Getting a PhD is really stressful, and we go through these ups and downs in our, each of our departments and other TA positions that I've had in the past, like a teaching position for example, is really dependent on departmental culture and that has its own stressors. So, for me it was really nice for me to be able to step outside of that bubble.

S: Even just the office itself is a really cozy place. We have this great window, and there's, like, this rock wall outside of it, and everyone has kind of decorated their space in ways that are very much reflective of their personalities. It's an easy space to come in to. It's, it's kind of a breath of fresh air.

A: Yah, I always felt it was sort of a little bit of a calm space.

[Wind chimes]

A: What do you think your takeaway is gonna be?

S: The intention after school is to, um, run my own company doing educational technology and education consulting, and, um, so the skills I'm learning here, whether it's working with different, um, types of educators or finding innovative solutions to challenges with teaching and delivering content, all of those skills are things I'll be able to apply very easily in the future.

A: One of my dreams is to open my own healing center. One of my takeaways from LSS is, uh, the ways in which communication and multimedia can be used to disseminate information. Counselors are in the room with clients day-in and day-out, but aside from that social justice is something that is really important because if you change the system to make someone's life better then they don't need counseling. Being able to make information accessible through technology is something that's really interesting to me.

A: What's one piece of advice you would give to future LSS TAs?

S: Google is your best friend. So, as you're coming into the new position and having to learn how to use Canvas or how to edit video, don't be afraid to pull up Google and type in all your questions because you'll probably find 90% of the answers you need right there. And then if you can't find the answer, don't be afraid to ask for help.

A: My piece of advice is to be patient. Sometimes the answer or the solution to a particular course problem maybe doesn't appear right away and part of the job is just hanging in there and hanging with the process, seeing what works and what doesn't work and thinking through a lot of options. Sometimes presenting a professor with a couple of options and allowing them to choose what fits their material best is how this job can really be a collaboration. My biggest piece of advice is be patient.

S: Thanks for listening. If you are lucky enough to be a future TA, we can't wait to meet you.

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