Blended Learning from the Student Perspective: Summer Workers Report

Posted September 21st, 2016 at 11:00 am.

In Educational Technology Services in Bryn Mawr LITS, we work with many students each year, including both our interns and the student workers hired to help on particular projects. This past summer, students helped us out with website design, audio-visual editing, digital mapping, and HTML/CSS coding projects. But what do these projects entail, and what’s it like for a student to be involved in Blended Learning?

To find out, I asked three of our students to report back on their experiences and what they learned from one of the projects they worked on.

Three Students, Three Projects
Website screenshot of the MyOpenMath showing a header and some text.

Orr (’18) worked on interactive teaching modules for Psychology, her academic field.

Jennifer Orr (’18) is a Psychology major with a Health Studies minor who frequently interns with ETS. This summer, she used her Psychology subject matter expertise on an ongoing Teagle grant. Orr “worked extensively… to develop online blended materials for Research Methods and Statistics in Psychology.”  These online course modules are built in MyOpenMath, an open source online program which required Orr and the other interns on the project to learn to use HTML and CSS. The modules recently went live.

Screenshot of Google Earth interface, showing a historical map set on London, with several points marked.

Truong (’18) taught herself how to manipulate and overlay maps in Google Earth to create a resource for studying historical cholera.

Han Truong (’18), a math major and computer science minor, worked with Anthropology professor Melissa Pashigian to “create mapping tools as a new and exciting component in her study of cholera disease.” Truong developed interactive maps bringing together different resources about the London cholera epidemic of 1854. She used a variety of tools, but spent the most time in Google Earth.

Screenshot of Veronica Montes's website. Reads "Student Resources" with hands raised.

Velazquez (’18) used WordPress to design an archive of student Sociology projects.

Cathryne Velazquez (’18), a Sociology major, created a personal website and course archive for Dr. Veronica Montes in the Sociology department. Velazquez notes that Dr. Montes “wanted a website where her students could access information,” including, most importantly, a section on final creative presentations (video documentaries, podcasts, and websites) from previous students, to help her current classes “find inspiration and guidance regarding their own final projects.” Velazquez built the website using Bryn Mawr College’s WordPress sites.

Getting Past the Technical Learning Curve

Callout quote, reading "Like everything else, technology takes practice and patience.” --Han Truong ('18)Truong notes that “when using any type of tools, whether they are digital or not, you need to have certain level of patience to get good at the tools. But once you pass that first hump, then you’re fine. Like everything else, technology takes practice and patience.”

All three students, in fact, emphasize practice and patience as essential to their success with these projects. Velazquez notes that learning WordPress required getting past a “bit of a learning curve at first but after a little practice it was relatively easy to create the posts and the website.” Orr adds that “It was interesting learning how to code within MyOpenMath. There were a lot of limitations… which made it frustrating at times but there were always ways to work around the issues.”

Self-Trained, Self-Directed Building

The student workers at ETS operate pretty independently, particularly in their process of learning how to use the technology. The students recommend playing around with tools, looking up resources on the internet and Youtube, and knowing when to seek out expert help from LITS and beyond. Velazquez writes that “My biggest tip is that Google and YouTube are go-to, key resources for pretty much any tech problem you may have. They’re free and great! Plus, it’s a great confidence booster to figure things out on your own.” Truong reinforces this, stating that “my best advice for anyone would be [that]… the internet is a great resource for anyone to learn all kinds of technology.”

They seem proud of the technical skills they’ve built over the summer. As Velazquez jokes, “I know what a plug-in is! I didn’t know that before and it’s pretty cool…”

A Preview of the Working World, and Partnerships with Faculty

Callout quote, reads “Making the blog was incredibly fun and a great experience for me..." --Cathryne Velazquez ('18)The students comment that they would be able to use the tech skills they have moving forward. Truong writes that “This internship brings me closer to the real world experience of a hands-on tech job.” Velazquez, similarly, comments that “Making the blog was incredibly fun and a great experience for me, one that I think I’ll be able to utilize later in life (it’s the technology century after all).”

But the students also emphasize the soft skills they gained on the way. Orr says that working on a large project with many people and moving parts was useful for building her “project management skills.” Truong echoes this, noting that the internship “requires a great deal of good communication with my team and problem solving skills on the job.”

Call-out quote, reading, "I learned... how to take advantage of the opportunities and offerings the college provides." --Jennifer Orr ('18)It also gave students the opportunity to work with faculty as partners—often faculty the students have worked with previously in a more traditional classroom setting. Orr writes that the experience taught her “how to be more assertive with faculty and how to take advantage of the opportunities and offerings the college provides,” while Velazquez notes that “Sometimes it’s hard to remember your professors are people too, with their own passions and experiences,” and states that it was great to work with faculty and staff “on a professional and personal level.”

We were lucky to work with all of these students over the summer, and are eager to keep exploring ways to make student work meaningful and useful.

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