eLearning Technology Blog

The Paperless Classroom II

by WSU Online 24. January 2012 16:57

Many campus or face-to-face instructors have developed what I call the “Brief Case Slump”.  It derives from years of collecting massive amounts of paper, jamming them into over-sized brief cases or bags, and then walking precariously across icy sidewalks and down several steep hills.  The Brief Case Slump only worsens when the instructor gets home and begins to sort through the monstrous pile of papers. 

These same instructors are often plighted with the additional symptom of the crippling “Copies”.  Convinced that students need hard copies of every hand out, every useful tid-bit, every precious piece of information, they make and request, send, pick-up, and ultimately hand deliver thousands of pieces of paper to their students each year.

The cure for the Brief Case Slump is a simple two-step process:  learn the basics of the universities learning management system and try using it to post documents and collect assignments. In other words, let the Learning Management System be your virtual briefcase.

Unfortunately, both steps require a paradigm shift that can be difficult to swallow for the wise souls who experienced firsthand the glory days of paper and text.  Many instructors and professors grew up with paper: the newspaper at breakfast, the receipts after a purchase, and the mailed statement from the bank. And don’t forget, the sacred syllabi distributed in class and the hand-typed (with plenty of white-out) dissertation.  Much time between the crisp pages of library manuscripts built a long lasting relationship with paper.  Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, trees are a precious commodity and the students of this millennium have not formed this close-knit relationship. Once you’ve made peace with this realization, it may be much easier to adopt the use of a learning management system and ultimately utilize it in a way that will not only improve life and save time, but might also inspire the use of a larger variety of teaching tools – such as multimedia!

Step 1: Learn the basics of the Learning Management System.  This means, come to a training session or two and look up some “how-to” resources online.  As adept as you may be with computers, there is no replacement for a good introductory training session. It will save you hours of time in the long run.  Focus on learning how to post documents (such as handouts or syllabi) first and foremost.

Step 2: Utilize the Learning Management System: Start small by posting some key content for students, make sure your course space is organized and student-friendly, explain to students how to access their virtual course space and who to contact if they need help.  To ensure that all students are up to speed, require them to access the course space by a specific date. 

Once you’ve mastered just a few simple tasks, you’ll find your brief case getting slimmer and slimmer until ultimately you no longer need to collect and distribute paper. The Brief Case Slump will be over, and you’ll enjoy increased flexibility and a lighter load.

Rebecca Stull

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