Supporting Instructional Technology - Guest Blog Post

We value our customers and appreciate the knowledge they provide and feedback they share, so we decided to ask for their stories to share in our new blog series "Voice of the Educator."

Guest blog post by Ahmed Lachheb, Instructional Technology Support Specialist at the Center for Teaching Excellence and Learning Technologies at Fort Hays State University.

In my role as an Instructional Technology Support Specialist at Fort Hays State University (FHSU), I'm faced with questions, requests for help, and technology training on a daily basis. This becomes a bit challenging when I have about 400 instructors to support and a long list of instructional technologies available--from our Blackboard Learning Management System (with all its bells and whistles) to basic computer operations about Microsoft Word, PowerPoint or Excel. Indeed, it's very rewarding for me to help my academic community dealing with the variety of tools we have at Fort Hays. The best is when a faculty member walks out of my office happy and with (almost) no fear or anxiety about how s/he going to deal with an instructional technology tool we have. Of course providing handouts and how-to-tutorials in different formats (PDF with screenshots, videos, step-by-step instructions) is always needed because let's face it: I'm only reachable during business hours and I cannot help all 400 instructors at once.

FHSU has had Atomic Learning as part of the library resources for quite a while. When I started working for FHSU in June 2013, I went to Blackboard World '13 the next month where I had the chance to learn about Atomic Learning integration with Blackboard. After some initial testing and preparing basic handouts about the tool, we had it integrated and ready to go by the beginning of spring semester 2014. First thing I was able to accomplish was putting a series of video tutorials about our LMS in the Blackboard training site we have for new faculty and students. That was very helpful for them and quite frankly, I could never put out the same quality video that Atomic Learning had, if I had produced a screencast video in my unit. Plus, we need about 500 videos or more to cover Blackboard in all areas. I started diffusing Atomic Learning integration with Blackboard among faculty who require students to watch Atomic Learning tutorials in the library website. Knowing that the tool is now in Blackboard and students do not have to go outside of the course/site to watch a video, was very good news for many. Furthermore, grade integration was another so needed option to have. Then, I approached faculty who require students to use tools like SPSS, Photoshop, or Excel to complete coursework. Most of them (who didn't know about Atomic Learning) fetched open and free resources from the web. Not surprisingly, all had the same complaints; 1-not good quality videos, 2-not closed captioned videos for students with special needs, and most importantly, 3- these open and free resources tend to disappear from the web with no warning.

Some other faculty went to create their own tutorials after having their department pay for a Camtasia license for them. That was another load of work that no one needs to have. With Atomic Learning integrated in Blackboard, faculty do not need to worry anymore about having good quality training resources for their students, and thus, they are able to focus more on the course objectives and their subject matter. Students also feel at ease with having all the trainings available to them at no extra cost and without worrying who to call once the Help Desk closes for the day. Other faculty wanted quick tutorials about APA and MLA citation and we all found great resources in Atomic Learning. Those are only a few examples of how many instructors at FHSU use Atomic Learning training.

With the long (and blessed to have) list of instructional technologies at FHSU, we simply have no time or resources to create video tutorials for each tool and function. Not only time consuming, but also very expensive to accomplish. That's when Atomic Learning came to the rescue...phew...what a relief and great resource to have!

About Ahmed
Ahmed Lachheb is the Instructional Technology Support Specialist at the Center for Teaching Excellence and Learning Technologies at Fort Hays State University. He holds a Master's Degree in Educational Technology from Grand Valley State University, College of Education. Ahmed is famously known as the "Blackboard Guru" on Fort Hays campus. He is passionate about educational technology and best practices to integrate Ed Tech tools for good teaching and learning experience. He's also a young scholar with few publications and conference proceedings in the field of instructional systems, design and Ed Tech. Ahmed is originally from Sfax, Tunisia and he came to the US in 2010 as part of the NESA UGRAD Fulbright Exchange Program. He's married and his love to cook almost equals his love of his job and his wife.

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