College of Liberal Arts

Student Technology Assistants: Helping Faculty Use Technology

Many students already consider themselves good with technology. By the time they come to campus, 80% say that they are “very skilled or expert at using the Internet to effectively and efficiently search for information,” according the recently released 2009 EDUCAUSE Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology. The report states that 98.8% own computers (predominately laptops), and that students spend, on average, 21.3 hours a week doing Internet activities.

However, while students commonly use the web for searching and social networking, only a small number of students are considered innovators: those who know enough about technology to actually help build a web site. These students can create compelling graphics, a dynamic web page, or an interactive database-driven application.

These innovators are selected by LAITS for its much-admired Student Technology Assistant (STA) program. Kim Soland, a second year STA who is a double major in Philosophy and Radio/Television/Film, cites the Iron Age Celts project as one where she was able to use her skills to convert a site from a static one to a dynamic one, in order to make it more easily maintainable for faculty developer Constanze Witt. She wishes that more faculty would take advantage of the program, if they have ideas they want to try with technology. “Just ask,” she says. “Because we probably can do it.”

David Johannes, an Urban Studies major in the Department of Geography, says he has learned a lot through the STA program, particularly through helping with the banner graphics on the recent college web site redesign project. His says that it is good for the faculty to use the web to support their instruction. “Technology makes things easier to look up, and to keep track of materials so you don’t lose them. Plus, it saves paper.”

The EDUCAUSE report indicates that only 45% of students perceive that “most or almost all of their instructors use IT effectively in their courses,” leaving room for improvement from some faculty. There is a desire to balance classroom time with access to online materials, and to use a variety of technological tools including web searches, games, text-messaging, blogs, wikis, and podcasts or webcasts. In whatever way digital content is delivered, students are very interested in getting enhancements to traditional lectures to aid them in their learning. The STA program is specifically designed to help Liberal Arts faculty develop compelling and manageable new ways of using the Internet to its full instructional advantage.

For more information about the STA program, visit their web site or drop by the STA Development lab (MEZ 2.116) Monday through Thursday, 10:00am - 5:00pm, and Friday, 10:00am - 3:00pm.

by Emily Cicchini