Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Media Services —> Learning Technologies

I've worked for 25 years for Media Services at UW Oshkosh, but no more. I'm not going anywhere, but we're changing the name to Learning Technologies.

If you think of the last time you actually held some specific media in your hand other than a CD or DVD (which are just digital storage devices), you'll understand the logic.

The last time I saw a 16mm film was appropriately enough at my predecessor's retirement party ten years ago. The last time I used an overhead transparency was simply as a prop to take the photo at the top of this blog.

It's been a long time since the point of our unit was to manage and play back media. Content is delivered from a variety of interchangeable digital storage devices, and most of it from the "cloud" of the internet.

Also, much of what we do now involves various kinds of instructor-student and student-student interaction that simply isn't associated with specific content-digital drop boxes, on-line discussion, clickers, video conferencing, etc.

The choice of the the new name, Learning Technologies, is part semantics and partly a no-brainer.

The semantic part involved the choice between Learning Technologies and Instructional Technologies. We thought Learning implied the more the active and interactive nature of what we support, whereas Instructional seemed to continue the old sage-on-the-stage philosophy.

The no-brainer part is that virtually every campus in UW System with a group that shares our functions has some variant of Learning Technology in their name.

We also had to change some of the names of some of the segments of Learning Technologies (I wonder how long it will take me to get used to using that name).

The group that supports use of technology in the the classroom has been know as Instructional Technology Services–way to broad a term–so we're changing that to Classroom Technology Services. They are expanding their support to include software and methods in face-to-face instruction, not just delivering and maintaining the equipment.

Television seemed a little 20th century, so Instructional Television Services will become Instructional Video Services.

The Instructional Resources Center (IRC) is a name I'm a little more invested in since I was coordinator of that unit for 15 years. Again, it was a little too broad, and in the past few years a lot of technologies fell under the moniker of the Instructional DEvelopment and Authoring (IDEA) Lab. The services offered by the IRC became concentrated on presenting in class and presenting scholarly work, as well as developing graphic materials for on-campus communication, so they will become Graphics and Presentation Design.

For several years we've been using the IDEA Lab as a designator of both the room itself and the support for some of the new technologies, but we're going to add the categories On-Line Learning and Interactive Media and Web Development to lead people more directly to those services, retaining the IDEA Lab name for the facility.

And before anybody mentions that the Authoring in the IDEA Lab name is kind of a nineties term, we're retaining that name because it's the one that just about everyone on campus knows and associates with us.

Although I've been aware for some time of the historical anachronism of the name Media Services, I've had a hard-to-define reluctance to change it. I didn't think the name was that big a deal since we were keeping up with a contemporary suite of services, and that organizationally we were in the right place–Media Services reporting to Information Technology reporting to the Provost and Vice Chancellor. (n.b. Notice that Polk Library is not in that chain, although we both eventually report to the Provost. We haven't been organizationally associated since the break-up of Enrollment and Information Services when John Berens retired in 2005.)

But I guess I must have picked up some marketing savvy in recent years. This summer I came to the stunning realization that every time I or someone in my unit introduced themselves at a meeting as being from Media Services, they always qualified it with "We're the Learning Technologies support unit." Duh!

Now that we've made the leap, I'm beginning to embrace the new name. Director of Learning Technologies sounds a little grand to my proletarian little heart, but if it helps people find and get the support they need, I can live with it.

Postscript: In a beautiful little example of irony, someone just came in to my office with a pile of overhead transparencies to be revised and reprinted. I guess none of us can escape our past.