University faculty members must have technology skills for some of the getting-ready-for-the-semester-to-start duties

With the start of the school year at universities across the country, faculty members must have a range of digital skills and make technology decisions that didn’t even exist a few years ago.

Setting up a listserv for each class – With a class listserv, I can send one e-mail and reach every student in the course, which is definitely helpful for my Writing for Mass Communication class, which has 250 students. The listserv has been a great communication tool for me. I’ve been able to welcome students before class starts, provide updates during the semester, remind them of important events (i.e., homework assignments and test dates), and send out information when classes are canceled due to hurricanes.

Setting up an online site for course information – Most colleges now have some type of course management system. Some of the common ones are Blackboard, Angel and Moodle. Some faculty members develop their own websites or blogs for sharing class materials. Just this fall I’ve moved from a website that I created (starting in 1996 with Claris Home Page!) to a blog —

Selecting textbooks – Selecting textbooks for one’s courses is not new, but some of the decisions involved definitely are affected by technology. At the University of Florida where I teach, faculty are required to make textbook decisions months before classes begin and post those textbook decisions so students have the option of purchasing textbooks online rather than in the brick-and-mortar bookstores on campus — and save money. Textbook companies may offer the option for students to purchase a digital version of the book, which can be read online or downloaded for reading on a computer or a reading device, like the Kindle. When I checked online for McKeachie’s Teaching Tips, which I’m using as a textbook in a graduate class, I was given the URL to e-mail to my students to let them purchase the book in an electronic version for half the cost of the print edition. [But in this case, the book is a great reference book. I’m advising the students to purchase the book version, even an earlier edition, rather than the digital version.]

Recommending/requiring apps – This semester for the first time, I’m recommending the purchase of an app — the AP Stylebook. Whereas most of the apps sold at the iTunes Store are free or 99 cents to $2.99, the AP Stylebook app is $24.99 — more than the paper version of the Stylebook. But the app provides helpful search strategies, and, most importantly, you can have it with you all the time. I doubt too many students will go with this option. But I’ve made the purchase and so has at least one of my students, who told me after class that she had purchased the app — and sounded pretty excited about it. Me, too.

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