Thinking about the future.
While I still have two-and-a-half months left, as faculty fellow my time with the instructional design group is eventually going to come to an end. While I look forward to bringing back to the Thayer School community everything I have learned during my six months fellowship, I will miss the opportunity to quickly stick my head into another instructional designer’s office for an exchange of ideas or to run an idea by them. I will miss the ability to chat about something seemingly irrelevant next to the coffee maker only to see the conversation turn into a brilliant new approach I didn't know existed to solving a problem in my teaching. I will miss brainstorming with a group of enthusiastic educators who are passionate about guiding instructors to find the best approach to improving learning outcomes for their students.
Of course I will still be able to talk with the instructional design team: I can simply ask for a meeting or send an email, maybe even pick up the phone (though my kids tell me this is so old-fashioned). But it won’t be the same. And who in the world needs another meeting?
This got me thinking that I can’t possibly be the only person who’d love the opportunity for informal idea exchanges with colleagues across campus without yet another meeting. Thinking more broadly, creating opportunities for informal exchanges between various constituencies across campus might be a great way to counteract the sometimes siloed structures we can observe on campus. By spending these last few months outside of my ‘normal’ faculty world I have had the opportunity to meet a large number of people and learn about their work. I have discovered parts of campus I didn’t previously know and I have learned about offices whose functions I wasn’t aware of before. These kinds of connections that I have been able to build are invaluable, they may form the basis for future fruitful collaborations and help us all understand each other better.
So how else can such cross-pollination be fostered? While I don’t have all the answers, I have a few ideas. Maybe we can start a conversation on campus and jointly brainstorm? Here are some ideas:
- Take a Coworker to Lunch: No, not someone you already know, but someone on campus whom you don’t know (yet). Such a program could be organized via interested participants signing up, maybe with a one-sentence description of their work and another one-sentence fun fact about themselves. Maybe we could even find a sponsor for such lunches? These could als be group lunches where participants are purposefully seated next to those whom they don’t yet know.
- Create opportunities for exchanges or fellowships such as mine: what better way to learn about and get to know another department or part of the college, to make connections and foster collaborations than to step into each other’s shoes for a while? This of course would need careful planning as well as willingness, interest and patience on all parts.
- Learn together: Take a MOOC together or read a book of interest or journal articles together.
- Walking Meetings: This is not a new idea but a way to build some exercise into a meeting. Informal idea exchanges happen much more easily while walking and creativity can get a boost when not seated at a table.
- Stand up Meetings: Again, not a new idea and not all that useful for meeting people across campus, but possibly quite effective for quick idea exchanges. Instead of meeting once a week for an hour with a team, why not have a 10-minute stand up meeting several times a week? Everyone gets to move around a bit, and in addition, more informal exchanges might happen after such a quick meeting than after a long seated meeting where everybody can’t wait to leave.
Do you have other ideas? I’d love to hear about them!
Next up: In my next post I’ll tell you about the course I teach and what I might change about this course after my experience working with the ID team.