According to no less an authority than Wikipedia, “Eating your own dog food, also called dogfooding, is a slang term used to reference a scenario in which a company uses its own product to validate the quality and capabilities of the product.”
I’m the Director of the Distance Education and Instructional Technology department. DEIT’s main job is to support faculty members’ use of instructional technology. This spring, I had the privilege of teaching a hybrid online/classroom section of MG 350 Introduction to Project Management for the ACCESS program at the Easton Area Campus. This gave me the opportunity to, yes, eat the DEIT dog food and more broadly to experience what it’s like to be a new adjunct instructor at DeSales.
I had previous university teaching experience, but this was my first time teaching for DeSales and I was teaching a brand new course. The first thing I recognized was that new faculty members, by necessity, get a lot of information thrown at them from the university in general, from their academic unit, and from DEIT. It’s the proverbial fire hose effect. It’s really impossible to assimilate everything – the best you can hope for is to keep track of what you have received so you can reference it later when you need it. The second thing I was reminded of is how much work it is to prepare a course with an online component. To do a good job preparing your course, you have to put in a lot of time.
I thought the DEIT dog food tasted pretty good. Between regularly scheduled group training sessions, online reference material, and opportunities for one-on-one consultation with DEIT’s instructional designers and technologists, faculty have a lot of support. However, I could see that all the support that DEIT provides could itself be overwhelming. To add structure to its support for new faculty, DEIT has established a more formal faculty onboarding process to help present support resources in a more logical, organized, and hopefully less overwhelming way. We are also going to experiment with bringing new faculty members together after they’ve taught their first course to share experiences with each other and to ask questions that may not have occurred to them earlier.
Finally, the big day arrived – my first live class – Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m. Would I be able to fill three hours without boring the students to death? What were these ACCESS students going to be like? What if I had a problem with the technology in the classroom – wouldn’t that be ironic? Spitballs, paper airplanes, who knew what I was in for?
My dog food did have one nasty bit, and it was my worst fear – a problem with the technology! In my classroom, the “Laptop” button on the podium didn’t work. There was a workaround, and my DEIT colleagues ultimately corrected the problem, but I got a sense of what it is like to be in front of students, to have a technical glitch, and to be stared at while you fumble around trying to figure out what is going on.
As those of you who teach in ACCESS know, interacting with the students was the best part of the experience. I started off each class with a Direction of Intention, which had to help. I found the students to be smart, inquisitive, respectful, and possessing a lot of personality. They also had a wealth of life experience relevant to my class. One student shared with the class real-life project plans for a software development project his company was working on. Another described the challenges of a project to assimilate a small financial institution into a larger one. I am proud to say that for two of the students, my class completed their Bachelor’s degree program. Congratulations, Jack and Shawn!
The most important lesson I learned by eating my own dog food is that teaching with technology is still teaching, and teaching at DeSales is about people putting DeSales’ Christian humanist philosophy into action. It’s about the leadership of the programs and DEIT supporting the faculty. It’s about the faculty helping students meet learning objectives. It’s about everyone helping their faculty, staff, and student colleagues to “be what we are and be that well, in order to bring honor to the Master Craftsman whose handiwork we are” (St. Francis de Sales).
I will close with a big thank you to some of the people that helped me in my first course experience: Dean of Lifelong Learning Deborah Booros and Easton Area Campus Director Linda Bell, Dr. Gregg Jeffries in the Division of Business, and, of course, my DEIT colleagues. I’m looking forward to my next teaching assignment!
– Dr. Eric Hagan
Director of DEIT