By Eric Hagan, Ed.D., Director, Distance Education and Instructional Technology
DeSales University is a teaching university. It is characterized by small class sizes, the development of personal relationships, and is enlivened by the rich tradition of Salesian Christian humanism. What is the role of instructional technology in such a place?
Quoting the DeSales University website, “Interest in the human person and the positive affirmation of human life and culture which stems from faith is the hallmark of any humanism qualified as ‘Christian.’ ” A Christian humanist education is, therefore, by, for, and about human beings, human beings striving to discern God’s path for them and to find the courage to choose that path and walk it well. Students in such a Christian humanist educational system ought to be guided by human professors who not only impart content and skills but also good judgment and wisdom.
Consistent with the university’s Christian humanist philosophy, the role of instructional technology at DeSales is to facilitate relationships among faculty and students, not to replace or diminish such relationships. To this end, at DeSales we use technology to enrich and extend what occurs in the face-to-face classroom, to bring faculty and students together through time and space, to give voice to students that communicate most effectively in the virtual classroom, and to automate routine tasks to allow more time for person-to-person interactions.
Instructional technology at DeSales is a toolbox at the disposal of our faculty. It exists to allow our faculty to more fully realize their vision for their teaching and their aspirations for their students. DeSales’ instructional technology and the people that support it are here for the faculty and students, not the other way around. Because instructional technology is rightly understood to perform a supporting role to the human actors in the DeSales educational process, it is not feared and walled off in an online learning department but rather embraced and infused across the university’s many academic disciplines and our three major program areas: traditional day, ACCESS, and graduate.
Technology, however, has changed the role of the professor by making effective teaching a more collaborative endeavor. Much like a modern physician, a modern professor recognizes that he or she is the leader of a team. In the same way that an effective physician relies on medical technologists, today’s effective professor knows to call on instructional technology experts to complement the professor’s pedagogical and content expertise.
As stated in its mission statement, DeSales University enriches the human community and enhances the dignity of the individual through its educational endeavors. Instructional technology at DeSales, when employed well, supports and enhances the humanity of all those involved in the educational process.