Whether it be ushering an entire school system to online learning during a pandemic or facing a shortage of materials for operations, the Information Technology and Education Technology offices at Castleton University has faced and overcome it all.
In the dark days of March when no one seemed to have a clue about the future or what was going to happen regarding schooling from home, there was a group that had to find those answers and fast. Without computers there would be no way to learn from home.
No one at Castleton deals with computers more than IT and ET.
Gayle Malinowski, the chief technical officer in IT, elaborated on the roles and responsibilities of her office.
“My team and I take care of the network, internet access and Wi-Fi, while also dealing with access to online systems,” she said, basically keeping students and professors connected.
Sarah Chambers, who works in Castleton’s Education Technology department, coordinates with IT often. She manages all the audio-visual equipment that the campus uses for online, most notably the Zoom implementation into online learning.
Chambers spoke of the relationship being like a team.
“We get a new tool, and we need to make that tool work,” she said, adding that both entities collaborate to accomplish that.
These new tools are essential for finding solutions to learning challenges during a pandemic, but that comes at a cost.
“Fortunately, we saw a Covid relief fund that aided in getting new equipment and services like virtual labs, new software, etc.” Malinowski said.
Some departments have more challenges than others, like music, they said.
“The biggest issue is the delay. The department head has brought me some information on another technology, and we are trying to get the equipment pieces together to make it better so that people in different rooms can collaborate,” Malinowski said. “It is both challenging and interesting at the same time.”
Change is a good thing in most cases and can be positive, but there definitely are aspects of change that pose difficulties.
Both Malinowski and Chambers state how they miss seeing people and they hope that they can have more people around on campus in the future.
And Chambers said she has seen some changes from Covid-19 that she likes.
“I’m glad faculty are willing to use Canvas and I’m hearing things like ‘I didn’t realize Canvas was so great’ or ‘I was using Yuja and my class liked it better than PowerPoint with audio,’” she said.
Malinowski also sees some benefit when it comes to meeting virtually.
“As much as I’ll complain about a Zoom meeting, not taking up a full day having to travel is pretty nice,” she said.
But how do students feel about virtual learning?
Evan Keegan, a Junior marketing major at Castleton sees a place for Zoom in the future, but it isn’t in the classroom.
“Personally I’m not one that prefers online learning and meeting on Zoom, but I do like Zoom calls sticking around for things like club meetings,” he said.
“Yesterday I had a meeting for SAAC (Student Athlete-Advisory Committee) and it felt like this would be perfect when people either can’t make it to a meeting in person or if they are held up in something else.”
This change has also led to growth for Chambers, who was a part of the task force that met last semester’s transition to online learning head on.
“I had a great team that really helped me…overall knowing how to complement and being able to teamwork is a strategy that really gets people through,” she said.
This teamwork she felt helped her grow to be able to work better in the future and prepared them all to get faculty ready for this fall through training over the summer. The hope was that everyone would be ready and confident to adjust and take on the challenge of online learning.
“It’s good times!” she said enthusiastically.