Building possibilities with the Faculty IT Liaison Program

UB Provost Charles Zukoski joins in an exercise where faculty members write "wish list" items for email on post-it notes and categorize them by type of feature on large poster sheets.

Published March 8, 2018

Designing edtech solutions tailored to faculty, and communicating their value, is a challenge in every higher education institution. At UB, we’re approaching this challenge in a totally new way. 

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A collaborative team of UB faculty and UBIT staff (including myself) have been meeting for the past several months for a series of “design sessions,” led by UBIT faculty fellow Valerie Nesset, Ph. D, based on research by her and colleagues at McGill University.

This Faculty IT Liaison explores technology at UB to build understanding and awareness, as well as a common vision for how those offerings can work, and work better, for UB faculty. No topic is too small, and nothing is off limits.

For example: we started with email. It’s a mainstay technology that practically everyone at UB uses. We took turns outlining what our ideal email client would look like, without regards to any perceived practical limitations of the technology. Then, we built a “low tech prototype” together using post-it notes, markers and easel paper.

It’s as simple as that. Yet in this process, in which we strip away the supposed “limits” of the technology, something revelatory happens: faculty are empowered to create their own solutions, which have been both creative and imminently possible. And IT staff are listening.

Email is just the beginning. Our staff will walk away with a better understanding of how to refine our services to suit the needs of faculty, while faculty will take back to their colleagues a sense of optimism and confidence about what’s possible with technology at UB.

As we build on this program’s successes, we can involve more faculty members and make this work even more impactful. Imagine the difference it would make if all UB faculty lent their voices to this process!

From the perspective of an IT organization, there’s inspiration to be found in the creativity and perspective our customers are bringing to this process, and where we meet in the middle is a place where not just their technological needs, but their desires, are possible and made real.

I’d like to thank Dr. Nesset and the faculty IT liaisons for all their creative solutions. Here’s to many more to come!

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