Is it a project or a relationship or a language?

My ‘seat’ at the table of higher ed is smack dab in the middle of the IT service organization. We build stuff and keep the lights on, and oh, also support the Academy.

Every month we start new projects. Every month we end projects. Most of our thought is project-based. On the walls around here are posters of our most recent project process revision, representing how to do projects better than the way we did them before. Although it’s great to have more definition of what it takes to get a new project out the door, I don’t like the chart so much. There are 6 steps with the last one being “Operationalize” with the comment that this is supposed to mean “Thoughtful transition to support.” To understand the chart requires you to enter our world of IT.

Despite the location of my seat at the table, or maybe because of it, I am passionate about strengthening my relationship with faculty impacted by ever-transitioning technology. That’s why I’d like a project process encapsulated in my faculty colleagues’ language.

That’s because if I’m going to serve them better, I invite them to sit at the table with me to help me understand and prioritize their needs. And I don’t want to dictate who they have to become or what language they have to speak to sit here.

I want to understand from their point of view the  technologies they are required to use  (ie final grade submission, email, course instructor feedback, calendaring), as well as technologies we make available for them to choose to use- technologies which could make their teaching management easier (ie online gradebooks, online quiz question banks, online syllabus distribution, online office hours); technologies which, meshed with their teaching styles, could engage students in learning to a greater degree (ie discussion boards; RSS feeds; podcasts; polling software; classroom back channels) .

WARNING: THIS IS WHERE IT GETS STICKY.

To understand the Academy, which we know is not a unified entity, but which is made up of Engineering, Arts & Letters, Architecture, the Sciences, and others – all constantly transforming according to perceptions of strategic need, I do not need them to sit at my table.

I need to sit at each of their tables.

One of the outcomes of their talks about operational needs and strategic directions will be projects to build the tools that they want.

I will do the translation of their language into my language.

That’s a good first step. Now how do they get aggregated and prioritized by a single institutional service provider, assuming that what each of them decide is good for their College, school or department may not be good for the institution as a whole? If there were such a table where all of them could sit, listen to each other, and together prioritize their separate goals for the good of the institution, whose table would that be?

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