Tech Teamwork: MCLA Collaborates with BCC

June 20, 2018

Gerol PetruzellaOn the first Friday of the month at 1 p.m., professors at MCLA and Berkshire Community College (BCC) may be found enjoying a lunch held alternately at the two campuses. But these meetings are more than just social: they are centered on faculty discussions that are part of a series of “Teaching First” workshops focused on teaching processes, pedagogy and technology.

Held for the past two years during the fall and spring semesters, the workshops are the result of a collaborative effort between Gerol Petruzella, Ph.D, associate director of academic technology at MCLA, and Lauren Goodman, director of teaching and learning at BCC, in Pittsfield, Mass.

The workshops, Petruzella said, provide a wonderful opportunity to obtain a broader sense of faculty needs. “If you only have the same conversations with the same set of people, it’s too easy to hear only the same things. But when BCC faculty talk about the needs of their students, those things are outside of my usual experience. It gives me a fresher perspective.”

Often, presentations turn into a participant-driven conversation. “It’s a really neat opportunity for faculty at both colleges to get together and extend the collegiate conversation outside of one’s own institution, and to share common experiences,” Petruzella said.

Topics include those like his presentation on “Gamification” last fall, which focused on the principles of game design in planning the classroom activities each course will include.

“We also did a session on net neutrality – how it affects education and ways that we in higher education use tools and resources that are digital,” Petruzella continued. “Another session centered on cloud-based tools for communication and collaboration. And, we talked about preparing for the next semester – good organizational techniques and how to get your resources ready when you are wrapping up a current term, before you leave it all behind, to get yourself well-positioned for when you come back from a break to teach the next semester.”

The workshops concluded at the College’s 11th Annual Tech Fest, an academic technology conference for educators, where BCC professors joined MCLA faculty this year. “It was wonderful to include the BCC faculty, and a nice follow-up to our workshops,” Petruzella said.

BCC’s Goodman was among the speakers with a talk titled, “Instructor Presence in Digital Spaces: How to be You When You Aren’t There,” about how to develop and maintain a presence with students when teaching hybrid or online courses. The keynote address was presented by Kona Jones, director of online learning at Richland Community College in Decatur, Ill. Jones examined technologies also used by MCLA – Canvas and Dropout Detective – which support student success and retention.

“The opportunity to collaborate with a peer from a different institution with a similar job is wonderful,” Petruzella said of his work with Goodman. “But most importantly, it’s an opportunity to speak with colleagues who are, in a sense, looking at the same students at a different point in their process, as a fair number of BCC students transfer here to MCLA. It provides a continuity of what we are doing in both places, which ultimately benefits the students.”