Low-tech Instructor Meets modern tech center –

If you already know who SPS adjunct faculty member Bill Troescher is, ask him to show you his cell phone the next time you see him on campus.  No bells and whistles, no apps, no LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, email, or thousands of connections available at the touch of a fingerprint and a swipe of a screen – Bill will proudly show you his still-working (vintage?) flip phone.

So, try to imagine this seasoned instructor’s state of mind when he recently had a student unable to attend class due to a medical issue or his initial panic when he realized that he was scheduled to teach a blended course with four of the eight weeks of the course occurring online.  Both were daunting prospects for a self-proclaimed low-tech instructor who thrives on the classroom interaction with his students.

Fortunately for Bill, his class was scheduled at the SPS Parsippany location where we now have a satellite version of the VIBE, Centenary University’s Social Media Center of Expertise.  What followed was a success story of low-tech instructor meeting modern-tech center resulting in successful synchronous class sessions for one student and an awesome blended course.  Here is Bill’s story –

“A Baby Boomer’s Odyssey into the 21st Century”

I use a flip phone. I do not have a Facebook page or a twitter account. I have never downloaded an APP, and my one (and only) email account has been with AOL for almost 20 years. My life before 45 was black & white screens, floppy disks, and phone modems. I type about 10-12 words a minute. So, you can see why I have taught on-ground classes exclusively for almost 20 years, staying away from online class offerings. So how is it I became the test case for using the technology available in the VIBE for my courses? The answer is simple. What you ultimately wind up doing in life is dictated by circumstances that confront you. In my case there were two.

Prior to the start of my Economics course last spring, a student contacted me indicating that a medical issue requiring several treatments during the length of the course would very likely cause absences from several class sessions. So that the student could still complete the course, we agreed to set up some type of Skype arrangement for the weeks when those treatments would prevent on site attendance.   (Neither of us had ever used this format before.) This is where Tim Guella, Director of Social Media, and the VIBE came to the rescue. Tim explained how the VIBE is designed to allow students join a class remotely and allow them to interact with the class. He was kind enough to take me through all the necessary arrangements to make this happen. The quality of the technology was impressive. The key is the camera movement which can be set up to different POV’s (point of view) or synchronized with the audio wherein the camera focuses on whomever is speaking. Most importantly, it was easy to operate allowing the student to successfully complete the course.

Last fall, two weeks before another Economics class that I was scheduled to teach, I was informed that the format for the course was “blended.” Blended?!  This isn’t going to work! What do I do now? This time it was Anthony Yacullo, Director of Faculty Services, who came to the rescue and suggested that I tape the “online” lectures using the VIBE and then upload them to the Centenary Moodle site for the course. With production assistance provided once again by Tim, I was able to produce 15-hours of lectures.  All went well except for two minor issues. First, there was a 40-second burst of Taylor Swift’s latest hit blaring through the entire audio system in the middle of one of the taping sessions.  We never did figure out how this happened. The second issue involved navigating; I do not navigate well. Keeping this in mind, I gave myself 45 minutes to show students during an on-ground class meeting how to download my lectures.  I was a DISASTER. Fumbling though different passwords, toolbars, usernames, etc., I was getting flustered and starting to sweat. Just as the sweat started running down into my shirt collar, 7 or 8 voices called out “got it.”  Whew. Thank God for tech-savvy millennials!

Even an old dog can learn new tricks. This is especially true when circumstances dictate it.

Prof. Bill