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IDes Strives to Unite Teaching and Technology

Heights Editor

Published: Sunday, March 25, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

When one pictures an office job, the image usually entails monotonous processes and a briefcase. Instructional Design and eTeaching Services (IDeS) at Boston College debunks this stereotype. This year, IDeS celebrates its 10-year anniversary, as it reflects on how the organization has grown tremendously over the years. “We grew into ourselves,” said Beth Clark, the director of IDeS, who is responsible for providing leadership and direction for instructional technology initiatives at BC.

IDeS is responsible for three major components of technological design, some of which are so seamless that they go unnoticed by students. IDeS is responsible for classroom support, which includes Blackboard Vista, an outlet that serves over 80 percent of courses each semester and 99 percent of students. Blackboard is a standard piece of academic infrastructure that is becoming more readily used, as new faculty members are increasingly supportive of it. IDeS is, however, working to find a replacement for Blackboard Vista in order to keep on track with the newest and most innovative technologies.

IDeS also supports a whole host of other technologies, including iClickers. Additionally, IDeS has created its own program called “Lecture Capture,” which allows instructors to create audio and video recordings of classroom lectures or presentations. This can then be posted for students to watch at a later time. Clark and her team are working to expand this program so there can be more saturation on campus. In addition, IDeS focuses on faculty needs—developing programs and forums catered to what faculty members think would make their classrooms more efficient and effective.

Part of the reason IDeS is so successful is because its staff has the freedom to be creative and think outside of the box. Instruction Design works with faculty to help develop projects that involve teaching and learning.

One example of a successful endeavor IDeS took on was the creation of the Virtual Forensics Lab. When a professor in the nursing school, Ann Burgess, received a grant to develop a unique tool for teaching forensic science through game-based learning, she approached IDeS to help her construct a Virtual Forensics Lab program to augment student’s understanding of forensics. Whereas before she used mannequins and fake blood to simulate a crime scene for students to explore, she wanted to offer them a richer environment for learning forensics methods. The Virtual Forensics lab now enables students to collect evidence and take photos in a 3D game environment recreated from an actual crime scene. IDeS worked to create an interactive video game for students to help them in their understanding of the material—a much more successful approach than what a textbook could provide.

“As an organization, we understand both teaching and technology,” Clark said. “We are the nice nexus between those two worlds.”

Surprisingly, most of the IDeS staff did not begin in the world of technology or even major in computer science. “Our developer is a musician,” Clark laughed. “Our staff is a good representation of a liberal arts community.”

Clark was always interested in technology, but she actually started her career in social work. She went on to be a program manager, where she always tried to utilize technology and discover how it sits in different settings. She found her niche in higher education, however, where she could apply her administration skills to something interesting and helpful for the educational community—to be innovative and to create change.

Clark and her team work closely with faculty to implement designs that they desire. Pete and Carolyn Wilson, two CSOM professors, have worked with IDeS for years. Peter Wilson uses Lecture Capture seamlessly. He simply fills out a form when he is going to teach, which then goes into the system. When he walks in the door to teach, it is programmed to start, and when he walks out the door, it stops.

Automatically, his teaching session is posted on Blackboard. This system is seamless and easy for students and teachers.

Clark continually looks for new and unique ways to improve the classroom experience. As an organization, IDeS is geared toward serving the faculty. Clark voiced her desire to hear more student input. “We would only deserve our jobs if we were really serving the audience we were meant to serve,” Clark said. “I don’t want to just be an organization that goes along doing the same thing every day. Our job needs to be to stay innovative as the student body changes every year.”

Even over the last 10 years, there have been vast changes in technological expectations. While IT has to be much more conservative, IDeS is the risk taker, steering BC into a new era of advancement.


“My goal as director of this organization is to provide the best service to the faculty members, hands down,” Clark said. “We need faculty to love us so that the students will reap the benefits of what we’re doing to help improve teaching with technology. That’s what drives me—to continue to push this organization to be the best in terms of service and innovation. We have to keep changing and bringing new things in.”


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