One half of the second floor of O’Neill Library has gained a new occupant this semester, as the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) has taken over the space that once housed the Campus Technology Resource Center (CTRC).
The Center’s central purpose is to create a place that Boston College faculty and graduate students who teach can use for teaching support, including in the realm of educational technology.
“The Center for Teaching Excellence combines, in one place, three programs that already existed at BC, but were scattered,” said Vice Provost for Faculties Pat DeLeeuw.
The first and largest department that will encompass the bulk of the CTE staff is the Instructional Design and eTeaching Services (IDeS) office. This group, directed by Cristina Joy, was previously located on Brighton Campus and provides technology assistance to faculty and graduate students who are teaching mostly with the Canvas Learning Management System, iClickers, and programs such as MediaKron.
“The IDeS people are really at the cutting edge of technology in the classroom,” DeLeeuw said. “Their role and what technologies they support are changing all the time.”
A second component of the CTE will be led by Sue Barrett, the former director of the Connors Family Learning Center, and will provide advice and consultation for faculty, as well as the Apprenticeship in College Teaching Program for graduate students who hope to become professors.
The third and final sector of the CTE will be the Writing Fellows Program, directed by Marla Derosa, formerly of the English department. The program hires graduate students across the disciplines to assist faculty members in reading early drafts of papers, thus allowing professors to focus on final drafts and assign more writing to their classes.
The entire CTE will be overseen by Executive Director John Rakestraw, who previously served as the director of faculty programs at the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship at Georgetown University, and in a similar role at Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching.
“We’re hoping that, under John’s leadership, the CTE will continue to do what those three parts of it have done, but also increase its activity and its presence on campus,” DeLeeuw said.
Rakestraw has already begun to meet with deans and members of the faculty to identify areas in which the center could provide additional support in the future.
“One of the roles of the center is to be plugged into a national conversation about college teaching, and to bring best practices to BC,” DeLeeuw said.
“BC is a place that prides itself on great teaching. We insist on excellent teaching for promotion … [Professors] have to demonstrate that [they’re] good in the classroom. If we expect that from faculty, we have to support that, and the Center for Teaching Excellence is a place where we support that to meet our high expectations for quality teaching.”
In establishing the center, the University has utilized Rakestraw’s experience at other universities’ teaching centers. DeLeeuw noted that many older centers are not as focused on technology, therefore BC is at an advantage for forming its center in the “second wave” of teaching centers because the CTE will combine many sectors of support into one place and not detach technology services into the Information Technology Services (ITS) department.
“We have one center where there is support for traditional teaching and support for teaching with technology,” she said.
She also pointed to the center’s location—the old site of the CTRC—as central in its success, since it is convenient for faculty to access frequently.
The location was chosen, DeLeeuw said, after ITS determined that there was no longer much use for a centralized computing center on campus, with most students having their own laptops, as well as additional devices such as tablets and smartphones.
“For many students, the CTRC was a just a place to hang out in between classes,” she said. “We have not reduced the number of computers available to students. All of the computers that were in the CTRC have been distributed throughout the library, so there’s no loss in computing power for students.”
Two classrooms were absorbed into the CTE for office space, though the other classrooms on the second floor of O’Neill have remained. The center, which will report to the Provost’s office, has already begun to host meetings, and an open house for faculty will take place in October.
Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor