Written by: Anchana Kuganesan (Design Research Team Lead), Nia Spooner, Cathy Li, Ashley Vadivelu, Garima Sharma (Designer Researchers)
The Tech2U program has been active for a full school year now and we’ve consistently seen its impact in successfully creating opportunities for students to support instructors with classroom technology. The Tech2U program is a partnership between Learning Space Management and the Innovation Hub. Instructors told us that they have found the assistance they received to be helpful in running classes smoothly. The Tech2U work-study students, also known as Classroom Ambassadors (CAs), also shared that they have found value in the program which gives them the chance to U of T, gain experience working with technology, and overcome challenges in a workplace setting.
Tech2U connects Student Classroom Ambassadors to U of T
Tech2U offers CAs many opportunities to develop their interpersonal skills through constant interactions with their colleagues, instructors, and co-pilots. These experiences ensure smooth workflow in providing technical assistance to instructors, and helps them to build stronger connections to the U of T community.
Before the program started many CAs expressed feeling nervous about solving technical problems for instructors and finding the right classroom for their shifts. However, with the help of their Technical Co-Pilots (the full-time technical staff from LSM), CAs resolved technical issues for instructors and put them at ease, ultimately improving their teaching experience in the first few weeks.
Many CAs shared their appreciation for their Technical Co-Pilots and enjoyed getting to know them. One CA explained, “My winning [moment] was to spend time with my co-pilot and get one-on-one experience. It really boosted my confidence.”
The CAs shared that they also appreciate the relationships they have built with instructors. Throughout the term, CAs told us that positive interactions with instructors increased their confidence. One CA proudly said, “I was nervous to go into a lecture theatre to ask the instructor ‘is everything ok now?’ But I did it!”. Each Tech2U shift provides student-staff many opportunities to learn to navigate campus and build relationships with others.
Experience Giving Technical Support
For the students working at Tech2U, an important aspect is learning about classroom technology and how to troubleshoot technical equipment. While challenging at first, CAs told us that the hands-on learning element of their training and shifts provides opportunities to practice and explore technology for use in the classroom. For the CAs, being able to solve technological problems in high-stress situations contributes to high morale and a sense of pride. The consistent support from co-pilots also brings a sense of comfort and provides CAs with a safety net to fall back on, although most CAs have already described becoming more responsible and self-reliant.
One of the CAs reflected on their experience, “Despite this being a failure in knowledge on my part, I now know what specific model to look for that offers touch screen options on the screen. The next time a professor, either the same or different asks […] similar questions, I can then answer with greater confidence.”
Celebrating Small Victories
CAs regularly overcome challenges – the job requires independence and constant problem-solving. Common challenges range from locating classrooms in unfamiliar buildings to facing fears of approaching new people and places. Fortunately, the Tech2U administrative team supports the CAs with these common issues through weekly check-ins and team meetings. The team uses weekly reports as a way for CAs to reflect on their work and comfortably communicate with full-time staff and the TIL team. Through these reports, the CAs celebrate small victories, express general concerns, and suggest changes to their training program. They feel seen and heard, which develops their empathy, self-motivation, and creativity.
Compared to the beginning of the program, CAs shared that they have also been able to reflect on how they’ve handled each challenge presented to them. Improving on their organization and planning skills, CAs have learned how to manage their time better between work and their studies. So far, the Tech2U pilot program has proven to support students and instructors in the U of T community through effective technological support. Especially for the CAs, they’ve gained skills that they can use in all aspects of their lives.