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February 28, 2002 Engineering teachers urged to catch the technology wave



Gosha Zwyno

Gosha Zwyno

by Barbara Black

Professors in the humanities have taken up educational technology much faster than those in engineering, and when Gosha Zywno first tried to tell her colleagues so, she “was stumped by their cold, even hostile, reaction.”

Not much has changed, said the professor from Ryerson Polytechnic University, who gave a teaching workshop last week on hypermedia-assisted instruction to members of Concordia’s Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science. As well as being an expert and researcher on educational technology, she herself is a professor of electrical and computer engineering.

For most students, she said, it’s still a case of “the Sage on the Stage” instead of “the Guide by their Side.” Faculty see themselves as content experts, not educators. Almost invariably, they have no educational knowledge and no training in educational design — and in her experience, not much interest in it, either.

Zywno is blunt about the need to bring her colleagues up to speed, because she feels that time is pressing. The same handful of intrepid engineering professors turn out for seminars on technology-assisted teaching at institutions around the world, while most of their colleagues stay away.

One remedy, she said, might be to make expertise in teaching a condition of new hires, though this might be “unfair” to the candidates. Another would be to make courses in educational theory a condition of graduation for graduate students, who will form the next generation of professors, and should be competing for jobs as teaching assistants.

Zywno, who is working on a PhD in the field, presented some of the results of her current research into the relationship between hypermedia instruction, learning styles and learning outcomes to an attentive audience of about 20 Concordia faculty members. She also demonstrated some of the hypermedia components she uses and the WebCT site she has developed to support her course at Ryerson.

This was the first in a series of workshops by outside experts organized by Concordia’s Centre for Teaching and Learning Services. The next ones are called “Grading and Giving Feedback that Improves Student Learning,” on March 6, and “Strategies for Teaching and Assessing Linguistically-Diverse Learners,” on March 7. See the Back Page for more information.