For many decades, the US Federal work-study program has supplied funds to support part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students who have documented financial need. It has been a critical tool of the federal government to increase access to higher education.
The types of jobs that work-study students are diverse. Some are work in the community surrounding the university. Some are on-campus jobs. The jobs are not necessarily those related to the academic progress of the students. They could be clerical positions within administrative offices of an institution. They could be in direct service jobs in the operations side of a university.
It has been common that many university educational activities have only been peripherally involved in designing work-study opportunities.
This is a post reporting serendipitous discoveries that were made in late March, 2020, when Georgetown faculty altered their mode of instruction and research from an in-person to an internet-mediated mode.
Students left campus and followed classes with a combination of the CANVAS learning management system, Zoom, and a host of other internet applications. Faculty taught from their homes, many using some of this technology for the first time. Students went to locations all around the world, some quite supportive of serious studies, some filled with many distractions from learning.
It seemed wise to give faculty active assistance during some classes, especially those that required simultaneous attention to students and multiple applications. In that regard, the Federal work-study program came to mind.
Few students, especially those from underfunded high schools, have the chance to experience the “behind the scenes” perspective of a college course. Few have had the chance to have shared work with a faculty member, to directly assist them in research or teaching. A close working relationship with a faculty can be life-changing for an undergraduate student.
Starting in mid-2020, CNDLS and Red House staff conceptualized what came to be called “Instructional Technology Aides” (ITAs), to actively assist faculty in remote learning classes. Whenever possible, we offered these positions to work-study eligible students. Over 100 ITAs were employed in the fall term.
As is common to CNDLS, it evaluated the program, gathering groups of ITA’s after the experience. As expected, the results suggest that the ITAs experience with the faculty was enriching for them.
What a recent short report of the ITA evaluation suggests, in addition, however, is that the ITAs were filled with valued insights into how to enrich the experience of faculty and students in internet-assisted classes.
Their insights are completely consistent with ongoing surveys of students and faculty about what works well in remote learning – use of breakout rooms for small group tasks; the value of setting explicit expectations of students’ activities in the class; use of many different pedagogical techniques; and the importance of listening to student concerns.
It is heartwarming to discover a new way for mutual learning among students and faculty. Working together makes each more successful, and the ITA program, invented out of a crisis, is a great example of such an alliance.