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How A System Birthed Dialogs

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A presentation given at the 2007 Pacific Northwest Writing Centers Association conference discussing the evolution of an appointment system written for The Evergreen State College's Writing Center.

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How A System Birthed Dialogs

  1. 1. How a System Birthed Dialogs: The Place of Technology in Writing Centers Presented by: Peter Ellis, Information Technology Manager Sandra Yannone, Director of the Writing Center The Evergreen State College Writing Center 2007 Pacific Northwest Writing Center Association Conference At Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA
  2. 2. Session Outline <ul><li>10 minutes The “Big Picture”: How has technology changed our operations? </li></ul><ul><li>10 minutes How a dialog birthed a system </li></ul><ul><li>10 minutes How a system birthed dialogs </li></ul><ul><li>30 minutes (interspersed) Questions and answers, general discussion </li></ul>
  3. 3. The “Big Picture” <ul><li>2001-2002: Technology priorities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Create dynamic web site that reflects Center philosophy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Move from paper to computer-based scheduling (not necessarily web-based) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Fall 2002: Web site manager hired </li></ul><ul><li>Conversation: What does our web site do for us? </li></ul>
  4. 4. Writing Center Web Site March 18, 2003 Courtesy archive.org
  5. 5. The “Big Picture” <ul><li>Fall 2003: Peter hired as tutor </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How did this change the dynamic? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Scheduling is done via Excel spreadsheet </li></ul><ul><li>Summer/Fall 2004: AccuTrack for scheduling </li></ul><ul><li>Web site conversation: evaluation content </li></ul>
  6. 6. The “Big Picture” <ul><li>Fall 2005: Student Originated Software begins work on new scheduling system </li></ul><ul><li>Priority of the web site becomes nearly nonexistent during system development </li></ul>
  7. 7. The “Big Picture” <ul><li>Winter 2006: Return to Excel spreadsheets for primary scheduling </li></ul><ul><li>Spring 2006: Presentation at 2006 PNWCA conference on philosophical approaches to Writing Center web sites, as well as the pre-conference session </li></ul>
  8. 8. The “Big Picture” <ul><li>August 2006: Information Technology Manager position begins and the conversation broadens… </li></ul>
  9. 9. The “Big Picture” <ul><li>What’s the common thread? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>It’s not technology…. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It’s that everything we’ve done is born out of conversation. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Our web site as a result of ongoing conversation: http:// www.evergreen.edu/writingcenter / </li></ul>
  10. 10. The “Big Picture” <ul><li>But there are still more questions… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Should the Information Technology Manager position continue? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Is its impact significant enough to warrant a continued line item in our biennial budget? </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Questions? Comments?
  12. 12. Session Outline <ul><li>10 minutes The “Big Picture”: How has technology changed our operations? </li></ul><ul><li>10 minutes How a dialog birthed a system </li></ul><ul><li>10 minutes How a system birthed dialogs </li></ul><ul><li>30 minutes (interspersed) Questions and answers, general discussion </li></ul>
  13. 13. How a Dialog Birthed a System <ul><li>Scheduling system proposed as project in mid-Fall of 2005 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What were Sandy’s concerns? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Project turned into two-person project with addition of Conrad Gudgel </li></ul>
  14. 14. How Dialog Birthed a System <ul><li>Internal conversation between developers and Sandy about how Writing Center approaches its work </li></ul><ul><li>Conversation broadened to include Network Services to work out technical details </li></ul>
  15. 15. How Dialog Birthed a System <ul><li>Our perception of the Writing Center’s work has already changed at end of Fall </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Explicit statements of our business rules begun </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Realization that we had the ability to create a solution that worked for everyone </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. How Dialog Birthed a System <ul><li>Winter quarter, weekly conversations continue to narrow down specifics of Writing Center operations </li></ul><ul><li>Conversation with Network Services about technical details continues throughout the quarter </li></ul><ul><li>Weekly conversations with Student Originated Software faculty continues to inform development process </li></ul>
  17. 17. How Dialog Birthed a System <ul><li>Focus group helps to provide a secondary perspective – that of tutors working day-to-day with appointment scheduling </li></ul><ul><li>System coded to usable point by Spring </li></ul><ul><li>Early April, meeting with Registrar to demo the system and address concerns regarding access to Banner for student information </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We end up getting more than we asked for. </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. How Dialog Birthed a System <ul><li>What is a usability test? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Method of checking developer’s ideas of what system looks like against reality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Method of gaining user feedback </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Two usability tests done for system </li></ul><ul><li>How do all these conversations interact? </li></ul>
  19. 19. Questions? Comments?
  20. 20. Session Outline <ul><li>10 minutes The “Big Picture”: How has technology changed our operations? </li></ul><ul><li>10 minutes How a dialog birthed a system </li></ul><ul><li>10 minutes How a system birthed dialogs </li></ul><ul><li>30 minutes (interspersed) Questions and answers, general discussion </li></ul>
  21. 21. How a System Birthed Dialogs <ul><li>Sandy: Why bother with a hire? </li></ul><ul><li>How has that affected our conversations? </li></ul>
  22. 22. How a System Birthed Dialogs <ul><li>Conversation topics since the IT Manager’s hire: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How to communicate with other campus units </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Scheduling system </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Web site </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Article for Writing Lab Newsletter </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>How is technology approached in writing centers? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tutor training </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Handout development </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. How a System Birthed Dialogs <ul><li>More conversation topics: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Technology budget and grant proposals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Shared drive </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Institutional memory </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Collaborating with College Archivist </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Policy creation </li></ul></ul></ul>
  24. 24. How a System Birthed Dialogs <ul><li>Position begins in August with staff retreat planning </li></ul><ul><li>Fall quarter begins – issues with equipment replacement </li></ul><ul><li>Shared drive access/data maintenance policy </li></ul><ul><li>Benchmark statistics collection </li></ul><ul><li>Scheduling system used in Prime Time </li></ul><ul><li>Web site changes </li></ul>
  25. 25. How a System Birthed Dialogs <ul><li>The big changes at the end of Fall Quarter: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Technical communication is mostly routed through Information Technology Manager </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reactive vs. preventative </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. How a System Birthed Dialogs <ul><li>Winter Quarter starts off with conversations regarding technology funding </li></ul><ul><ul><li>PLATO </li></ul></ul><ul><li>College-wide review of information technology takes place – we’re not part of it, but we learn from it </li></ul>
  27. 27. How a System Birthed Dialogs <ul><li>Web site change: posting Inkwell and Ink, Paper, Conversation </li></ul><ul><li>Meeting with Registration and Records regarding new College policy using student e-mail as primary contact point </li></ul><ul><li>Drastic appointment system changes </li></ul><ul><li>Statistics gathering continues </li></ul>
  28. 28. How a System Birthed Dialogs <ul><li>Spring 2007 (so far…) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Preliminary biennium budget proposal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Scheduling system now in regular use in main Center </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Shared drive is opened for general staff use </li></ul></ul>

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