The Student Instructional Technology Corps (SITC)

Or..."What are inner city teenagers doing
in the TLT FACULTY training lab??

Lorraine Sherry and Edward Nuhfer,
University of Colorado at Denver

Newsletter Article posted on the AGHESGIT listserv, September 4, 1999


A year ago, I defended my dissertation. I was interested in finding out what factors affected the types and levels of use of Internet tools at the post-secondary level. You can find it online at:

I'd found out the levels of use, reasons for use, challenges to use, and suggestions for improving use of the Internet, CEO (the School of Education's local BBS), and the WWW for instruction. People will use Internet tools as long as they feel they have the ability and confidence to do so, and only insofar as they place value on it to enhance teaching and learning. But my real interest lay beyond simply finding this out: I wanted to DO something to support instructional technology at the University of Colorado at Denver (UCD). I now have that opportunity, with the SITC.

As our faculty begin to adapt instructional technology, the need for programming (largely HTML), hardware maintenance, software troubleshooting, and time for ongoing learning grows quickly beyond the resources of their department and the campus. A recent national study shows that over 1/4 of all available computer technology positions cannot be filled because of lack of trained personnel. That is as true of UCD as it is of industry. In surveys and interviews, people told me over and over again that they wanted one-on-mentoring and technical support. They also needed administrative support if they were expected to integrate instructional technology into their teaching and learning strategies. Where could they find that support?

The Office of Teaching Effectiveness and the Student Instructional Technology Corps

This is where the SITC fits in. It is an idea conceived by Ed Nuhfer, made possible through a grant from theOffice of Teaching Effectiveness at UCD, of which Ed is the director. This past summer, Jason McDaniel and I trained five low-income students for about a month in instructional technology support. We also enlisted the help of the university's network administrators and other faculty as appropriate, using a team-teaching approach. Classes were 3 hours each, andet two evenings a week during June and July for a total of 30 contact hours. Jason and I are both employed in the corporate sector, and serve as honoraria (part-time faculty) at UCD. We see this as a way of helping the university carry out its mission: to bring theory into practice, and to solve pressing problems of educational practice in an urban setting.

Each SITC student has now been assigned to a UCD department/program -- preferably the one housing the student's chosen major. Training consisted of HTML programming, the use of the various campus e-mail programs, electronic conferencing, common hardware and software maintenance, and student survival skills (including time management). Students were paid $1000 for their training, and will work at work-study rates in their assigned department for about ten to fifteen hours per week for the coming academic year. Student selection was based on need, academic record, and interest.

Plans for Sustainability

We envision this program will provide UCD departments with unprecedented support and students with excellent marketable and interdisciplinary skills. After their summer training, these entering freshmen were assigned to departments or other units who will manage them as their own employees. The Office of Teaching Effectiveness will then only monitor the success of these students and the program, and help provide "just in time" continued training as needed. Currently, the students have just begun their work-study. They e-mail me from time to time to discuss problems that arise, and I either reply to them within 24 hours or forward the message to other experts within the university. A follow-up training session on hardware troubleshooting is tentatively planned for some time in September. Students will also keep logs of their work-study activities. We plan to collect those logs and meet with the students just before the winter break, to evaluate how the program is working.

If this proves to be as beneficial as we believe it will, the Office of Teaching Effectiveness will request permanent funds to help continue the program. We also envision that this first cohort of student trainees will serve as mentors for those who follow. This will eventually result in a "trainer of trainers" model, which has shown to be effective for building capacity within a host of other instructional technology training programs.

Assigned Books

  • The Non-Designer's Web Book by Robin Williams and John Tollett (PeachpitPress)
  • HTML Programming for Netscape: Level 1 and Level 2 (Ziff-Davis Education)
  • Becoming a Master Student by Dave Ellis (Houghton-Mifflin)

Other Class Resources

I provided students with a bound collection of handouts. These include design tips, a short tutorial on e-conferencing with screen prints from our FirstClass BBS, basic HTML tags, basic UNIX commands, a short tutorial on using the university's e-mail services, a short tutorial on Netscape Composer, suggestions for directory structure, directions for uploading web pages to the university servers, use of FTP programs, a template for a professor's home page with the raw HTML code, directions for using the Microtek Scanmaker 5 flatbed scanner, and a few selected pages from the Yale WWW Style Manual -- i.e., things that weren't contained in the textbooks, but which were pertinent to using the university servers and carrying out the types of tasks they'd be expected to do as work-studies.

Other instructors in our team provided the students with troubleshootingguides for hardware and software.

I created an electronic conference for the SITC, which resides permanently on the FirstClass BBS. It is used from time to time by the students to ask for help on problems they're encountering, now that they have become full-fledged work-studies.

There is also a class web page with the syllabus and schedule.