Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced Butler University to move classes online in mid-March, the Center for Academic Technology (CAT) has been busy supporting faculty, staff, and students through the transition. While the demand for their services tripled, the CAT’s four Academic Technology Specialists put in the extra hours to make sure the heart of a Butler experience wasn’t lost in a virtual setting.
As a team made up of Butler grads, they know firsthand what makes the University special. Kristen Allen ’12 and Nick Wilson ’08 both completed undergraduate degrees at Butler, and Megan Grady, MA ’10 earned her master’s. Heather Hazelwood ’05, MS ’14 did both.
“Our whole team loves Butler,” Allen says. “We’re always excited to come alongside faculty to assist with classroom success.”
In recent months, that has meant working closely with instructors to mimic planned activities in an online setting. Faculty who felt most comfortable using overhead projectors switched to portable versions. Others used Zoom breakout rooms to provide spaces where students could continue collaborating in small groups to work on projects or practice foreign language skills. In some classes, interactive presentations were moved to online discussion boards, allowing students to still engage in meaningful conversations.
“I’ve seen faculty get really creative with their solutions,” Allen says. “Many of them have come to us and explained what they value most in their classrooms, and it’s a lot of what you think about when it comes to Butler in general: deep relationships with students. They didn’t want to lose that in moving to this remote online learning environment.”
When the CAT team saw the virus begin the spread across the nation in mid-February, they knew they needed to come up with a plan. By the time the University quickly switched to remote learning a month later, they had developed a resource to help guide faculty through the transition: Keep Calm and Teach On. Grady, who oversees a team of student-employees in the Information Commons program, also led the creation of the student-focused companion site Keep Calm and Study On.
The CAT specialists say they’ve watched faculty from across the University grow more comfortable with a variety of technologies throughout the semester, discovering the power of these new tools while becoming more confident in their ability to continue using them even after students are back in the classroom.
Meet the Dawgs of the CAT:
Kristen Allen ’12
Major: Math Education
“I absolutely loved my time at Butler. My professors were awesome mentors, and they helped me figure out what I wanted to do. Now, working here, I have the chance to revisit so many of the great memories I have from being on campus as a student.
In my four years at Butler, I was one of the first student-employees to participate in the Information Commons partnership between Butler Libraries and the Center for Academic Technology. After graduating, I worked for a wealth management company and did some nonprofit work, but I always loved Butler. I always loved teaching and technology. When there was an opening with the CAT, I applied right away, and I was really happy to be part of the team.
We really do function as a team. A lot of our success comes from good communication. For as small as our staff is, I’ve been amazed by how much knowledge the members of our team have.”
Megan Grady, MA ’10
MA Program: Master of Arts in English
“My liberal arts education taught me to love learning, which has been really useful when it comes to technology. I love finding ways that technology can enhance education.
Before coming to Butler, I spent several years working in other roles where I was teaching teachers how to teach. But I think my heart was always very much into liberal arts, and I wanted to find a position that would challenge me to go beyond my current skill set and learn new things.
I love working with faculty, listening to what they want to accomplish in their classrooms, and thinking through which resources are available to help them do that. I love solving problems, and I love the challenge of helping people feel more comfortable with technology—to make them feel like it’s something that’s within their control—something that can actually help them be efficient.”
Nick Wilson ’08
Major: Electronic Media
“After graduating from Butler, I found a position as a technician for a local K-12 school district. That’s where I discovered a passion for teaching people how to use technology. But I always wanted to come back to Butler, and I jumped at the chance to work with the CAT.
I love the lightbulb effect—when people start to understand a technology and see its full potential. For example, during the COVID-19 crisis, many faculty members have tried new things and realized they might want to use those tools in all their classes moving forward.
The biggest way my Butler education prepared me was by teaching me The Butler Way. I really feel that Butler is different from the average university because our faculty are so connected with the students. You really create a relationship with the faculty, and I think that makes a big difference.”
Heather Hazelwood ’05, MS ’14
Major: Recording Industry Studies
MS Program: Effective Teaching and Leadership
“After working at Butler for almost 10 years now, I don’t feel like I work with co-workers—I feel like I work with family. That’s something I treasure. I have built deep relationships with faculty, which helps me support them in meaningful ways.
My parents both went to Butler, then my mom worked at the University when I was in high school, so Butler just always seemed like the natural choice for me. I graduated from the first class of the Recording Industry Studies program in 2005. After about five years of experience in the hotel and conference center audiovisual industry, I found myself looking for a change. It seemed only natural to return to my alma mater, which I thankfully did in January 2011.
I strive to be a solution finder, and to find joy in helping others improve their teaching for the benefit of students. I also do my best to put others’ needs before my own. While these qualities seem innate, I can’t deny that my experience as a student at Butler helped mold me into the person and the Academic Technology Specialist I am today.”
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