Technology for Teaching: Campbell Eases the Way for Incoming Faculty

Posted: July 9, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

The beginning of the fall semester is like no other time of the year at Mason. It’s a time of excitement and renewal for students and faculty alike. Behind the scenes, hundreds of staff members, including those in the Information Technology Unit (ITU), have been preparing for it literally all summer.

Susan Campbell
Susan Campbell is helping new faculty members at Mason get off to a great start.
Photo by Evan Cantwell

When the academic year begins on Aug. 27, Susan Campbell, the learning technologies analyst in the Instructional Resource Center (part of DoIT’s Learning Support Services in ITU), wants faculty new to Mason to get off to a great start. She is dedicated to helping faculty integrate teaching and technology. But before she can help them, she has to do some detective work.

Since new faculty members are sometimes not entered into the university’s databases until the academic year actually begins, she has to track down their contact information, usually through the departmental class coordinators. She looks for the faculty members who have been assigned to technology-enhanced classrooms. Then, she reaches out to them.

“Contacting them about classrooms is just a starting point. I want them to know not only what the classroom has in it but also the resources available to them and their students. I ask questions like, ‘How are your students going to submit assignments? Are you going to provide online materials, and if so, what kind and where are you going to store them? Are you planning group activities? What skills will your students need to complete assignments?’ It’s not unusual for a faculty member to tell me he or she is going to modify the course syllabi based on our meeting.”

She tells new faculty where and how to access lecture materials, class rosters, computer accounts and software. She helps them develop lesson plans that incorporate technology and come up with a Plan B. She also teaches them just-in-time computer skills.

“Initially, I want them to be set for the first day of class, and then I set up additional meetings with them as needed to continue discussions about their course,” she says. “The first impression takes a long time to change if it’s not a good one.”

That first impression can begin even before a faculty member is hired. Campbell has been called in to interviews with prospective faculty members to discuss technology support at Mason. “It’s a selling point that our unit provides such a good service,” she notes.

Not that Campbell handles everyone’s needs single-handedly. She emphasizes, “A key element to being able to provide such a service is having the support of talented colleagues who also work extensively with faculty to incorporate teaching and technology.”

Campbell began working at Mason in 1984 in a new position created to teach faculty, staff and students how to use the large order of PCs delivered shortly after her arrival. During her first 11 years at Mason she taught many of the classes (including serving as a guest instructor in academic courses across the curriculum).

Now she works primarily with faculty — and not just new faculty. By her count, she has provided more than 3,000 individual consultations during the past five years. Some of those consultations were extensive, and numerous faculty members have sent her notes of thanks and appreciation.

For example, Lloyd Duck, associate professor in the College of Education and Human Development, wrote: “I am grateful for the time you spent with me between semesters with the redesign of my Blackboard site and the Webquest [a web-based learning project that involves students working collaboratively to synthesize their knowledge]…as well as for your time with our students in a tutorial session.”

Rima Gulshan, instructor in the English Department, wrote: “Students always welcome innovative teaching methods and do much better in classes/courses which provide them with new teaching methodologies. Thanks so much for your support and guidance which helped me in offering something new to my students.”

Terry Zawacki, director of the Writing Center, wrote about the assistance Campbell gave her with an ethnography course assignment: “You were an enormous help to me in clarifying not only my technology goals but, more importantly, my learning goals and assessment criteria for the course.”

And Laurie Fathe, former associate provost and director of the Center for Teaching Excellence, wrote in a message sent to faculty: “Many of you ask me questions regularly, but you may not know what a terrific resource Susan is. Not only is she infinitely more tech-savvy than I am, but she knows an enormous amount about teaching and learning. And she’s probably sat in on as many classes around the university as anyone on campus.”

Even with all the years of instruction under her belt, Campbell remains open to learning and is stilled awed by the expertise of her colleagues at Mason. She sits in on classes to pick up “best practice ideas” on technology and just to learn something new. “We have such interesting people teaching so many thought-provoking subjects,” she says.

Campbell can be reached at 703-993-3424 or

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