The Hive: An Interactive Online Support System for Students and Instructors
With the flood of new and returning students passing through the college each year, the need for versatile support is endless. From important dates and the latest essential information (such as tuition fees, APA resources, course calendars, etc.) to tech assistance and communication, students need to be able to access resources, guidance and support tools – ideally 24-7.
For the Digital Learning Team (DLT), this sustained level of support has been a challenge met with a variety of solutions throughout the years. The latest iteration, developed in 2017, is The Hive: an online course where students – as well as instructors – can access helpful resources, services and information to assist them in their respective academic journeys.
A History of The Hive: In the beginning, there was ‘The Digital Pitstop’
Before the development of The Hive, DLT was experimenting with a support hub called the Digital Pitstop. Like the Hive, it was an information-rich ‘resource course’ where students could log in and find the help they needed.
As constructive as The Digital Pitstop was, it, unfortunately, came with a few issues, namely:
- An overwhelming amount of information
- Inconsistent updates
- Duplication of content
This was largely because The Digital Pitstop was a massive collaboration between different support services around campus. With so many different people with different purposes adding to the course, it was almost impossible to regulate, resulting in an information overload that confused both staff and students.
Open to iterations
These issues compromised The Digital Pitstop’s usefulness, requiring DLT to head back to the drawing board. After some research, they concluded that greater collaboration and communication would be key to creating a more effective resource. So, the timing was impeccable when Lorne Deimert, LMS/media coordinator, attended a Canvas Conference (InstructureCon) that touched on these very elements.
A presenter from a college in the states offered insightful information about their community focus, including how they were able to strengthen communication between students and instructors through a versatile online support tool.
Lorne – usually an even-keeled fellow – excitedly shared this information with his colleagues back home.
DLT knew – because it was a natural expansion, and because Lorne was so uncharacteristically enthusiastic – that this communication-forward online support was the next step in the evolution of their existing framework.
So, they set to work, expanding and repurposing The Digital Pitstop.
Repurposing the Digital Pitstop
Information was effectively recategorized and clarified (solving inconsistency issues) and a communication tool was implemented. Not only did The Hive enable DLT to send targeted announcements to specific students (whether they were in-person, online, or both), but it also created a solid base of communication between every single user.
With this targeting ability, the team decided that a second Hive should be built, one specifically for instructors, to allow them the same level of support, including tools and resources tailored to their needs.
The result was two Hives, offering users a direct path to the guidance they needed, from basic orientation and commonly asked questions to more tech-heavy applications (such as Zoom and other webinar recordings, and even setting up AltspaceVR).
Where the Digital Pitstop was a one-sided mass of information, the Hives created a versatile, collaborative space of support and communication between students and students, and teachers and teachers.
A fitting name
Every great project needs a fitting name, and the same was true for this new online support system. Because it was a ‘community resource course’ combining valuable knowledge along with a spirit of collaboration, it needed a name to reflect its multifaceted nature.
So, the team set to brainstorming, and after deliberation, Rebecca Helmer, designer and academic technologist II suggested ‘The Hive.’
And it’s a moniker that’s stuck (like honey on a comb).
Part of DLT’s goal when working within The Hive is moving students to a space where they can access the support they need (even additional information they don’t know they need) in the most effective, efficient way possible – without them feeling overwhelmed or confused.
And, for teachers, the goal is to offer insightful tools to help them create a greater learner experience – as well as offer guides through troubleshooting certain issues (mainly tech).
This keeps the team – and the college as a whole – moving forward without getting stalled out or bogged down, saving everyone time, energy and resources!
Examples of what you’ll find in the Student Hive
- Essential information (tuition fees, learning supports, books and GPA, etc.)
- Troubleshooting information (How to access accounts, how to use Zoom, etc.)
- Core Competencies (allowing DLT a platform to collaborate with students in areas they should be getting involved with or need access to)
- Discussion boards (encouraging an interactive community where students help students)
Examples of what you’ll find in the Teacher Hive
- How-tos (Posting webinar recordings, managing exam security, etc.)
- Educational technology (media and course prep-tools)
- Sharable resources for students
There’s a buzz in the air
Since 2017, The Hive has excelled at helping students and instructors get the most out of their academic journeys.
And this success is creating a ‘buzz’ around campus.
Instructors are requesting their own versions of The Hive unique to their programs, which is very exciting for DLT.
More Hive-type courses mean greater communication which will allow both students and instructors to leverage a better, more interactive learning/teaching experience going forward.