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The [COVID] transition happened so quickly… but our existing processes with Trello and Dropbox made it easier to make these revisions with my graduate students and teaching assistants.”

Industry

Higher Education

Location

Norman, Oklahoma

Number of Users

2,500+


How Professors At The University Of Oklahoma Use Productivity Techniques And Digital Collaboration Tools To Educate The Future Workforce

The responsibilities of a university professor extend beyond the lecture hall. Professors collaborate with graduate students, teaching assistants, and other faculty members on planning curriculum, leading research projects, and even writing books. There are a lot of moving parts to keep track of, which leads to a gigantic paper trail of coursework, reports, and data. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic uprooted university professors and students from their campuses in the spring semester of 2020, there was minimal guidance at first on how to continue courses online and stay in communication with students. Professors and graduate students at the University of Oklahoma (OU) were able to adapt more easily as their worlds turned upside down with the help of education technology and cloud-based collaboration tools, including web-based applications like Trello and Dropbox

The two digital collaboration tools integrate together, and universities around the world use Trello and Dropbox to reliably store and share their files while providing secure access to proprietary information and data. 

Dr. Jenel Cavazos, Associate Professor of Psychology at OU, is a big proponent of education technology and productive ways of working. Through the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Learning Technologies and the Information Technology Council at OU, she is an advocate for these tools and productivity techniques on campus, and encourages other faculty members to adopt them (and has even taught seminars about them!). Primarily, Dr. Cavazos serves as the Introductory Psychology Coordinator and advises graduate students who teach smaller psychology classes. In addition to her research work, she is responsible for curriculum development, instructor training, and course management for about 1,500 students per academic year. 

Was the impact of a global pandemic a massive disruptor to Dr. Cavazos teaching processes? In some ways, of course. 

“People don’t like uncertainty, and having lists and organized processes are important for feeling like we know where we’re going,” says Dr. Cavazos. 

Luckily, her use of Trello and Dropbox minimized the disruption to how she manages all of her curriculums, research projects, and faculty communication. 

Lesson learned: using cloud-based tools to stay organized is advantageous in academia and can save professors from a semester full of stress.

I love how these tools work together since they all have a different purpose, and having them work together is vital to staying organized.”

Dr. Jenel Cavazos
Associate Professor of Psychology at University of Oklahoma

Turning The Chalkboard Into A Collaborative Experience

When the tidal wave of changes from the pandemic rushed onto college campuses, faculty and students around the globe had to quickly pack their bags, dorm rooms, and offices and head home.

All OU faculty members were required to work and teach remotely, but at one point, when it was safe to do so, they were allowed a 30-minute window to take everything they needed from their offices. They have had only limited access since, as the university planned a phased opening.

“The transition happened so quickly and was very unexpected. There was a lot of work we had to do to change assignments and syllabi, but our existing processes with Trello and Dropbox made it easier to make these revisions with my graduate students and teaching assistants,” says Dr.  Cazavos.

If Dr. Cavazos didn’t have her lessons and processes set up with Trello and Dropbox, her research projects, curriculums, and plans for the semester would have been locked up on her physical desktop or external hard drive. These cloud-based tools allowed Dr. Cavazos to keep working from home and with her team, since she could access her information from anywhere. 

Of course, the way she teaches students changed with the sudden shift to remote learning, but her systems for managing coursework and collaborating with graduate students and teaching assistants didn’t suffer the same disruption. OU plans a return to campus for some smaller courses, but many of the larger classes are moving online in the fall of 2020. Since Dr. Cavazos teaches Introduction to Psychology to nearly 1,000 students per semester, her lectures and curriculums will all be hosted virtually, and her assistance with other psychology classes will happen remotely as well. 

“I feel that an unprepared professor communicates a lack of respect for the students whom they are charged to teach. By clearly communicating expectations and providing detailed, timely feedback on assignments and exams, students learn that their time and effort is valued,” explains Dr. Cavazos.

In order to stay hyper-organized and prepared, Dr. Cavazos has a Trello board set up for each course she teaches and collaborates on with her graduate students. The Trello board is a combination of an information repository and a project tracker. It’s divided into the following lists: 

  • Chapter Improvements and Assignment Ideas 
  • Revisions, Projects, and Updates
  • Class Setup
  • Working On It 
  • All Finished! 🎉
University of Oklahoma Trello cards

Before, we used Microsoft Word to keep track of projects and details, but it didn’t have the organizational features and flexible workflows that Trello and Dropbox provide. I love how these tools work together… and having them work together is vital to staying organized”

Dr. Jenel Cavazos
Associate Professor of Psychology at University of Oklahoma

Dr. Cavazos communicates and collaborates with her graduate students in Trello cards on the board in order to assign tasks, capture ideas, check-in on course progress, and provide feedback as well as opportunities for improvement. 

The Dropbox Power-Up in Trello makes it seamless for Dr. Cavazos and anyone on her team to access and collaborate on curriculum details, checklists, and reports whenever they need them. Any updates made to the Trello boards are shown in the Dropbox file activity feed as well. 

Since Dr. Cavazos is managing the coordination of not only her classes but also the other Introduction to Psychology sections, there are many details, tasks, and people to keep track of throughout the year. 

Under the “Class Setup” list, she uses Trello’s Advanced Checklist feature to create detailed to-do lists of everything she and her team of graduate students and teaching assistants needs to accomplish at the beginning of every semester. Within the card and on the checklist, all tasks are assigned an owner and a due date. She and her team can glance at the cards and checklists to identify who is doing what, and by when. These cards become the central area where Dr. Cavazos and her team collaborate to complete their work together.

Advanced Checklist feature

Labels are also used on cards to designate the primary owner of the project and the type of class they are planning—either online or face-to-face. She also uses Card Covers to give context to projects and tasks at a high-level view.

All of the Trello cards are connected to Dropbox with folders and files, ranging from assignments and course evaluations to syllabi and research documentation. Dr. Cavazos uses an OU Intro Psychology Dropbox instance to house all of her courses and research information. The intuitively structured files of Dropbox make it easy for her to recognize this information on particular Trello cards and work seamlessly between the two tools. 

In Trello, the Dropbox files show as rich thumbnails, so information is easily identifiable without having to click through, as long as only a quick glance is needed for context or check-in on progress. 

University of Oklahoma Dropbox files

“Before, we used Microsoft Word to keep track of these projects and details, but it didn’t have the organizational features and flexible workflows that Trello and Dropbox provide. I love how these tools work together since they all have a different purpose, and having them work together is vital to staying organized,” says Dr. Cavazos. 

Starting From Scratch Is A Practice Of The Past

Anyone outside of academia may envision professors and teachers basking in the sun during summer breaks. That dream-like picture couldn’t be further from the truth though. 

The work is never over. Even if all of these projects are weighing on me, Trello and Dropbox help me feel like I’m making progress and do the next steps without reinventing the wheel.”

Dr. Jenel Cavazos
Associate Professor of Psychology at University of Oklahoma

“The work is never over,” explains Dr. Cavazos. “Our classes are never finished, and we can always make them better. With research requirements, service work, and many courses, having tools and a process for organization provides this sense of completion. Even if all of these projects are weighing on me, Trello and Dropbox help me feel like I’m making progress and do the next steps without reinventing the wheel.”  

Dr. Cavazos applies aspects of agile methodology to her teaching style. She encourages her graduate students to ask students for feedback and ways to improve the courses. 

“I have repeatedly received positive student feedback concerning preparation, lecture presentation, promptness returning graded assignments (impressive in classes of 475 students), and overall course management. These organizational components enhance the learning experience for the students.”

Once she and her team gather this data from students, they then record the information and insights in Dropbox and attach them to Trello cards so they can refer to them when building the next semester’s syllabi and curriculums. 

With this system in place, Dr. Cavazos and her team of graduate students and teaching assistants have the same context for what worked and what didn’t in the prior semester. When they finally do take a break before another semester begins, they can easily refer to their notes and checklists to apply these learnings. 

Educate From Anywhere With Trello And Dropbox

Dr. Cavazos’s file management in Dropbox and synergic workflows in Trello are a digital collaboration dream. By taking a page from her lesson plan, professors and educators around the world can better organize the many moving pieces of coursework, research projects, and teaching all in one place. Trello and Dropbox make the perfect digital tool duo for educators to organize, collaborate, and stay productive, whether they’re teaching on campus or from the comfort of their home. 

University professors and educators who embrace these approaches to online productivity and collaboration will reap the rewards of remote learning, especially as it continues to boom. 

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