The way we do that thing we do

BCcampus has 26 full and part time employees distributed throughout BC. Aside from the head office in Vancouver and the Victoria office, where most of the software development team is based, we have staffers in New Westminster, Nanaimo, and the interior. Needless to say, getting us all together physically in the same room happens infrequently.

Last Wednesday December 8 we took the day to do just that: sit down and talk with one another about how we do the things we do. This was my first All Staff gathering as a BCcampus employee, and as the Communications Manager, I was the organizer. (Uh – no pressure!)

It is clear, after my first eight months here, BCcampus is a diverse, busy organization despite our small staff. Our employees:

  • handle over 150,000 applications a year through PASBC,
  • provide at least a half dozen shared learning management and web conference services,
  • support four (and the list is growing) collaborative programs each with up to eight institutions participating,
  • assist communities of practice for hundreds of instructors, instructional designers and institutional IT people who use educational technologies,
  • administer a fund of almost a million dollars a year that supports online learning development,
  • manage a repository for open education resources and much more.

The one thing we’ve never sat down to discuss (I’m told) are the tools we use to do our work and to let the rest of the organization know what we’re doing. We’ve been in existence since 2002, when we were intentionally set up to be innovative and experimental. However, that freedom to tinker means we have a surplus of online and hosted software tools used by anywhere from one to 26 staff members.

We’re maturing as an organization, so it’s time to evaluate the tools we all need to share in common. On December 8 we had a lively discussion about how to go about making those decisions, and ended up nominating a cross-functional working group to do some further research and come up with some recommended policies and guidelines. We also got some tips, tricks and demonstrations of the capabilities of the most common tools we share: our email (Zimbra) and internal/external wiki (Confluence).

“I go to a lot of conferences, and I consider it a good one if I come away learning one new thing,” said one staffer at the wrap-up. “Today I learned at least eight new things, so mission accomplished, what a great success.”

The best thing about the All Staff day and what I call our “technology and tools” discussion? It’s not being handed down from management, it’s a collaborative decision-making process.

Because that’s just the way we do things around here.