Volunteer Consultant Policies and Guidelines
Welcome to the Design Center at New Mexico State University. This space has been created to provide a comfortable, knowledgeable environment for learning and using digital media and communication technologies. As a volunteer consultant here, you can not only gain access to the Center and its resources, but you can also help to build a community of people who are experienced with and interested in the possibilities of digital media technologies. The more you are willing to be an active participant in this effort, the better the returns for everyone.
Goals/Vision for the Design Center
The overarching goal for the Design Center is to offer multimedia technologies, development resources and instructional support for English Department graduate students interested in creating multimodal texts for varied audiences. Through coursework, personal projects, and student-run consultancy activities, it is intended as a space for immersion in authentic communicative, rhetorical, and expressive activities where you can learn through practice. Access to this space provides opportunities for you to work on projects that help you learn to respond in creative and rhetorically sophisticated ways to the dynamic needs and interests of variable contexts and audiences. The Design Center also offers possibilities for technology- and multimedia-related research you may want to conduct for course projects, theses, dissertations, manuscripts, or other work.
The Design Center is particularly well equipped to support projects involving publication management, document design, multimedia production and editing, digital video and interactive multimedia development, and web-based communication. For more information on technological resources available to you, see the Training Support Manual.
Benefits and Responsibilities of Becoming a Volunteer Consultant
There are a number of benefits for you in deciding to be a volunteer consultant. In exchange for participating in training and being willing to help others while they are in the Design Center, you will:
- Have access to technological resources: The Design Center has a good variety of high quality, professional-level software and hardware. Many of the graphic design, multimedia production, video editing, and other communication software and hardware resources are not available to you anywhere else on campus. Continued practice with technology over time is the most effective way to become proficient in its use.
- Develop technological experience: By being a volunteer consultant, you will gain valuable experience using a variety of technology.
- Gain professional experience: By being a volunteer consultant, you will gain professional and pedagogical experience working with people and teaching users how to interact with technology. Such experience can help to make you more marketable following graduation no matter what your area of study.
- Be part of a knowledgeable community of digital media practitioners: Being a consultant will help to create a community of people in the department who are interested in and knowledgeable about digital media and communication technologies. Cooperation among such a group can be invaluable in finding help and overcoming obstacles during projects for classes, internships, and job searches.
As a volunteer consultant, you will also have a number of responsibilities in exchange for free access to the Design Center during business hours (8am-5pm). These responsibilities include:
- Allowing other English department graduate students to use the Center while you are in attendance. Prop open the door to let others know the space is available for use.
- Watching over all equipment to ensure it is treated properly and remains in the Center. If you or someone else would like to check out equipment or books, email firstname.lastname@example.org to see if it's available.
- Offering technological assistance to other users as your knowledge and time allows. If you know how to do something and you have the time, please help other users who have a question or are trying to overcome technology obstacles.
- Reporting any technical problems or requests that may arise. If you or someone else experiences a problem with software, hardware, equipment, or other issues, or if you have a request for software updates or other suggestions, please email email@example.com to report it.
- Making sure the door is locked when you are finished or at any other time you leave and returning the key to the department office staff. If anything happens to the Design Center equipment, it is not likely to be replaced so please be extra vigilant about securing the space when you leave.
Training Orientation Overview
To help ensure you are adequately prepared to volunteer as a consultant in the Design Center, a short but intensive training orientation will be given at the start of each semester. This session will cover the following specific topics and is supplemented by the Training Support Manual available for reference while you are volunteering:
General Design Center Operations
- Know how to turn on and off all lab machines
- Have read the lab policy statement
- Understand what to do to open and close the Design Center
- Know what resources (books, CD tutorials) are available for user help
- Know how to help users check out materials
- Know how to burn CDs and DVDs
- Understand how to use, move, and resize the dock
- Understand the basic way Mac OSX organizes files and how to find them
- Know how to adjust sound, screen resolution, and other properties
- Know what software is available in the lab and have a sense of each application's general purpose
- Know what external equipment (i.e. scanner, drawing tablet, video camera, etc.) is available and how to connect these with the computers
- Know how to reset the computers in case of application and operating system crashes
- Be able to name the printers connected to Design Center computers, to identify their locations, and to print documents to different printers
Advice on Interacting with other Users
The following advice is adapted from the Consultant Training Manual at Michigan Technological University's Center for Computer-assisted Language Instruction (the CCLI). While these suggestion are intended for a different kind of lab set-up, they may help you to think about pedagogical approaches to helping others (possibly your students) feel comfortable with technology.
- Always ask users what they want to do before you start telling them how to do it. Don't assume you automatically know what they want.
- Teach them, don't just tell them. That is, if the users are interested, explain how things work as opposed to a key-stroke description only. At the same time, try not to take up a lot of their time or overwhelm them with more techno-babble than they need.
- DO NOT grab the mouse or keyboard. Instead, point on the screen (but please avoid touching the LCD screen) and explain what they should click or type. The point is for the user to learn how to do it, not just to see someone else do it. However, sometimes it is easier for you to demonstrate something, but try to do it in a way that will help them to do themselves in the future. Also, you may want to ask for control of the keyboard or mouse when you are troubleshooting in ways they need not understand.
- Suggest, do not insist. It can be incredibly frustrating to explain to a user why they should approach something in a certain way only to have them ignore your advice. However, it's the user's project and they will eventually learn why their way maybe wasn't the best choice.
- Remind users to save frequently and also to back up all of their work. You never know when the power might go out or the computer might freeze, so help others avoid the extreme frustration of losing their work by getting them in the habit of saving often.
- Know where to go for answers. The Design Center has lots of reference books on just about every software application we have available. In addition, the Design Center reference page contains a list of online tutorials and resources for using all kinds of applications.
- Try to have a sense of humor while consulting, but don't make a user's problem seem small. Help them to understand that using technology almost always creates obstacles, but with some flexibility and problem-solving, these can be overcome.