High Tech and High Touch

Joe Malfi Photo

Joe Malfi

Class of 2016

"This type of class has the potential to change a lot of lives, and it definitely changed mine."

    — Joe Malfi

He’s an American hero. Joe M. suffered a severe brain injury serving in the military overseas. His disability made a career as a police officer more challenging that it already was, so he decided to pursue a new career. But coming back to school would not be easy.

“It was scary – the thoughts of coming to campus, crowds, finding parking,” Joe says. “I didn’t know if I could do it.”

Not overly tech-savvy, Joe decided to try an online class – Psychology 150. But this was no ordinary online class. This class was taught by Dr. Chris Roddenberry who uses a new online teaching method.

“I call it high tech and high touch,” he says. High tech because of the online meeting software, texting tools, and video platforms he uses to deliver instruction. High touch because these tools allow for greater interaction between him and his students.

“When you’re in a seated classroom, you can make eye contact with the instructor, you can raise your hand, ask questions, and interact,” Dr. Roddenberry says. “In an online setting, the student is alone. If they don’t understand something, they have to type it up and wait for a response. By the time they get an answer, the learning opportunity may be gone.”

Dr. Roddenberry believes education occurs best in a social environment, so he encourages his students to get to know him as well as each other. He invites students to connect in a virtual classroom via video conferencing – once at the beginning of each semester, and then weekly, to share ideas and ask questions. Students can view videos and upload their own – and they can text him at any time. The goal is to reduce the psychological distance between online instructors and students. In doing so, Dr. Roddenberry is seeing improvements in student success and retention. A $2.7 million dollar First in the World grant from the U.S. Department of Education is enabling Wake Tech to expand and enhance the teaching model.

“It’s great,” says Joe. “You don’t feel so disconnected.”

For Joe, it was a game-changer. He finished Dr. Roddenberry’s class with a new-found confidence in pursuing a degree in psychology and career path to become a counselor. Joe says he wasn’t sure he would succeed when he returned to school, but Wake Tech and Dr. Roddenberry’s high tech/ high touch online class changed his life.

“Every once in a while, you have an experience that really has an impact on your life. This was one of them,” says Joe. “I think this type of class has the potential to change a lot of lives, and it definitely changed mine.”

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