Showcase Interview

Diane Olson talks about using clickers in class.

Diane Olson

Faculty Profile
Email Address

Teaching Strategy Video(s)
Clickers in the Classroom

Diane Olson is an Instructor in the Operations, Construction & Management Department at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, College of Technology, Engineering and Management (CTEM), in Menomonie, Wisconsin. Diane holds a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from the University of Minnesota, School of Industrial Technology, an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis, MN, and is in the Ph.D. Technology Management degree program at Indiana State University. Diane has nearly 25 years of industry experience.

Diane Olson has been teaching at UW-Stout for five years. Courses that Olson teaches are: Program Management, a graduate level course; Project Management, a mix of grad and undergrad; Resources Planning and Materials Management, again, a mix; and classes she occasionally teaches are Quality Concepts, Quality Management, and Quality Tools.

Her favorite course is Program Management. Olson says, “It fits into a lot of majors, so I have a mix of majors in the class. Although we use a textbook, I am able to contribute a good deal of real industry material because of my many years of experience in this area.”

Diane worked in industry for a long time before becoming a teacher and noted that she had to hire people for program management work. They were often not good at it so she knows now what she wants to do to improve that. It has been a very successful course, enough so that now there is a Program Management minor and a new course, Advanced Program Management.

When she teaches, Diane tries to show her students a structured, disciplined way to understand and use the material. They need a base to work from and apply what they are learning. She likes to use examples because she can relate the course work to what they already know; this works especially well with older, or nontraditional, students. She says, “I have taught this online, but I find I like it in class better because I can see when they get it.”

She likes to start with a theory and put it in a real life situation. Students often realize what they don’t know and this is useful in helping them learn. Older students in particular realize right away that this is what they want or need to know. “I try to give them a tool kit,” she said. One of the tools is the MS Project software application—it is very hard to learn, painful even, and they may rebel, but they learn it.

Asked about innovations she has used and found successful, Diane described two. One is Camtasia—she first used it with her online classes. This software application allows the teacher to capture video of on-screen activities, such as demonstrating a process for using an application. With Camtasia she can comment on, or direct attention to a process being demonstrated as the process unfolds. (She has recently switched to Jing—it’s newer and looks easier. In addition, you can download it free.) “You can use it in a regular class if a student has to miss a class or if they are having trouble understanding.”

The other innovation she likes is I-clickers. These are hand-held devices distributed to students as they enter the classroom. Each student has a numbered clicker registered to them so this is also a good way to take attendance. She asks questions and offers possible answers on the screen in front of the room. The clickers enable everyone to respond somewhat anonymously (and everyone has to respond) and then when the “votes” are in, students can discuss their responses. She also grades them for responding. This device stimulates discussions and involves everyone in the process.