Scaling Makerspace Learning – Embedding Workshops in for-Credit Classes

I created this video and infographic to be part of the International Symposium on Academic Makerspaces – ISAM 2023 – which is being held this year at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. The video outlines some of the things that the UVic Libraries Makerspace (named the Digital Scholarship Commons), was able to lead workshops for over 20,000 participants in for credit classes in large part by partnering with faculty members to integrate makerspace workshops into their courses.

Below is the infographic that I created to accompany the conference video. I’ve also included the script of the video below for those who might want to read it.

“In January 2021 we led the largest workshop in our Library based Makerspace history! We taught our 3D Design & Print workshop to a 1st-year Robotics class of 191 students. Their Electrical Engineering professor wanted to make sure everyone had the skills to design custom-designed parts for their VEX Robotics kits.  

While the number of participants in that workshop was unusually large, it is representative of the hundreds of workshops we’ve taught in for-credit classes at the invitation of professors since 2017. So far we’ve taught almost 20,000 workshop participants in for-credit classes compared to just over 7,000 who participated in drop-in makerspace workshops.

One of the primary objectives of our makerspace is to provide hands-on making experiences to as many students as possible. That said, offering makerspace workshops through for-credit courses was not something that we planned for, but luckily it happened organically. From our opening day, we made our workshops available to all students, staff and faculty, which turned out to be one of the best decisions we made.

Two months after opening our doors, a professor took our 3D Design & Print workshop and then asked us if we could lead the workshop for his EdTech class. Of course, we said yes! This was the first workshop we embedded in a for-credit class, and it opened our eyes to the benefits of partnering with professors, and we help them solve at least two problems:

  1. First, we help their students acquire skills that the professor didn’t feel “expert” enough to teach on their own, often in the service of alternate format assignments, which have become very popular with the advent of Generative AI tools.
  2. Second, we offer to teach in-class workshops even when the instructor is out of town.

We always consult with professors requesting workshops to make sure that our curriculum aligns with their course objectives. We did this for the Robotics class by creating a new tutorial on how to modify VEX parts.

One of the things that we often see in our workshops is that the level of engagement rises noticeably once the active learning portion of the workshop begins. Feedback from students is overwhelmingly positive. Most love the new “high-tech” maker skills they are acquiring.

Here is some feedback from workshop participants:

  • A History professor said, ‘The library makerspace is an exciting venue where my students and I have been exposed to cutting-edge digital tools.’ 
  • A student emailed us saying, “The libraries makerspace workshops are the best-kept secret on Campus!”

While we were fortunate to discover how helpful partnering with instructors can be to increase the reach of our workshops, there have been a few challenges:

  • First, makerspace classroom overscheduling has been a pain point. The main way we avoid overbooking is to run workshops in a professor’s classroom unless makerspace equipment is needed.
  • Second, as the number of workshop requests grew, our instructors eventually ran out of time to take on new workshop requests.
    • One solution was to hire “Graduate Assistants” to lead workshops in their areas of expertise. 
    • Secondly, we asked returning professors if they would like to lead workshops on their own using our curriculum and support.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve taught 20,000 makerspace workshop participants in the past 6 years. Partnering with faculty to embed our workshops in their courses has in large part made it possible to reach so many students, many of whom did not know that there was a makerspace open to them in the library. The positive feedback we receive from both teaching faculty and students makes all the hard work we’ve done worthwhile.”

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