Liv Gjestvang: Women in Technology @ OSU

Have you utilized technology in the classroom? Maybe you took a class poll through Top Hat(link is external), saved money with free online learning materials(link is external) or even used an iPad to complete a lab.  

Liv Gjestvang, the Associate Vice President of Learning Technology for Ohio State’s Office of Distance Education and eLearning(link is external), works on identifying how technology tools can improve student learning outcomes.

As part of our #OSUWomenInTech series, we had a chance to sit down with Gjestvang to learn more about her daily job, how she stays up on industry news and what technology she is most excited about. 

Can you describe your day-to-day job?

A lot of my job is tied to identifying how technology can support student success and student learning. I work with a range of teams who are doing this work in a lot of different ways. But, I think on a daily basis I’m looking at the strategic position of where are we now, where would we like to be, and how can we head in that direction. I specifically oversee the learning environments team, learning systems and integration, learning experience, learning programs and the project management teams within ODEE.

When (and how) did you decide to work in the technology field? 

I went to a public math and science boarding school, so I’ve always been really interested in STEM areas, as well as language. My degree is in English, and I have a background in documentary film. I’ve always done creative work where technology is a piece of it or technology-centered work with a creative piece. My first position at Ohio State was running faculty support and training and I’m actually coming up on my ten-year anniversary here.  A lot of what has kept me at Ohio State, is an incredibly strong, collaborative, smart and creative set of colleagues.

What advice can you give young women who would like to take on a position in the technology field? 

Technology is a really important field that is always growing. The reality is that technology already is and will continue to intersect with every industry. I think it’s also going to be a vital part of addressing some of the most critical problems that we face as a society. It’s important that we have different kinds of people and thinkers working in technology, so we can address those issues from a holistic perspective. Plus, there are so many different ways to work in technology from engineering to communicating to educating and more.

How do you stay up-to-date with new trends in the technology world? 

I have a really strong network of peers from across the country who are doing work similar to the work we are doing here, but with slightly different priorities that are more relevant in their environments. It’s important for me to stay connected to them. Those personal connections allow me to see the larger landscape of challenges and the solutions that people are exploring nationally.

I tend to be most driven by the people side of this work. I am interested in the bigger picture - the political, social, cultural challenges, not just technology trends. I try to look at the challenges of equity and access and how those are being addressed both with and without technology. In thinking about these issues I try not to start with the idea of the technology that is available, but more from the place of, what are some potential solutions to these big problems and how can technology help support those solutions.

What has been your favorite moment/experience from working in the technology field? 

I think my favorite experience has been the spinning up of the Digital First initiative, which started almost four years ago. Mike Hofherr wanted to invest in technology and student education. He asked me to start thinking about this and we quickly hired a team of five people. I loved being able to grow with this team and to design an initiative from the ground up. The work has continued to grow and has now led to a second generation of projects. One aspect of Digital First, for example, which started out with a focus on exploring open educational resources and digital publishing, has turned into a large and significant affordable learning initiative with partners across the university, saving students a million dollars in a year. It has been very exciting to build from the beginning and continue to watch the impact of this work grow.

What has been the hardest part of working in the technology field? 

I think it’s difficult to stay on top of everything that is coming. It’s also challenging to separate out what are, essentially, bells and whistles and what is really transformative. Part of what is exciting about working in technology is that there are always new ideas to explore. For me, I’ve had to come to a place of figuring out what to pursue and what to sit out on. We have to think critically about where we are and where we need to go and how to best drive in that direction.

Is there any technology that you are particularly excited about right now? Why?

I’m really excited about the opportunities we have through learning analytics to better understand which practices help students become more successful at the university. For a long time we have had a good gut sense and anecdotal feedback on what works and what doesn’t. But we are standing on the front end of having a whole new look into really what works and for whom. This will allow us to tailor educational practices to help support the students who need support most.

This feature blog post is part of our #OSUWomenInTech campaign. Hear more stories from female leaders involved in technology at Ohio State by following us on Twitter @TechHubOSU(link is external) and stopping in store to see our digital signage features. Are you interested in getting involved with technology? Don’t forget to check out our Student Developer Kit(link is external) and student project development grant opportunities.