Distance Learning Training and Resources for Educators

Archive for June, 2010

Entering Final Year of Title III Grant – Strides Made in DL

As we enter the fifth and final year of Carteret Community College’s Title III grant I’d like highlight some of the strides we’ve made in distance learning thanks to the Title III Grant coordinated by Project Director Don Staub. The Title III grant has been a primary catalyst for a variety of successful and productive distance learning initiatives over the past 4 years at CCC, helping both faculty and student support services improve and expand upon college wide online services and e-learning teaching skills.

I’m specifically proud of our Title III Distance Learning Pioneer Program which is entering its fifth phase this fall. So far 40 staff and faculty members have participated in this program with 10 more coming on board in August. Our DL Pioneers set goals and objectives for retooling, upgrading and expanding upon their proficiency working and teaching in the online environment.

Black Board Boot Camp Certification Training

We give them the tools, training and technology they need to accomplish their specified goals in addition to fund their course specific professional development needs. This program has led to a variety of exciting online innovations and initiatives over the past 4 years.

Faculty members have been producing online course orientations and video lectures, in addition to creating podcasts and incorporating dynamic rich media into their classes. Staff members like Brenda Long, Mark Johnson and our CAPS Advising Center have set-up blogs for reaching out to students in both financial aid and counceling and both produced videos that explain to students the services they offer in their respective departments. The Distance Learning Department has created it’s own You Tube Channel that acts as a repository for all it’s training and faculty videos. We also have our own CCC Itunes U web presence for distributing all podcasts (dl training and instructional) to students and faculty. This can be accessed on the main page of the college Blackboard site.

Title III funded our Instructional Technologist position and enabled us to hire Pre-Ah Hill who has been instrumental in coordinating and developing so many of our professional development initiatives. She has also worked “one on one” with over 50 faculty and staff over the past 4 years.

In addition to the Dl Pioneer Program Title III enabled our department to pilot an Online Tutoring service for students and after 2 years of supporting this important service to students it has been handed over to our Academic Support department. Kimberly Johnson now oversees online tutoring and learned some new skills for working with students online as a DL Pioneer this past year.

Soon after being awarded the Title III grant the distance learning department initiated its Blackboard Boot Camp which has become a model for training faculty on Blackboard statewide.

Every faculty member at CCC including all adjuncts have been through this 7 hour certification training program. Title III enabled us to pay adjuncts to attend this training and purchase digital recorders and headsets for faculty to use to record their lectures for instructional podcasts.

We’ve also been able to fund a cross section of our faculty and staff to attend regional and national distance learning conferences and workshops. The training our faculty have received in the DL Pioneer program has given some of them the confidence and expertise to be presenters at the conferences. Mary Walton, Laurie Freshwater, James Minor, Johnny Underwood and Carla Williams are some of our DL Pioneers who have presented at either national or regional Distance Learning conferences. The Title III team (Don Staub, Pre-Ah Hill and myself) have also presented at a variety of professional development conferences.

Title III played an integral part in our online course QAP Peer Review process. Over the past 2 years over 100 online courses have been peer reviewed and upgraded to meet the standard established by the QAP. I’m proud to say that Distance Learning at CCC received 0 recommendations from our recent SACS visit and even were given some positive feedback from the visiting SACS team.

The DL Department with the approval of the CCC Board of Directors wanted to establish a back-up plan for online courses and blackboard specifically so we initiated a Moodle training program (train the trainer) and over the past year we set-up a Moodle instance with Remote Learner funded by the system office of the Community College system however Title III funded our Moodle training program and the migration of 10 courses from Blackboard to Moodle. Carteret Community College now has 10 faculty members that have experience with moodle and could train the rest of our faculty if the need to move to another CMS ever arises.

Once we got the faculty trained we realized it was just as important to provide training to our students to become better online learners so we developed our Successful Online Learning workshop that we offer to students at the beginning of each semester. Over 200 students have attended this the past 2 semesters and we also put all the resources and tips online so students can access it if they can’t attend the actual workshop.

This past year we established a policy that all CCC courses have a course blackboard (web presence) and utilize the electronic grade book in Blackboard. This took training all our traditional classroom instructors including adjuncts and Title III played a role in seeing that this initiative was successful. We were able to pay our adjuncts to attend this training with Title III funds. At the end of the Spring semester all CCC courses submitted their Blackboard grade books electronically and we now have an electronic repository of all Spring 2010 grades. This will be SOP from now on at CCC.

Yes…the Distance Learning Department with the help of Title III has certainly contributed to taking CCC to a higher level of proficiency with online learning. My goal for the coming year is to challenge every faculty member at CCC to expand upon what they have learned and begin developing their individual teaching methodologies that seamlessly and fluidly help them weave between classroom environment to the online environment.

After all….its all about teaching and learning. We as educators have such incredibly powerful and sophisticated tools to impart our course material to our students and assess that they are comprehending the course content.

This brings me to the core of my thoughts on teaching and learning in 2010. Essentially I believe the attributes required to be an effective teacher are still the same as we enter the next decade of this new millennium.  Great teachers are creative, innovative, passionate, enthusiastic and show sincere interest and comprehension of their respective subject area.  Students on the other hand have changed over the past 10-15 years and this evolution has come about in part because of rapid advances in technology and cyber culture.

Now here’s the rub.  I believe teachers (at all grade levels) have to do a better job mastering the new and powerful tools (technology) at their disposal for CONNECTING with (and engaging) their students.  The attributes for great teachers is the same BUT the tools we use for teaching have changed and become much more technologically sophisticated. This is our challenge heading into the next decade. We can’t let the technology get in the way of our teaching!

The bottom line here (in my opinion) is that teaching tools (technology) have changed dramatically, but the skills and attributes needed for being excellent teachers and effective learners remain relatively the same.  Both students and teachers must harness (embrace) technology for both teaching and learning to the point where it becomes intuitive. The days of the chalk board and overhead projector are over and have been replaced with sophisticated course management systems.

I’m excited about the coming year and the challenges facing me as an online teacher and Distant Learning Director. In reality this is not all that complicated.  The Industrial Revolution is over and that instructional model is just about dead and buried.  As I state at the beginning of all my distance learning workshops;  The easy part is becoming proficient and confident with technology – the real challenge for both teachers and students is using it to its fullest potential for both teaching and learning. 

In the coming year I plan on initiating a series of webinars that are given by our veteran DL Pioneers on a whole range of online teaching Best Practices and offer these to the college at large. We have accomplished a great deal in 4 years thanks to Title III however we still have more to do on the distance learning front at CCC.

Something for all DL Faculty to think about……