Part One – Option 2 – Digital Learning and Leading: Self-Assessment Of Your Past, Present, And Future Leadership
I am relatively new to the Digital Learning and Leading world. About five years ago, I had a major life-shift. My mother was in end-stage emphysema, and I needed to help with her care. I left my job with Communities In Schools of Northeast Texas, a program that works with kids in K-12 identified as at-risk of dropping out of school, helping them to overcome the obstacles that hindered their ability to stay in school. My role with that organisation started as a database administrator, expanded to include grant-writing and fund-raising, and then as an administrator of our after school and mentoring programs. Much of my responsibilities included training the social workers who provided direct services to the children and families in how to use their computers, applications, and ensuring they were kept apprised of all compliance issues with the various funders that supported our program. As a grant-writer, I successfully procured about $18 million in funding over the course of my time there for our program, and several million dollars for other programs of Northeast Texas Community College, including for the development of a LEED Certified Agricultural Complex that opened in 2010. Through this process, I learned that by combining technology and communication skills, one can work magic.
I became certified as a Master Trainer by Communities In Schools of Texas, Inc, in 2006, and at the National Level by Communities In Schools, Inc., in 2007. In 2007, I was also selected Employee of the Year for the State of Texas, a distinction which included a proclamation by the Texas House of Representatives (mirrored by the Texas Senate), and the opportunity to be presented on the House floor. As a Master Trainer, I worked with a team across Texas and the US to develop online training experiences for Communities In Schools staff and board members.
When I left that job to move to Odessa, Texas to care for my mother, I took a position with Odessa College, where I work with faculty in developing online courses and digital learning experiences. My background with Communities In Schools was very helpful, but I felt that I would enhance my skills and abilities by participating in Lamar University’s Digital Learning and Leading program.
I work with an amazing team (there’s two of us) at Odessa College, but what I have seen over these five years is a significant increase in the use of part-time faculty. Odessa, Texas is an interesting community. Located in the West Texas Desert, the Odessa economy is highly dependent on oil production. During times when the oil industry is “booming” the population increases by at least 50%. Housing costs become prohibitive to all those who do not work in the oilfield. I mention this because during these “boom” times, we have such a difficult time finding full-time faculty. When a potential faculty member looks for housing, and finds apartments that start at $1,800 each month, they usually opt to try for a position with a college in a less-cost-prohibitive community. As a result, we have a significantly increased number of part-time faculty that are teaching for us remotely. This means that my co-worker and I are working with more faculty to develop more online classes that can be delivered remotely.
Currently we have a faculty development plan for full-time faculty, however our part-time faculty have never been held to any training requirements. One significant goal that I have for my participation in this program is to develop a plan of development and support for our part-time faculty that can be delivered digitally, through our Learning Management System.
I have been working with the Teaching and Learning Team at Odessa College (which currently consists of one individual) on identifying development expectations for part-time faculty. What is considered reasonable? What sort of activities will they benefit most from? What activities will help our part-time faculty become acculturated to Odessa College? How can I make activities that are short enough for our part-time faculty but still contain the content that is required? To address this, I have begun development of a Blackboard course shell that will house training activities for our faculty (full- and part-time), which I have called our Faculty Support Studio. Using Blackboard’s Adaptive Release feature, faculty will see development and support areas that are relevant to them. Currently I have added general orientation content for new faculty, mentoring areas for both full- and part-time faculty, and a training section over Blackboard called Blackboard 101. Also I am building Quality Course Components (QC2) which will provide faculty with an overview of the template we use at Odessa College, and the guidelines for all of the components that are required in our online classes. This has been developed by researching and reviewing Quality Matters, Blackboard Exemplary Course Rubric, and standards used by several other institutions.
One key feature that will be implemented is the Faculty Mentoring Program. Though full-time faculty have participated in the mentoring program for a few years, now part-time faculty will also be paired with a mentor.
Because so many of the part-time faculty are remote employees, the meetings between mentor and mentee will be conducted digitally, with training resources for both mentor and mentee available in the Faculty Support Studio course shell.
Other training requirements that will be added will include a section on Family Educational Rights to Privacy Act, Digital Learning and Leading: Self-Assessment Of Your Past, Present, And Future Leadership, Incorporating AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) Strategies Into Online Courses, as well as locally developed programs to ensure student success.
Even though I am working through this program in part to enhance my personal skills and abilities, I plan on transforming the way we do things at Odessa College, especially in the online learning environment. I want to see more high quality learning experiences that are available online, to provide learning opportunities to more potential learners who are bound by time and/or distance. By working with our faculty, and helping them to enhance their skills and abilities, especially with regard to technology, I think we will see our online programs grow. Overall, I think that by improving the skills and abilities I have, I will be able to provide professional development opportunities to all of our faculty that will help to ensure that our learners have a positive experience in their courses, whether they are working with a full-time instructor or a part-time instructor. By working in this capacity, I think that I am on track to begin transforming the way that education is done at Odessa College.
Pektovic. D. (n.d.) Close up of two smiling stylish business middle aged women working and having a conversation while sitting in the office one next to another [Photograph]. Licensed through Shutterstock.
Rocketclips. (n.d.) Multi-ethnic friends webcamming on laptop [Photograph]. Licensed through Shutterstock.