AC NEWS


Center for Teaching and Learning leads shift to remote environment

by Joe Wyatt
Published April 8, 2020

Amarillo College’s swift and fruitful migration to a remote learning environment rightly will be remembered as a quintessential team effort, a project rife with the fingerprints of stakeholders from every corner of the academic landscape.

Michaela Dodson

However, any notion that the transformation might have been a success without the tireless efforts of staff in AC’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) – particularly given the fleeting two weeks allotted for the changeover – is wholly inconceivable.

 

“They’re the women and men holding us together,” said Dr. Jacob Price, assistant professor of biological sciences.

 

“They’re our backstage heroes,” insists Dr. Tamara Clunis, vice president of academic affairs. “I’ve been in contact with many other colleges that really struggled with this process. I’m not saying it was easy because it was not, but our CTL team made it look easy.”

 

The CTL is comprised of curriculum designers Dr. Lori Petty and Michaela Dodson; Richard Stephenson, manager of Blackboard support services; and Heather Voran, faculty development coordinator.

 

All of them sacrificed their spring break to begin spearheading the massive conversion to tech-supported learning, which is not to be confused with mere online learning.

 

“One reason we’re ahead of the curve is because our College leadership wisely placed pedagogy ahead of technology – they thankfully directed us to prioritize tech-supported learning over online learning,” Voran said.

 

Dr. Lori Petty 2   Copy

"Rather than just throwing information online, we’re using as many interactive tools as we can – Zoom, Google Meet, Blackboard Collaborate, Vidgrid, and Remind – to ensure students are learning the content face-to-face in real time, while providing our faculty with plenty of options.”

 

Another key to AC’s successful transition has been the diligence and zeal of curriculum-design specialists Dr. Lori Petty and Michaela Dodson. They had only two weeks to bring faculty up to speed on the many remote-learning platforms.

 

While Voran concentrated on writing tutorials to support the videos she and her team developed to enlighten and support faculty, Petty and Dodson conducted extensive research on interactive strategies for remote teaching.

 

The design duo also proofed and edited content for faculty, coached them individually on use of the platforms and, like Voran, led numerous virtual group workshops to prepare faculty to succeed in the remote environment.

Richard Stephenson   Copy

 

“I am most proud of the way our faculty embraced the challenge to support us (CTL) and each other with ideas, strategies, and resources to keep students engaged and learning in this tech-supported learning environment,” said Petty, who created many of the resources that CTL put forward.

 

“Overall, the transition has gone well. Of course, there are glitches, technology issues and course-design choices that don’t go as planned, but nothing we have not been able to overcome.”

 

As if they don’t have enough to do, both Petty and Dodson also take turns as volunteer staff in AC’s technology center, The Underground, which continues to serve students on the Washington Street Campus.

 

“The week before spring break I asked my team to give up their vacations, work through the weekends and basically be on call 24/7,” said Becky Burton, associate vice president of academic affairs, who oversees the CTL.

 

“They have all done more than I could have ever imagined in a very short amount of time. They truly are my heroes.”

 

Heather Voran   Copy

Many other “backstage heroes” helped pave the way to the successful migration. In addition to CTL’s own Stephenson, who is invariably focused on administering the learning management system, Blackboard, AC’s effort was enhanced by contributions from Library staff and AC’s Information Technology Department.

 

“We all felt overwhelmed at times,” Voran said. “It was exhausting, but we had to understand that our teachers were exhausted, too. Fortunately, we have a passion for this kind of work, so we just keep plugging away.

 

“And Becky (Burton) is the best boss on the face of the earth. She’s not only led us, but she’s been down in the trenches, too, never asking us to do something she wasn’t willing to do herself.

 

“I feel very good about where we are today.”

 

PHOTOS: Members of the CTL team, in descending order, are Michaela Dodson, Dr. Lori Petty, Richard Stephenson, and Heather Voran.


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