By Sheri Prupis, VCCS Director of Teaching & Learning Technologies
Since March, when COVID-19 forced the sudden shutdown of our campuses statewide, instructional designers at our colleges have worked tirelessly to help migrate thousands of courses into online formats. Their training programs have touched more than four thousand faculty members, helping them to think differently about teaching and learning as required with online instruction, Canvas, Zoom, and educational methodology skills such as creating and using objectives, assessments, and rubrics.
These instructional designers are members of the VCCS’s E-Learning and Educational Technologies Committee, also known as eLET.
There are dozens of talented designers on the job for our colleges. I’d like to spotlight the work of three of our dedicated eLET members:
As chair of eLET, Page Durham, instructional designer at Germanna Community College, leads the efforts for instructional designers at all 23 of our colleges.
Often after the pandemic hit, Durham and her GCC colleague Forrest Smith worked many 15-hour-plus days, creating trainings, tutorials, and Zoom sessions. Sessions were given to staff to help them build their new online work environments and how to best use the tools that they were provided.
Durham created an entirely online method to allow students to submit forms for “Incomplete,” no small feat during the pandemic-disrupted spring semester. This seamless online process allowed for approval and feedback throughout the path to the registrar. As close to 500 incomplete forms were processed, numerous hours were saved as a result of her innovative and timely response to this need.
Durham also provided leadership in developing the academic continuity of operations plan template that was shared throughout the state.
Miriam Basinger, the Instructional Designer from Blue Ridge Community College, spearheaded system-wide training for ZOOM, training hundreds of faculty how to make the online platform more engaging and productive for the student learning experience.
I asked Basinger to offer her thoughts on the hectic spring and summer of 2020, and here’s part of what she said:
“The lessons I have learned through this experience are the importance of continued faculty training. It takes a village; we found the most effective training method is to offer online training to the entire VCCS community.
“The eLET committee develops workshops addressing best practices using Canvas and pedagogy strategies for online learning. Finally, and most importantly, success depends on developing the skills of patience and persistence. In every training session I held with our faculty I reassured them that they were not alone, that we would be available to them.
“This was followed up by having open Zoom sessions where I could answer their individual questions. Our transaction was remarkably seamless because we worked as a team to accomplish our goals.”
Terri Milroy is Southside Virginia Community College’s Coordinator for Education Technologies, and also serves as one of the several trainers for eLET. So when the stay-at-home order was issued, Terri had to find a way to train not only her own faculty who were not normally online instructors, but also assist in training several thousand faculty across the state in similar situations.
“The first three weeks were really pretty brutal,” Milroy admitted. “I worked 15 hour days Monday-Friday, and 8-10 hours Saturday and Sunday. I had three or four trainings I was either teaching or moderating via Zoom Monday through Thursday – some just for Southside, and many for the state as a whole – and usually two trainings on Fridays. Then there was still all the regular work, emails to answer, etc.”
All in all, Milroy says the hasty move to online was a test, but one that provided many valuable lessons. “We need to plan better, train better, and create safety nets for our students and staff in case something like this happens again. I think my colleagues and I acquitted ourselves pretty well, despite the insane hours and the stress. But what I hope we all learned is that the stress could have been avoided, to some extent, by better preparation. That’s where I hope the focus is going forward … serving our students well, no matter where we are teaching from.”
To learn more about eLET, click here.