Making Virtual More Valuable

NMC Leads In Effective Online Instruction

steve-drake.jpgMath instructor Steve Drake (left) has 55 years of experience standing in front of a classroom, but the spring 2020 semester threw even NMC’s most senior faculty member a curveball.

“It’s all been face-to-face until spring semester,” said Drake, 78.

Mark DeLongeMark DeLongeNevertheless, he was game for the challenge of teaching college algebra and calculus 3 online. He got a few essential tips on using Moodle, NMC’s online learning system, from instructional technology specialist Mark DeLonge, and dove in.

“I got through it. It was a brand-new experience. I learned a lot myself,” said Drake, who was pleasantly surprised to note more students did their homework than he sees in his face-to-face classes.

With online instruction a key component of NMC’s fall semester plan, the two-time winner of NMC’s Faculty Excellence award used the summer to improve. Drake is among more than 100 faculty members who enrolled in Teaching Solutions this summer, an NMC professional development course focused on best practices in online instruction, which is incorporated into three out of the four course formats NMC is offering this fall.

“We’re going to be relying heavily on online for the vast majority of our classes. This virus problem is going to continue,” Drake said. “So I’m prepared.”

Teaching Solutions has been around for 10 years and usually draws lower enrollment—just eight instructors in 2019. Simply having the course available, however, puts NMC ahead of many colleges.

Ryan BernsteinRyan Bernstein”We had to ramp up and scale up the effort, (but) thankfully the whole structure of the course was in place,” said instructional designer Ryan Bernstein, who co-teaches the course with DeLonge. “A lot of schools are scrambling to get training in place. We’ve had it for a long time.”

As part of the ramp-up, they deputized four faculty members with online instruction experience to help deliver Teaching Solutions this summer: Janet Lively in communications, Scott Powell in maritime, Tricia Lincoln in fine arts and Sarah Montgomery-Richards in social sciences.

They applaud instructors like Drake, who seek to expand their skill set for the benefit of students. What occurred spring semester, DeLonge said, is “emergency remote teaching.” It typically takes three months to build a course that can stand on its own asynchronously—not tethered to a specific place and time.

That’s what Teaching Solutions is designed to do. As a capstone project, participants create a course in the Moodle system that is assessed against 20 criteria including delivery and instruction, assessment and feedback and technology and learner support.

“Teaching online is different. Content might be the same, but we have to adjust or create new ways to deliver content,” DeLonge said. “We can’t just recreate what (instructors) do face to face.”

Teaching Solutions merges content, in which faculty are the experts; technology, DeLonge and Bernstein’s specialty; and pedagogy, or teaching methods.

“It’s a collaboration,” Bernstein said.

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