A decade ago, when Trevecca began offering online programs, the University was among the first institutions of higher education in the region to do so. Over the years, Trevecca officials have continued to invest in online—and a big part of that investment comes in the form of the Center for Innovative Instruction (CII).
Established in 2014, the CII was designed to provide technology and training that would help Trevecca faculty members deliver class content in innovative ways, whether that was in traditional, face-to-face courses or those taught entirely online. The Center now employs five full-time instructional designers and two online support specialists, all of whom help Trevecca faculty members create online courses across a variety of subjects and programs.
“Content comes first,” said Lametrius Daniels, director of the CII, describing the process of creating an online course. “We focus on the content and show faculty how the technology can be used in instruction.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Trevecca boasted more than 1,500 fully online students, mostly enrolled in programs in the School of Graduate and Continuing Studies. Add traditional undergraduate students who have taken advantage of online course offerings, and that number jumped to 1,759.
Figure in the shift to remote instruction when COVID-19 made in-person classes unwise, and the number increased even more, to just over 4,000.
As the virus forced all of Trevecca’s courses to move to remote, online instruction, Daniels and her team swung into action. The CII staff offered three days of intensive training to help faculty members convert courses designed for the physical classroom to a digital learning format.
“The first day was strictly focused on video and how to utilize live sessions as well as asynchronous video for recording lectures and having students record presentations,” Daniels said. “The second week, we had a two-day training on creating engagement. We ask faculty to use different tools that help students feel more connected and help build community while they’re in the class.”
In the span of about a week and a half, Trevecca faculty members, with the help of the CII team, converted more than 300 traditional undergraduate classes and some 200 face-to-face courses in the School of Graduate and Continuing Studies. It was a moment Daniels and her team felt well prepared for.
“We’ve already started developing our face-to-face instruction on using our learning management system and training all faculty that Blackboard, our learning management system, is one of the things they can use for instruction,” Daniels said. “We also introduce them to our instructional designers. Our department is here for them to help them connect with the new generation of students who are coming to the University and prepare them on what to expect in the workforce.”
Each instructional designer in the CII is assigned to a specific department or program and works closely with faculty members in those areas.
“Basically, I like to say we have a white-glove concierge type of service,” Daniels said. “I don’t want to use the same buzzwords that other industries do, but that’s what we do. We really work with faculty to give them a service that helps them feel empowered as we develop the content. We really focus on course development.”
Since the Center’s inception, the staff has provided numerous training opportunities to faculty members, ranging from sessions on how to engage students in the learning process and how to use technology for instruction to specific technologies faculty members can use in digital or remote learning settings.
“We have a technology called the lightboard that allows faculty to record their lectures when they are using different graphs and images that they want to put emphasis on in their teaching environment,” Daniels said.
Each semester, Daniels and her team offer focus-based training that’s centered on specific technologies faculty members can use in their teaching. The CII also sponsors a Faculty Showcase, where faculty members teach their peers about how they’re using technology in their own courses, and Digital Learning Day, an annual event held in conjunction with the Waggoner Library staff.
“On Digital Learning Day, we showcase technology for teaching and learning to help our faculty think about what’s to come,” Daniels said.
But the work of the CII doesn’t stop there.
Daniels and her team also offer support to faculty members and seek to be a bridge between faculty and ITS, helping communicate faculty needs and what they want to accomplish. In addition, the CII staff also works to ensure that the technologies faculty members use are accessible to all students and that content can be accessed by a variety of platforms.
“We just introduced software that helps to identify the documents, slideshows [and other items] that may need to be updated to be compliant with our universal design rule,” Daniels said. “We know that there is a digital divide when we are using technology for students in different areas, so it’s important we have adaptable content. We advise faculty to ensure that if they provide a presentation, they must make sure it can be accessed by all platforms, like an iPad or a mobile phone. We train faculty on creating accessible content to create an inclusive learning environment for all our students.”
That emphasis on students and creating community doesn’t go unnoticed. Dr. Sam Stueckle, professor of math, says that when COVID-19 interrupted his Spring 2020 classes, the CII staff used their expertise to help him craft remote courses that still provided the interaction his students expect.
“Drew Clausing from CII spent time with me before we started up again after spring break helping me figure out how to use Panopto to record my lectures and how to use Collaborate to hold group office hours,” Stueckle said. “These gave me a very quick jump on getting my classes up and running. He also helped use my new iPad and Apple Pencil to be able to quickly give students answers to their questions with narrated solutions. I have also been able to use these to give solutions to tests and quizzes after they are given.”
Since the pandemic started, the University has continued to find ways to invest in online education from issuing a COVID Commitment to students in the School of Graduate and Continuing Studies to planning a free, online professional development training that will help local K-12 educators better prepare for remote instruction.
Want to know more about the Center for Innovative Instruction? Read this Q&A with Lametrius Daniels.