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Teaching and Learning Innovation

Teaching and Learning Innovation

11/3/20 8:18 PM
Burke the mascot on a Zoom call
Campus Life Spotlight

Teaching & Learning Innovation

my innovation

It should come as no surprise for anyone to read that the COVID-19 pandemic has upset people’s lives in unprecedented ways. At Berkshire Community College, faculty, staff and students had to reimagine the ways they taught, or learned, or delivered incredible support services – remotely.

Fortunately, the College had recently developed a division called Teaching and Learning Innovation, which was serendipitously positioned to help its faculty, staff and students quickly adapt, not only to remote work and learning, but also to thrive long-term in a virtual and online environment.

The dean of this division, Lauren Foss Goodman, had been working with a dynamic team to develop intentional online and hybrid courses at BCC for years – but they had to jump start a number of initiatives in March when the pandemic hit. Her team had to ensure the College could complete the spring 2020 semester remotely – and plan for the longer term options of being virtual for the upcoming summer or fall 2020 semesters as well.

Because our central goal is to support faculty with whatever it is they need to create the best learning experience possible for their students, in many ways, the emergency shift to remote learning was right in line with our goals,” Goodman said. “From the beginning, we knew that our work in the Division of Teaching and Learning Innovation  would, by necessity, need to be both proactive – providing faculty with training for integrating new and emerging technologies or teaching strategies – and reactive – responding to the immediate faculty questions, concerns, and needs that are very much a part of the teaching process.”

An example of a proactive learning experience that the division facilitated for faculty was the winter 2020 Multimedia Creation “Boot Camp,” which ran two sessions of a day-long, intensive training for faculty on creating multimedia for their courses (for example, narrated lectures or short video demonstrations). In total, 30 faculty took time out of their winter break to participate in these intensive workshops. This proactive work on the College faculty’s part was important when it came to being as prepared as possible for the upcoming pandemic and shift to remote instruction.

The mission of the Division of Teaching and Learning Innovation is to support faculty in creating rigorous, equitable, engaging learning experiences for all BCC students. The primary areas of work are in:

  • academic technology, with an emphasis on high-quality online and hybrid course development;
  • facilitating ongoing in-house professional learning opportunities for faculty;
  • assisting in funding external faculty professional development experiences;
  • supporting classroom-based assessment; and
  • facilitating new faculty orientation and onboarding.

The division accomplishes its mission through the Center for Teaching and Learning Innovation (CTLI), a dynamic group of staff and faculty who focus on the areas above and, most importantly, serve as an ongoing resource available to every faculty member at BCC.

Even though we didn’t know exactly what we were preparing for – a global pandemic and need to very quickly adapt all of our classes for remote delivery – we’ve always wanted BCC faculty to feel prepared for the unexpected,” Goodman said. “The best and worst parts of teaching are always the unexpected moments, and our philosophy has always been that we exist to help faculty accomplish their own goals, as each professor knows what’s best for their course, discipline, and students.”

In order to succeed, the CTLI had to be flexible, nimble, and responsive to the needs of its faculty, staff and students. The College is fortunate to have the following talented people on this team:

  • Lauren Foss Goodman, as mentioned previously, has worked at the College for five years, initially as the Director of Teaching and Learning (2015 – 2019) and then Dean of Teaching and Learning Innovation (2019 – present). 
  • Janet Collins serves as the Moodle Administrator and Administrative Assistant to the Division of Teaching and Learning Innovation. Collins has worked at BCC for 38 years and is an expert in Moodle, BCC’s Learning Management System, and all its “quirks.”
  • Tattiya Maruco is the Coordinator of Instructional Technology and Design. Maruco’s position is new to BCC (created in December 2019), and Maruco herself has been adjunct faculty in Psychology and Communications at BCC for just over two years.
  • Stacy Evans, Professor of Sociology, is a senior faculty member and is the inaugural Faculty Lead for the CTLI. As Faculty Lead, Evans supports all areas of the Division’s mission, and brings the unique and essential perspective of a veteran faculty member.
  • This past summer and fall, the College was fortunate to have an amazing team of Faculty Mentors - Gina Foley; Nell McCabe; and Chris Laney - who are working with the CTLI to assist faculty in online and hybrid course development, as well as provide ongoing support for the many opportunities and challenges that come with teaching in new ways.

“And, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a huge shout-out to Christian Tenczar, BCC’s Coordinator of Academic Computing,” Goodman added. “Christian provides technology support for students, and oversees the Digital Commons. He is also the creator of BCC’s awesome Knowledge Base, where students, faculty and staff can find step-by-step guides to common technology questions.”

When the College needing to rapidly shift to fully remote instruction in March 2020, the CTLI team worked around the clock to create video tutorials for faculty about the essentials of Moodle and online teaching; Maruco created a “Keep Teaching” website to house these materials and link to external resources; they designed a week-long offering of workshops and discussions for faculty over Spring Break as they prepared their courses; and, of course, they made themselves available to react to the individual needs of the College’s 54 full-time and 88 adjunct faculty.

“At this point in time, we were fortunate to have Stacy in the Faculty Lead role, but had not yet created the Faculty Mentor position,” Goodman said. “From March 2020 to the beginning of June 2020, between myself, Tattiya, Janet, and Stacy, we logged just over 600 unique interactions with faculty. We also supported the very quick integration of Zoom and Big Blue Button, two relatively new tech tools for BCC, to support synchronous interaction between instructors and students.”

While working at lightning speed and with unimaginable responsiveness to help faculty adapt their courses for a remote environment half way through the semester, the CTLI was also very intentionally designing a proactive summer 2020 Online & Hybrid Course Development workshop for faculty. The CTLI ran two sessions of this course development workshop, and each participant also worked one-on-one with their Faculty Mentor.

The summer workshop was designed as a fully online, intensive course that faculty completed over four weeks. Forty-seven full-time faculty developed at least one course in a new modality, and participated in the workshop, as well as 26 adjunct faculty.

Although it wasn’t the summer that any of us had been anticipating, we are proud of the work we did to help our faculty prepare for a mostly online fall 2020 semester,” Goodman said.

New this year were also the Faculty Mentors, who are experienced online and hybrid faculty members at BCC. The Faculty Mentors work individually with faculty to help them design their courses, a process which often involves finding solutions for discipline-specific challenges. “Through a series of discussions, we help them develop their vision using the best teaching practices, looking carefully at what will help provide a good learning experience for all students,“ Stacy Evans said.

Evans’s approach to teaching online or hybrid, which she shares with other faculty, involves first figuring out what the students should be able to do with the material in the course after they have left the classroom. “Once I figure that out, I try to design learning experiences (groupwork, discussions, small and large assignments, and lectures) that help students understand the material and give them a chance to use it.”

Evans added that through her work as Faculty Lead, she can see that the CTLI, at its core, is designed from a student-centered perspective. The professional development for faculty is designed to help them best engage with one another and course material so that students can understand the basics, the depths, and the deeply satisfying ways that it can become a part of how they think.

As a Faculty Mentor, I was able to work one-on-one with other faculty to answer specific questions and work with them to develop their courses,” Nell McCabe, Professor of English said. “Sometimes this meant working on technical elements, but there’s a lot more to moving a course online than just learning the technology – so often our conversations were around how to bring the teaching and learning elements that faculty care about most into the online and hybrid space.”

McCabe continues, adding: “The Online and Hybrid Course Development Workshop that the CTLI team put together was incredible, but there was a lot to learn. My mentees seemed to really appreciate the one-on-one time and attention as they made their way through all of the content and thought through the many pedagogical decisions they would need to make to move their classes online or into a hybrid model.”

From pivoting in the spring to fully remote, to providing proactive teaching-related professional development opportunities, to reimagining faculty support models through mentorship  founded in the central goal of creating dynamic learning experiences for students– the CTLI demonstrates the College’s ongoing commitment to learning for students and also faculty.. It is made up of committed faculty and staff who lean in to support their students and one another. The team has laid an impressive groundwork to ensure faculty and student success – so much so that this spring semester, excluding Nursing courses, 93% of classes will be online, hybrid, or remote. As the CTLI looks out and imagines a time when the pandemic is over – its mission will remain the same.

“I want the CTLI to continue to create teaching and learning resources that others can freely use, and for BCC to be recognized for our work in equitable technology-mediated teaching and learning experiences for all students. More than anything, no matter what course or instructor or modality, I want every BCC student to always know that they are valued, and wanted, and are very much at the center of everything we do,” Goodman said, adding:

And, most importantly, I am so, so, so proud of each and every one of our faculty members. BCC faculty - all BCC faculty - are incredibly talented and committed to student success. We would not have been able to do what we did this past spring and summer - all of the hours, stress, and emotional up’s and down’s - if we weren’t consistently witness to the sincere care our faculty have for our students.”