“Be Responsive”: Leading Innovation For Transition And Transformation

by Judith Sebesta, Ph.D., Executive Director, DigiTex

Recently, I was asked by the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies for the monthly meeting of their Consortia/System Leadership Group, of which I am a part, to share stories of recent faculty development initiatives at our member colleges and at DigiTex. I put out a call to our colleges and received a veritable banquet of responses from leaders eager to showcase the amazing, often innovative and, at this time, ever urgent, work of their colleagues to support students during this pandemic. I am pleased to share a taste of those stories here!

Alamo Colleges District/Palo Alto College

Julie McDevitt, Director of the Teaching & Learning Center, Palo Alto College, pointed to the treasure trove of resources, including webinars and video tutorials, available to faculty at all colleges in the district through Alamo Colleges Online at their Keep Teaching website.

At Palo Alto College specifically, the Teaching & Learning Center that she leads, and other departments, have been engaged in many development opportunities for this summer and into the fall, some of which include:

  • Basic and Advanced Zoom
  • Basic and Advanced Canvas
  • Tools and Examples of Online/Remote Group Learning
  • Tools for Faculty- and Student-Created Videos
  • A refreshed version of their ‘Introduction to Online Course Development’ training, part of the Online Certification process for faculty
  • Faculty-Led OER Certification
  • A refreshed version of their O-Learn course for students

Grayson College

Todd Ellis, Director of Teaching and Learning and Canvas LMS Administrator at Grayson College, shared: “My favorite thing that I’m doing is a Canvas course for teachers on how to use the Hypothesis online social annotation tool. I have also scheduled webinars with Hypothesis. Hypothesis allows collaborative, highlighted student annotations on pdfs within an LMS. It turns reading into a social experience. The quality of student written responses has been stunning, actually.” Grayson College is a Hypothesis pilot school.

Lee College

Dr. Laura Lane-Worley, Social and Behavioral Sciences Faculty, Distance Education Coordinator, and Social Work Faculty Advisor at Lee College, described the urgent work they began at the start of the pandemic that likely was similar to activities at other DigiTex colleges at that time: “In March, our Blackboard Administrator, our Quality Matters (QM) Faculty Coordinator, and I used the week that was the ‘extra spring break for students’ to conduct emergency training both face-to-face and through WebEx. The three of us conducted 22 sessions that week which consisted of Blackboard Basics, Blackboard Advanced, and Blackboard Collaborate with online best practices woven in. In addition, we asked a number of our QM Teaching Online Certified Faculty to support faculty in the conversion of face-to-face courses to online or remote learning.”

Since that time they have conducted trainings focused on Blackboard tools and features; using WebEx and Collaborate, proctoring technologies, YouTube, and other platforms; and student support and library services, among others. These are being delivered to a wide range of trainees, including faculty who had never used Blackboard!

The college has required all faculty who will be teaching in fall 2020 to attain a teaching online certification. Faculty who are not currently QM Teaching Online Certified, who do not have some other nationally recognized online certification, or who have not taken the Lee College Online Certification course in the last three years are mandated to take the Lee College Teaching Online Certification course developed by Dr. Lane-Worley and a colleague. A member of the DigiTex-led Texas Quality Matters Consortium, Lee College has taken extensive advantage of the resources that TxQMC offers.

Navarro College

Matt Miller, Dean of Online Instruction at Navarro College, reported extensive efforts supporting the use of Canvas, including:

  • Immediately prior to their shift to ‘modified instruction’ (right around Spring Break), they conducted a series of two-hour “Canvas Crash Course” workshops. Here is a recording of one of these sessions.
  • They created and launched a Canvas site called Resources for Transitioning to Online Learning.

Additionally, with his Instructional Design Consultant, Dean Miller established the Virtual IDEA (Innovation, Development, Engagement, & Access) Center every day for an hour. This virtual Office365 Teams room invites faculty to drop in and get assistance with their courses or just visit. And this month, they launched a series of 60-minute workshops called “Tuesdays@Two” — as Dean Miller put it, “held each Tuesday at, you guessed it . . . 2 p.m.”

His motto throughout this has been “’BE RESPONSIVE,’ and I’ve encouraged our faculty to do the same.”

Ranger College

According to Dr. Matt Cardin, Vice President of Accreditation and Institutional Effectiveness, SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison, and DigiTex Coordinator at Ranger College, much of their efforts have been focused on expanding use of Open Educational Resources (OER). Dr. Cardin stated, “Beginning this fall, we’re switching to Lumen Learning textbooks and course materials for a large swath of our offerings. That means electronic textbooks and associated materials will be integrated right into our LMS, and the assessments, study materials, and other features that Lumen develops and provides to enhance the free OER material that they base their course packages on will help with consistency of the online course experience for students across the institution.” They are holding online implementation workshops, hosted by Lumen, for all faculty, and their Instructional Division Chairs will be working closely with division faculty members throughout the upcoming academic year to ensure that they are “making the most intelligent and beneficial use of the product for our students.”


Like Ranger College, we have focused our efforts to assist in faculty development on OER, creating Texas Learn OER, a set of openly licensed professional development modules for faculty, staff, and administrators. We anticipate launching the training in August of this year, so stay tuned for more information!

Kudos to the innovative leaders, their teams, and their colleges featured here. Clearly, not only are they transitioning in response to this challenging time, but they are working to truly transform the way they support students, a transformation that can lead to lasting change for the better!