WT faculty helping national effort to strengthen online education


CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – As distance learning continues to be an essential educational tool, a group of West Texas A&M University faculty are working through a national effort intending to find better ways to teach online.

WT said instructors are in the midst of a course meant to strengthen online teaching and learning as participants in an initiative of the National Association of System Heads (NASH) and The Texas A&M University System.

In May, NASH announced that TAMUS and three other higher education systems – the California State University System, City University of New York and the University of Missouri System — would collectively enroll faculty in the Association of College and University Educators’ faculty development programs in evidence-based teaching practices.

The University said that the program is designed to help participants refine their online teaching, and is offered through the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE), which seeks to provide high-quality professional development to university faculty that promotes student engagement, deep learning, and persistence to graduation.

“WT faculty have been diligently working on the modules for this specialized program since August and are now at the halfway mark,” said Dr. Amy Andersen, associate provost and campus lead for the project

“The faculty involved in this program have done an outstanding job engaging with the program and each other,” Andersen said. “They have completed projects by applying and reflecting on the new techniques they have learned on top of everything else they are dealing with this semester. They remain enthusiastic about what they are learning and the results when they apply the new knowledge in the courses they are currently teaching.”

The University reported that topics in the first half of the program included helping students persist in online learning, embracing diversity in online courses, and using groups to ensure active online learning. There were 12 modules in the first half of the course, each with a different topic of focus; each module builds on the ideas previously learned.

“The WTAMU Foundation Board is supporting this effort by generously agreeing to provide a development stipend to faculty members working on the project over the 2020-2021 academic year,” said Dr. Todd Rasberry, vice president for philanthropy and external relations.

“The WTAMU Foundation Board is committed to faculty development via a variety of initiatives,” Rasberry said. “Providing support that will enhance the quality of online course engagement is a great investment in the current landscape of higher education.”

Students in the courses these faculty members taught during the fall semester recently completed a survey, reported the University, aimed at evaluating the changes made to courses based on this program. Results will be available early in the spring semester and are intended to demonstrate the effects of using the techniques that were learned in the first half of the course.

“We are hopeful that the student surveys will show that students interacted more and consequently learned more in their online courses in Fall 2020 and that this trend continues into the Spring 2021 semester and beyond,” Andersen said. “We will also be asking members of this faculty group to share what they are learning with others on campus so more faculty and students can also reap the positive effects of the program.”

The University intends to continue this course in the spring semester with 12 more modules including topics such as using data to improve online teaching, designing student-centered courses, and developing self-directed online learners.

“This course in effective online teaching practices is based on more than three decades of research that demonstrates that students in courses with ACUE-credentialed faculty are more engaged in their courses and learn more from them.” writes the University. “Additionally, low-income and historically underrepresented students tend to perform closer to the same level as other students when these effective teaching practices are used.”

WT said that its commitment to building academic excellence through high quality teaching as well as strengthening the online course offerings are a part of WT’s generational plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

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