Cindy Adams has worked in the world of online learning for two decades. It’s a role that’s changed drastically over the years, and even more so when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in the spring of 2020.
“My role has really changed in this job in 20 years,” Adams said. “When I first started, I was managing online faculty services, and now I am the director of online student services, three instructional designers, and the Test Center. I started with a secretary, and now the unit has grown to about eight staff members.”
When the decision was made for students to finish out the spring 2020 semester remotely, Adams and her team were ready.
“I proposed an emergency contingency plan describing how our existing services could help,” she recalled.
With the expertise of instructional designers, MTSU Online helped put together a document detailing the ins and outs of MTSU’s learning management system, D2L, as a guide.
And since not all professors had experience teaching online, instructional designers also developed two courses for faculty, a Remote Instructions Standards course, and an Online Instructors Certification course.
Since last spring, nearly 1,000 faculty members have participated in the two courses.
“Remote isn’t anything like online learning. They use the same tools, but our online faculty go through stringent training. They’ll work with an instructional designer to get their courses developed; they go through a mentoring process, a peer review, and chair approval before the courses are allowed on the schedule, so we have all these quality guidelines in place. We had such a short amount of time to get everything remote,” she said.
While the goal was to make sure professors knew there were resources available to help with the transition from in-person to remote classes, Adams said the instructional designers wanted to help make the process as easy as possible.
“The instructional designers, they’re just great, and they are always willing to jump in and help. We couldn’t have done this without them. The remote thing was challenging, but we got through it,” Adams said.
Besides helping professors transition to the remote classroom, Adams said the online course approval process never slowed down because of Covid-19. She and her team were still working to get new online courses ready for this semester, the summer, and future semesters.
“Carol Hayes, Coordinator of the MTSU Online Faculty Services Unit, is handling an exceptionally large volume of new online course development and redesign proposals. Of course, that is added work for the IDs and Online Faculty Mentors (OFMs), as well,” Adams said.
In her more than 30 years at the university, Adams, who is an MTSU alum, has held positions in admissions, the College of Liberal Arts, the President’s Office, and the Provost’s Office.
“I’ve worked in a lot of different areas, and this (MTSU Online) is the best. It’s really the best. It’s such a diverse group and everybody pitches in. They’re adaptable and flexible, and they just get the job done.”
MTSU Online currently offers more than a dozen fully online degree options and more than 550 courses. More information can be found at MTSU.edu/Online.