Greater Than the Sum of its Parts: The Many Branches of an Online Learning Center

Concurrent Session 2

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Higher Education is changing!  We need to adapt to meet the growing demands for students as well as potential students.  The Brenton Center at ISU has attuned its services to meet the common needs of faculty and students.  This session addresses strategies and operations of a distance education unit.


My name is Casey Smith and I currently work in the Brenton Center at Iowa State University! I received my B.A. in Leisure, Youth, and Human Services at the University of Northern Iowa then an M.A. in Human Services Counseling: Marriage and Family Therapy from Liberty University and then completed an M. Ed. at Iowa State University in Higher Education. I am currently working full time with online students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences while working on finishing my Ph. D. in Higher Education.

Extended Abstract

The session will contain reasonable strategies, effective processes, and overall analysis about the virtues and advantages of having a center that offers full support to departmental faculty and online students.  The audience will have an opportunity to gain knowledge of Iowa State University’s best practices and then apply their own practices or plans to implement support for distance learning through discussion.

               I will present three major parts: brief history of the Brenton Center’s development at ISU, overviews of the four major operations in the Brenton Center, and discussion.  Through the content there will be sharing of knowledge, review of current strategies used at a research institution, and analysis of best practices nationwide.  This will lead to the ability to evaluate organizations based on the presented data and operational processes that are presented in a meaningful way.

               The history of the Brenton Center at Iowa State will include important milestones including idea development, fundraising, construction, first classes offered, and the tricky path of moving from a centralized online service to college-based service within the College and Agriculture and Life Sciences.  I will address the various academic programs that have developed over the past couple decades in the Brenton Center.  The mission of the Brenton Center has developed steadily over time and now includes these points: to enhance teaching and learning in the college, increase state, national, and international access to courses in the college, develop partnerships with Extension, community colleges, industry, and commodity groups, and develop a resource base that will sustain and enhance achievement of the mission.

               The four major operations within the Brenton Center include Student Services and Marketing; Instructional Design, Development and Delivery; Video Services; and Classroom Capture.  Each one of these areas provide indispensable assets to the overall mission of the Brenton Center and online learning.  The Student Services and Marketing operation focuses primarily on the recruitment, retention, and matriculation of online students.  From lead acquisition to graduation, student service representatives assist in every aspect of the student’s interaction with the school.  The Instructional Design, Development and Delivery operation makes sure that each online course is given the proper guidance, support, management, and pedagogical expertise to develop and enhance the student’s experience.  Video Services acts as a high-quality producer of content for marketing, classroom use, and outreach.  They excel in recording, editing, and producing professional video content.  Lastly, our Classroom Capture team provides both mobile and local recording capabilities for instructors to have their content ready for online delivery.  The facilities involved also provide a spot for video conferencing, student defenses, webinars, and live streaming.

               Finally, this session will give an opportunity for other educators and professionals to reflect and voice their own experiences in order to analyze current practices from around the nation.  Discussion will be created to identify hardships and advantages when going the distance in online education.