When it comes to creating a collaborative and dynamic learning environment, having the right resources at the right time makes all the difference. That’s why Houston Community College System (HCCS) joined the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) in 2018.
As a member, HCCS has fully embraced the benefits provided by the OLC, harnessing new technologies in the wake of the pandemic and nurturing a culture of teamwork. Using the OLC’s extensive resources, the college has taken significant strides in advancing online learning, supporting faculty, staff, and instructional designers in enhancing online programs and advancing their professional growth.
Elevating programs through the OLC’s Quality Scorecards
A pivotal aspect of this transformation revolves around the continual improvement of online programs. HCCS has actively facilitated growth among its educators, leveraging the OLC’s scorecard suite — a set of benchmarking tools to identify strengths and areas for improvement in online learning — to evaluate its programs.
HCCS leadership formed a committee comprising instructional experts, faculty, chairs, and deans. Together, the committee members assessed their online curriculum, identified opportunities for growth, and established an ongoing self-assessment process to improve the institution’s online coursework.
Through this committee and the OLC’s scorecards, HCCS has successfully helped its 3,000 faculty members engage in an iterative improvement process, reflecting their commitment to high-quality online education.
Dorsetta Williams, the Center for Teaching and Learning Manager at HCCS, expressed the impact of these scorecards, stating, “The faculty can assess themselves with regard to the online scorecards. It [has been] a great asset to add to our arsenal of tools and services.”
Integrating new skills and technology
HCCS has further enriched the professional growth of its faculty by tapping into the OLC’s extensive resources, which include workshops, cohorts, and professional development opportunities that prioritize community. These interactive sessions enable faculty members to work alongside experts and pinpoint tools that best meet their unique instructional needs. Further, these gatherings give faculty members a chance to share their ideas and brainstorm creative solutions to challenges in online learning.
The skills acquired through these workshops have empowered faculty members to integrate virtual and augmented reality into their classrooms to increase student engagement. Students now have the opportunity to experience practical applications of their studies, bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and hands-on learning. Subjects such as biology, fashion, interior design, and culinary arts have seen significant benefits, allowing students to practice skills and gain realistic experiences online.
HCCS’s integrated approach to continual improvement
By harnessing the resources of OLC and integrating them with their own instructional design expertise and faculty-led professional development academies, HCCS has established a dynamic team laser-focused on addressing educational challenges. Their main goal is to simplify and enrich the academic journey for both students and faculty, aiming for a seamless experience that nurtures growth and learning.
This vision of excellence is brought to life through tangible initiatives. Through initiatives such as their first-year experience programs for new faculty, professional development workshops, colleague connection groups, and faculty showcases, they aim to cultivate resilient support systems within the academic community. The OLC’s resources have played a major role in these endeavors, says Dr. Tim Snyder, Associate Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning Innovation at HCCS.
“The opportunity to work with OLC on our faculty professional development initiative was very impactful,” Snyder says. “OLC’s broad array of offerings and its depth of knowledge in online learning allowed us to provide professional development tailored to our faculty’s needs and interests. We hope to collaborate with OLC on other initiatives in the future.”
Prioritizing communities of practice
Through these instructional design and improvement efforts, HCCS has effectively created a dynamic community of practice. This community promotes knowledge-sharing and innovation while reinforcing its dedication to online learning advancement. The OLC’s offerings have been instrumental in propelling the quality of online programs and fostering a culture of growth.
As HCCS aims to continually enhance professional development for faculty and staff, its membership with the OLC will have a lasting impact on its online programs and processes.