Gail Rankin1Gail P. Rankin, Director Faculty Support Services, Salem State College (Salem, Massachusetts)

Initially, when I joined the Blackboard Exemplary Course Program, I thought the process was a bit intimidating.  The ECP rubric was new to me.  (View it as a PDF here.)  And it contained topics I hadn't really considered before, when looking at courses.  Before participating in the program, I mostly had looked at just course design.

The program seemed like such a great opportunity, however, and certainly not one to pass up, so I encouraged faculty members at Salem to join the program with me.

Participating was a terrific experience for me, for the faculty and for our school.  I met more faculty members on this campus and some from other locations.  The ECP process spawned discussions amidst the faculty, about the rubric itself and course size, and other larger pedagogical concerns they held, about using technology in the curriculum.

These conversations transcended our little group and moved to bigger arenas at our school, which led to the creation of specific workshops about teaching online and engagement.  And we weren’t the only ones at Salem who enjoyed participating in the Exemplary Course Program.  Word spread and others asked us how they could participate the following year.  Now don't get me wrong: along with the discussions and fun, we had work to do in the program.

The training offered by the ECP directors to program participants is helpful to get your bearings in the review process and begin, so don't miss it.  (Training, I'm told, will occur again in January.)

At Salem we’ve developed a further process for reviewing courses in the program that works well for us.  The courses we receive to evaluate are reviewed by each participant individually.  We then gather in a conference room on campus, with a projector and food, and review the courses together.

That process isn't quick; we usually take one to two hours per a course.  But I’m amazed by how differently reviewers take apart and evaluate the same course.  We can interpret statements made by the submitters and programs so differently.  We also debate topics within the ECP rubric.  And, although we definitely disagree at times, we laugh and together see a richer view of the courses and their different aspects than one would be able to have while reviewing courses alone.

To learn more about the 2009 Exemplary Course Program, visit the ECP site.  I encourage you to join, and to encourage peers at your school to join with you.

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