Maisie Caines, a Blackboard Exemplary Course Director and Faculty Development Specialist at College of the North Atlantic, recently spent time chatting with Teri Herron of Delta State University.  Teri received the 2011 Exemplary Course Program Award for her Music in American Culture online course.  So, how does a classically trained opera singer and music historian design and deliver an exemplary online course?  According to Teri, it was a “completely wild ride.”

According to Teri: “We need projects that push us out of our comfort zones, because that’s what I’m asking my students to do every time they enroll in any of my classes.”  When Teri approached Dr. Susan Hines, Director of Instructional Technologies at Delta State, about designing an online course, she asked for no forgiveness.   “I want you to be really hard on me.,”  Teri said, “I would rather work diligently one time and then have something upon which multiple layers can be built.  You know, build a really solid foundation into which you can add or subtract content, add or subtract media, fuss a little bit with your learning modules… but have something really, really good, structurally sound…something that a student climbs into and thinks, WOW!, this person really cared when they put this together for me.”

Through every step of the design process, Teri kept the end user in mind:. “If I was sitting at home at my desk with my computer in front of me, what would be the things that would really help me?  And what would be the things that would make me nuts?”  The design involved consistency in the learning units as well as the concept of a one-stop shopping experience for the learner.  Teri designed the site mindful of the end user: “…They’re never having to hunt for things, it’s all right there, it’s all always the same.  So, every single unit has the same look and feel and every general page has the same look and feel.  Most of my students have never taken an online class before, so let’s not just teach them the information, but teach them how to take an online class.”

For Teri, one of the great benefits to the online environment is the ability to step outside the time constraints of the brick and mortar classroom to allow students to pursue “nuggets” of information that interest them.  Teri believes, “That’s a way for me to make them their own teachers as well, and give them the chance to realize something brand new about music they had never thought about, and let them pursue it on their own if they’d like to… that’s really what we’re hoping for.  We’re hoping to make them interested enough that they start to teach themselves information as well.  All we do, really, as teachers is provide information.  We can’t make anybody learn.  But we can make things that they thought were not interesting, interesting.  And the second you have their interest, they will do more on their own even.  And that’s really something you can do in an online class that’s a little harder to do in person.”

The Exemplary Course Program Award and the recognition at BbWorld 2011 inspired Teri to consider a new career goal.:  “I had no idea these were my colleagues in the Blackboard universe and meeting them and speaking with them, and going to the various meetings, and the talks, and just figuring out what is possible …I never, never thought at this point in my career that I would be really interested in pursuing another degree, but I’m actually seriously thinking about doing at least a certification in instructional design.”

The 2012 Catalyst Awards and Exemplary Course Program is now open and we are accepting nominations through February 29, 2012.

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