We don’t always know…

Image by Hans Kretzmann from Pixabay

I still cannot understand how he could abandon me so unceremoniously, without any sort of goodbye, without looking back even once.

— Yann Martel, Life of Pi

We really don’t know what others are going through. Life is not easy, and for some children additional challenges present barriers to success… barriers to social engagement… barriers to happiness.

Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me.

— Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

We need to help our children develop empathy toward others. We need to help them see that they should show kindness in all of their actions.We need to help them connect to each other… to their community… to become a unified team for good. We need to help them see that bullying others cannot be tolerated. Whether in person… in school… at home… in their communities… at play… or online. Where ever they are… where ever they interact with others, they must share kindness and empathy.

As educators and parents, we need to teach kindness and empathy, but more importantly, we need to model those behaviours. Every day. In every way.

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Incorporating kindness and empathy into digital activities will help our youth develop better digital habits, and help them to become better, more productive digital citizens. And helping them to become good digital citizens… good citizens in general… will help them find happy, healthy lives.


Kretzman, H. (N.D.) Child sitting in jeans in the door, crying. [Digital Image]. Retrieved from Pixabay (https://pixabay.com/photos/child-sitting-jeans-in-the-door-cry-1816400/)

Zilles, M. (N.D.) Boy child, sad alone, sitting. [Digital Image]. Retreived from Pixabay (https://pixabay.com/photos/boy-child-sad-alone-sit-1637188/).


On being comfortable with being uncomfortable

I have really enjoyed the videos in the Innovation That Sticks Case Study. I love how the educators in the video represent a variety of ages and backgrounds. I am one of those who was not born a “digital native,” but even though I was not born with the technology, I think I have adapted pretty well. I consider myself a lifelong learner.  I really kind of like change, and honestly have always felt that if my job is not changing and growing… if I am not changing and growing in my job… then maybe it’s time to shake things up.

I like the idea of really embracing the Growth Mindset in academics with our learners, and have been using that (without knowing it until I read Dr Dweck’s book) that I had been doing that with my students for years. I would really like to see more of our educators move to that model, where students have opportunities to learn from mistakes and don’t have to feel penalised by them. By allowing our learners to see that we are constantly learning and growing along with them, we are modeling that learning is and should be a continuous process, helping them to see the relevance in lifelong learning. There should be no place for complacency in the workplace… in schools… in our lives.

The team teaching concept that they addressed in the video seems like it would be a great way to capitalise on strengths. My mind is whirling as I think of how we can accomplish something similar here. I would love to see more interdisciplinary problem based learning activities, and the team teaching approach sounds like the way to get there. I am excited about looking further into that. I also really liked that in the report they discuss Students as Leaders, giving students choices… allowing them to take ownership of their projects… using their voice to effect change… working with authentic learning experiences. The model that they have implemented has students as early as elementary school developing critical thinking and leadership skills, and really taking charge of their education. I really love that.

School of fish, swimming in the same direction

Stiefel, K. (2013). Southern Yellowtail Scad [Photograph]. Retrieved from Flickr.com https://www.flickr.com/photos/pacificklaus/ (CC BY-NC 2.0)

I would love to see more collaboration among the faculty here at this institution, and more opportunities for interdisciplinary problem based projects. I really think we are getting there with the changes we have implemented so far, but the faculty still tend to move like fish in their own schools… rarely venturing out of their comfort zones. Maybe we need to dive in to the big middle of their comfortable little schools and shake things up a little.



EdCan Network Le Réseau ÉdCan. (2016, May 19). Innovation That Sticks Case Study – OCSB: Risk Taking [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAMcjUzdVnE

Stiefel, K. (2013). Southern Yellowtail Scad [Photograph]. Retrieved from Flickr.com https://www.flickr.com/photos/pacificklaus/ (CC BY-NC 2.0)

What Courses Would YOU Redesign for Online Learners?

Every course at Odessa College has an online presence, even if nothing more than the course syllabus and grade book. Most of the courses we offer span 8 week terms, so hybrid/blended formats are very common. But I believe we fall short in preparing our online learners with higher mathematics classes, physics, and engineering. Of course we also have a significant number of Career Tech/Workforce Education courses that are offered as face-to-face courses, requiring hands on experiential learning.

I would personally love to see our higher mathematics courses delivered in an online format; we have many students pursuing some form of engineering in this area. Many of these individuals work full-time jobs in the petroleum industry, and need opportunities that are deliverable online.  Through a partnership with Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC) we are able to provide our learners with opportunities to take courses offered through other Texas Community Colleges as part of a collaborative effort called Virtual Colleges of Texas, or VCT. Most of the requests we receive from students to take courses through VCT are for Calculus I, Calculus II, Calculus III, or Differential Equations. None of these courses are currently offered in an online format at Odessa College. And though in order for the students to be able to take the courses from another college for Odessa College credit the instructor must meet the same criteria of Master’s Degree with a minimum of 18 graduate hours in pure mathematics; the course must contain the same level of rigour that our courses contain, and must include a comprehensive final exam. When students from our institution request the opportunity to take one of these courses, we verify that the student has the appropriate prerequisites in place. But even with these measures in place, our student success rate in these courses is only about 60%.

Yes… there’s hope. One of our higher mathematics instructors is working closely with us to develop materials and learning experiences for these courses, to increase their online footprint. It’s a start.

So with magic want in hand, I would definitely say that I would develop online courses for:

  • MATH 2413 – Calculus I
  • MATH 2414 – Calculus II
  • MATH 2415 – Calculus III
  • MATH 2320 – Differential Equations

I don’t have much control over those courses. But I am really happy to know that one of the instructors is thinking of ways to deliver them online, and I am thrilled to assist him in any way I can.

For the courses that I do have some level of control over…. well, the credit level course that I teach is constantly evolving. I am working closely with the other two instructors of the course to create content that will eliminate the need for the courseware we currently use… courseware that is so costly that it’s prohibitive to many of the learners. I am working to develop simulations through Adobe Captivate that will accompany the open resources we have found that will provide reading material for our learners.

For the professional development opportunities for faculty, I am working with our Division of Teaching and Learning. When the Teaching and Learning Team provides a face-to-face development experience for our faculty, I work with them to develop an online component that is available to our faculty that could not attend the session, especially our remote adjunct faculty. In addition to having the development activity available online, I am creating experiences that they can emulate in their own courses, helping them to see how they can convert learning activities to something that can be presented in an online format.

I am passionate about providing support for our faculty. Passionate about developing online learning experiences. And passionate about ensuring that our faculty and our learners have exceptional experiences online. Learners should never experience feelings of isolation just because of the modality of the course they are taking.

What’s so important about instructional design?

As our institution moves more toward a culture of open pedagogy, I have seen a significant need for our faculty to receive more training and development in instructional design. Our faculty are exceptional as content matter experts, but they may not know how to effectively design a course around those open materials, in a way that is logical for their learners. We are trying to provide our learners with a more cost effective solution to higher education, but our instructors really need some guidance in developing the design skills. What we have seen with our venture into the use of open education resources, is that the content must be organised in a modular way so that the learners have that added layer of structure – the reading material and open resources organised with the assessments that measure learner progress toward learning outcomes.


Engaging Learners – Starting with the End in Mind


Borich, M. (2018). Tour de Ozarks [Photo]. Retrieved from Flickr.com.

To ensure that learners are truly engaged in 21st Century Learning, our faculty need to strengthen the sense of community in the online course.

Workshop: Creating Community in Online Learning.

The Understanding by Design “1-Page Template with Design Questions for Teachers” allows us to plan course development, beginning with the desired results, and working backward through development of appropriate activities and experiences that will allow learners to attain the desired goals and outcomes.

Stage 1: Desired Results

Learners will develop strategies and activities to enhance the sense of community students will feel in their online courses.

Established Goals:
LO1.            Establish a sense of presence in the online learning environment LO2.            Compare/contrast journaling, blogs, wikis and other forms of online interaction that can be used to enhance online learning
LO3.            Examine methods for evaluation of student work in a collaborative environment LO4.            Create and integrate effective communication and community-building methods into online teaching environments
Essential Questions

  • How can we create a sense of instructor presence in a fully online course?
  • What is a learning community?
  • What is the relevance of a learning community in the online learning environment?
  • How can we inspire learner engagement, collaboration, and interaction to create a sense of community in the online environment?

Learners will understand:

  • current trends in higher education with regard to online learning.
  • attitudes of learners with regard to online learning.
  • what is a community of learners, and what are the benefits of developing a sense of community in the online learning environment.
  • how to synthesise learning experiences that encourage and promote learner interaction and collaboration.
What key knowledge and skills will learners acquire as a result of this workshop?
Learners will know

  • current trends and practices in online learning
  • how they can establish a strong sense of instructor presence in the learning environment
Learners will be able to

  • develop activities and experiences that encourage and promote learner collaboration
Stage 2: Determine Acceptable Evidence
Performance Tasks:

Learners will participate in discussion forums in Learning Management System (LMS) and through Social Media

Learners will participate in Reflective Journaling Activities in LMS

Learners will participate in information sharing through Blog posts in LMS, in ePortfolio outside of LMS

Contribute to Wiki repository of resources in LMS

Participate in Synchronous Discussion using Collaborate


Other Evidence:

Blackboard quiz, over getting started strategies (similar to a syllabus quiz)

Participants will develop a Course Communication Policy (submitted via LMS Assignment Dropbox)







Opportunity for Self-Assessment and Reflection

Throughout the workshop, learners will engage in a variety of hands on activities using tools and technology available to them inside of the LMS, and outside of the LMS. These hands-on activities will help them to envision how they can use them to engage with their students in their courses. Learners will develop engaging activities to incorporate into their courses for their students, and will reflect on the processes and strategies used throughout.

Stage 3: Plan Learning Experiences
Learning Activities

Readings (links to PDFs on changing trends in Online Learning provided in module, communication policies, strategies to increase engagement, etc.)

Reading (Links to articles, and PDF readings)

Engagement Activities (Group Activity and Course Wiki, Social Media, Synchronous Meeting through Collaborate)

Reflection (Journal)

Though similarities exist between Fink’s 3 Column Table and the UbD Template (both encourage focus on design with the end in mind), I found that the UbD Template allows the educator to go further into the planning and development process, linking learning strategies, activities and experiences to expected outcomes and goals.

The process I use when planning out a course is more along the lines of the UbD Template; I think of Fink’s 3 Column Table as a good starting place, but UbD Template encourages the instructor to really think about expected/desired outcomes, and how to help learners attain those outcomes. Structuring questions throughout the template helps the instructor to plan learning experiences and activities for assessment.

For Texas institutions of higher education, course outcomes are prescribed by The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). For most courses, instructors are not required to construct their own course outcomes. However, instructors are required to ensure that their course materials, activities and experiences provide learners the tools they need to successfuly acheive those outcomes. With tools like the UbD Template and Fink’s 3 Column Table, we can ensure that we keep expected or desired outcomes front of mind as we are planning out a course. I like to see this taken a step further, encouraging the instructor to think about the timeframe for each course or workshop, and map out a schedule as they are developing their plan.


Borich, M. (2018). Tour de Ozarks [Photo]. Retrieved from Flickr.com

Fink, D., (2003) Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2017). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association of Supervisors and Curriculum Development.

The Competition Educators Are Facing…

This video from Vice News Tonight on HBO explains what life is like in West Texas right now. This is the competition we face as educators. Unfortunately, I can only provide a link to the video here. West Texas Economy – Oil Boom.

According to the video, this region of Texas is experiencing an unemployment rate of almost 0%, with more than 20,000 jobs available. Yes… if you can’t find a job here, you have not looked. But this means that we are experiencing a huge influx of people from all over the world. The housing industry cannot keep up with the growth,resulting in a housing deficit approaching 40,000 housing units.

Young people are lured away from their pursuit of higher education by lucrative jobs in the oil and gas industry, where they can earn more than $100,000 in a year with minimal skills and no education. Schools are overcrowded and low performing. Educators are difficult to attract because the academic world cannot keep up with the rapidly increasing cost of living. The service industry in general suffers; the oil boom causes strain on health and medical care infrastructures, and on the community infrastructure in general. Housing is in short supply, and when it is available it is too costly for someone who earns a teacher’s salary, with median home costs reported at around $350,000.


Blum, J. (2018). Companies needing Permian workers find West Texas a hard sell. Houston Chronicle 2018:06:01. Retrieved from https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/energy/article/Companies-needing-Permian-workers-find-West-12960385.php

VICE News Tonight on HBO. (2018). 22-year-olds are making six figures amid a West Texas oilfield boom [Video]. Retrieved from http://video.vice.com

My Why… How… and What

Quote by Krishnamurti. There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born until the moment you die is a process of learning.

Krebbs, D. (2013). Life Long Learning [Photo]. Retrieved from Flickr.com

Background Information

Odessa College maintains standards of excellence that are not typically seen in other community colleges, based on a conversation with Josh Wyner (founder and executive director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program) on Wednesday 10-October-2018. Success rates of students, graduation rates over three years, and student completion rates are, per Mr. Wyner, among the highest in the nation.

Odessa College requires full-time faculty to engage in professional development activities that at minimum include 4 hours of relevant technology training, 9 hours of relevant career training, and 2 hours of personal enrichment, to ensure that learners have exemplary educational opportunities toward attaining academic success. And though part-time faculty comprise almost two-thirds of our instructional faculty, we do not currently have any requirements for professional development and participation in departmental/institutional meetings for them.

Why –
We believe that all learners at Odessa College deserve exceptional learning experiences regardless of the employment status of the educator.

How – Through leveraging technology, such as Blackboard Learn (the learning management system, or LMS) and Collaborate, we will provide support and training activities for adjunct faculty

What – We will develop a network of support and professional development that will give part-time faculty opportunities to participate in professional learning communities with their peers, and professional development opportunities that will help them improve their skills and abilities.

Implementing Change… From the Heart

Learners at Odessa College deserve exceptional learning experiences. We owe this to our students. For our learners, we have implemented a number of programs that are designed to support learner needs, including Design For Completion, which pairs learners with Success Coaches and Faculty Mentors, and the Drop Rate Improvement Play, which includes the following:

  • Interacting with students by name by the end of the first week
  • Close monitoring of student behavior and progress with immediate intervention
  • One-on-one meetings/frequent communication with students early in the semester
  • “Master of Paradox”: highly structured courses with penalties for missed exams/assignments, but flexible when appropriate.

These programs ensure that our learners are supported throughout their tenure at Odessa College, with guidance and encouragement, tutoring and academic supports, and other supports to help them overcome potential barriers to success.

We spend a great deal of time with new full-time faculty to ensure that they understand these program and are prepared to implement them to provide wrap-around support for all of our learners. This, along with other programs at Odessa College help to ensure that we have drop rates of less than 4% per semester, and success rates (students completing with C or better) that is over 80%.

Full-time faculty receive training in informed practices in pedagogy. They receive training in the use of the LMS and other educational technologies. And they have opportunities to truly become part of the culture of the college and the community we serve. Odessa College also has support for faculty in the form of instructional design and educational technology, through OC Global, and training and support through the Division of Teaching and Learning. Overall, this ensure that our full-time faculty also have wrap-around support to ensure that they have the tools they need to have positive experiences in their classrooms, and that their learners also have positive experiences.

Professional development requirements and participation in departmental and institutional meetings are not imposed on part-time staff. So how can we, as a progressive college that is transforming the way that community colleges are perceived at the national level, justify that the majority of our instructional staff are not required to participate in training, and do not have a voice in organizational and departmental processes?

We know that our part-time faculty are qualified and have exceptional skills in their fields. But how can we ensure that our learners are receiving the same caliber of instruction from our part-time faculty, if the part-time faculty are not required to participate in professional development? Our students need and deserve rich educational experiences and opportunities. And the opportunities that they are experiencing should not be governed by employment status of the instructor. Our learners should not have to wonder if they might have a better experience with a different instructor.

Sense of Urgency

Based on a report provided by institutional research at Odessa College, the average drop rate of our part-time faculty for the 2017/2018 Academic Year was 12%, significantly higher than the 4% of their full-time counterparts. This report also indicates that though our full-time faculty experience success rates (students completing with C or better) averaging almost 80%, that of our part-time faculty hovers around 65%. To ensure that we are providing our learners with the quality education that they need and deserve, we need to implement a network of support and professional development for our part-time faculty immediately, and hold them to similar expectations as our full-time faculty with regard to student completion and success.

As a college that has been identified as one of the top community colleges in the state of Texas by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and one of the best community colleges in the nation by the Aspen Committee, we must act quickly to implement supports for part-time instructors. As Odessa College receives more press on the stellar performance that we have experienced, more agencies and independent organizations will be looking at our data. In order for us to maintain the exceptionally low drop rates (less than 4% annually), high success rates (over 80%), and three-year graduation rates that defy national odds (51%), we must ensure that our students are receiving quality academic opportunities. In order to ensure that our learners have quality opportunities, we must ensure that all of our faculty receive training and support.

To implement the level of network of support and development that is needed to help our part-time faculty adhere to the expectations we hold for full-time faculty, we must first ensure that our part-time faculty participate in training activities that will acculturate them to the Odessa College ways of working with and for our learners. Providing them online opportunities to learn more about the learning management system (Blackboard 101 or Bb101), and the level of course quality we expect in all of our online course shells (Quality Course Components, or QC2) will ensure that they have a basic knowledge of our LMS and the structure of our courses. This should be completed prior to their assignment to any course. As every course at Odessa College has a presence in Blackboard, with at minimum a full course syllabus and grades maintained in Grade Center even for face-to-face courses, even those who only teach face-to-face need to understand the LMS and our course structure. Other professional development opportunities, such as Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and AVID-HE (Advancement Via Individual Determination – Higher Education) will be built into orientation requirements, and delivered through the LMS. Other training and development opportunities will be offered through the LMS, live through synchronous technology, or combining both. All development experiences will include opportunities for the part-time faculty to apply their learning in their courses.

Additionally, each part-time faculty member will be paired with full-time faculty member within the same discipline, who will serve as a mentor to ensure that the part-time instructor is kept informed of dates and deadlines and to provide general support. Part time faculty will be required to participate in at least one Professional Learning Community (PLC) each term to ensure that they have a voice in the processes of their department or discipline. The mentor-mentee relationship combined with participation in PLCs and departmental meetings will help to ensure that the part-time faculty members feel connected to the department and to the institution, and will help them to understand the culture and expectations of Odessa College.

Each year, we will survey all faculty to determine their training and development needs and to ensure that they have a voice in the development of annual training plans. In addition to tracking professional development opportunities in the Odessa College app, the app allows them to suggest training that they feel they need, and even suggest to provide training opportunities for other faculty in areas that they may have expertise. The adjunct faculty members will be encouraged to maintain a portfolio that they can use to track their learning and growth, and that they can share with their mentor, the Teaching and Learning team, and their department chair.

An annual support letter will be sent to each part-time faculty member from the division of Teaching and Learning to outline annual training expectations, to provide relevant information about requirements, and to offer them information on the supports that are in place for them through the network of support and development that will be implemented. Finally, the base pay of part-time faculty must increase to $1,800 per three-hour course to ensure that we remain competitive with other Texas institutions of higher learning.


Bleakstar. (N.D.). Mentoring concept with business elements and related keywords on blackboard [Vector Image]. Retrieved from Shutterstock

Bleakstar. (N.D.). Mentoring concept with business elements and related keywords on blackboard [Vector Image]. Retrieved from Shutterstock


Asacker, T. Why TED Talks don’t change people’s behavior [Video]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/W0jTZ-GP0N4.

The Behaviour Science Guys. How to change people who don’t want to change [Video]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/9ACi-D5DI6A.

Best practices for training and retaining online adjunct faculty. Faculty Focus: Special Report. Retrieved from FacultyFocus.com.

Bleakstar. (N.D.). Mentoring concept with business elements and related keywords on blackboard [Vector Image]. Retrieved from Shutterstock.

Kotter, J. The Heart of change [Video]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/1NKti9MyAAw

Kotter, J. Leading change: Establish a sense of urgency [Video], Retrieved from  https://youtu.be/2Yfrj2Y9IlI

Krebbs, D. (2013). Life Long Learning [Photo]. Retrieved from Flickr.com

Sinek, S. Start with why TED Talk [Video]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/sioZd3AxmnE

Wyner, J. (2014). What excellent community colleges do: Preparing all students for success.

Win Over Hearts First

Tom Asacker and the Behavior Science Guys (BS Guys) talk about the reasons we don’t change our behaviours even when we have been instructed in compelling ways. The BS Guys used children and smoking as a really compelling example. When the children tell smokers that smoking is dangerous, unhealthy, and deadly the smokers were unmoved. But when the children looked like they themselves were smoking, it evoked an emotional response in the adult smokers, which caused them to be receptive to the anti-smoking message the children were sharing. Likewise, Tom Asacker talks about how we as humans are influenced by perceptions in ways that are not necessarily logical, and used the Patagonian Toothfish as an example. When Lee Lance started calling the Patagonian Toothfish, something that had been considered garbage fish by fisherman for years, by the name “Chilean Sea Bass” it became wildly popular. We perceive that the Chilean Sea Bass is a highly desirable meal fish, even though it is not from the waters of Chile, nor is it a bass, and the fish itself is rather frightening looking and not appealing at all. We are moved by perceptions… led by emotions… easily influenced by words.

In the video “Leading Change: Establish a Sense of Urgency,” John Kotter discusses the need to demonstrate why the change is needed by establishing a sense of urgency. As in Simon Sinek’s video, a sense of urgency helps establish the reason that necessitates the change… the “why.” Sinek talks about how establishing the “Why” of what you are doing relates to the limbic system in the brain. The limbic system is the portion of the brain that controls emotion, and basic functions including fight or flight responses. Kotter’s video “The Heart of Change” emphasizes that we need to target emotions and then the mind when trying evoke change, that we need to “win over hearts and minds” when dealing with people.

I think when most people think of effecting change in their organization, they emphasize the mind more than the emotional aspects. But the emotional side of our brains (controlled by the limbic system) is tied to learning and memory. So if we can tap into emotions, and then  support that with data and rational justification, we have a better chance of ensuring success. Additionally, when thinking about the changes we need to implement, we should keep in mind that many people have fear of change. To assuage their fears, all aspects of the plan for change should be open and transparent, keeping everyone informed. Remember “amygdala hijacking?” Well, that’s part of the function of the limbic system too. Keeping everyone informed in all of the processes will help to ensure that the amygdala does not send our co-workers into self-preservation mode, where they would be less likely to function in rational and productive ways.


Asacker, T. Why TED Talks don’t change people’s behavior [Video]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/W0jTZ-GP0N4.

The Behaviour Science Guys. How to change people who don’t want to change [Video]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/9ACi-D5DI6A.

Kotter, J. The Heart of change [Video]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/1NKti9MyAAw

Kotter, J. Leading change: Establish a sense of urgency [Video], Retrieved from  https://youtu.be/2Yfrj2Y9IlI

Sinek, S. Start with why TED Talk [Video]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/sioZd3AxmnE

Developing a Network of Support for Part-Time Faculty at the Community College Level: Literature Review

Developing a Network of Support for Part-Time Faculty at the Community College Level

Julie M. Lyon

Lamar University



As the face of higher education changes to meet the demands of learners, the workforce of educators is shifting to one that is largely comprised of part-time faculty members. These part-time faculty members bring a wealth of experience to the classrooms, but may not have any training or experience in education, and many lack the pedagogical/andragogical background to ensure the success of their learners. They also may lack a solid understanding of the technologies that are available to them. And often they lack opportunities for acculturation into the community college environment.

To ensure the success of learners, institutions of higher education need to make an investment in their educators, including those who work part-time and those who work remotely from a distance. These valuable contributors toward the goals of the learners and the institution must be given an opportunity to participate in and to contribute to the processes of their departments, and must be provided with opportunities for support and for growth. Through research and collaboration, a comprehensive plan of support and development will be created and implemented, with a focus on the support and development of part-time faculty. Continue reading