Malvern, AR -- Jason Hancock, an online English instructor at College of the Ouachitas (COTO), was recently recognized nationally as a Distinguished eLearning Educator by the Instructional Technology Council (ITC). Hancock earned the award for his commitment to student success in his online courses. Hancock’s online classes target a variety of learning styles with his use of screencast videos, YouTube videos, and PowerPoint options. He also incorporates live streaming opportunities through Blackboard Collaborate in order to accommodate meetings with students.
Instructor presence is important in any online course, and Hancock masters this by communicating daily and weekly announcements to his students. In addition to being the course instructor, Hancock also designed his course.
Knowing that collaboration and community are critical to student success in online learning, Hancock builds his courses around community through a few strategies. First, students are required to post weekly discussion posts that focus upon course objectives. The discussions are more than mere “posts,” but conversations that require the contribution of all in order to be successful. He also requires students to complete essay peer reviews within groups. Students must also collaborate with him in receiving feedback on the writing process steps as well as submitting questions on trouble-spots. Hancock feels that success is not possible unless all students contribute.
"Mr. Hancock’s national recognition is certainly well-deserved,” said Pat Simms, Vice President for Academic Affairs at COTO. “His commitment to student success exemplifies the work of our faculty to ensure all students receive the highest quality classroom learning experience – regardless of the delivery method."
Hancock said he is humbled to receive ITC’s Distinguished eLearning Educator award. “I’ve taught online for a long time, and I never thought I would be recognized in such a way,” he said. “I am truly grateful and inspired to continue working hard for my students.”
Hancock is one of six COTO instructors who participated in the college’s first Title III Cohort that completed Quality Matters (QM) training to improve student success in online classes. The Title III Distance Education program funded the cohort’s professional development that led to their completion of the QM Teaching Online Certificate, training in the QM Rubric for higher education, and local training in Blackboard, Blackboard Collaborate, and Medisite.
Hancock and the rest of Cohort I launched their revised courses in the Spring 2018 semester. Eighty-three percent of the revised courses saw improvement in student success and retention. Cohort II launched their revised classes in January 2019. The third cohort, now in the training phase, will launch classes in the Spring 2020 semester.
The Title III Distance Education program is funded by a five-year federal Strengthening Institutions Program Grant that provides COTO a total of $2.2 million for improving student success in online courses. Distance Education Director and Title III Project Manager Chris Robbins is proud of the difference the program is making in COTO’s online courses.
“As more and more degree programs move online, it’s critical that faculty members – especially those who actually build their own classes – have access to professional development opportunities geared toward the online learner,” Robbins said. “Jason really embraced that opportunity, and I’m proud of his accomplishments.”
Robbins and Title III Technical Specialist Aurora Adney recently joined forces with Quality Matters Director of Quality Assurance Melissa Poole to present “The Critical Role of Faculty Development in Online Course Design” at the ITC annual conference held Feb. 10-13 in Las Vegas. Title III Support Specialist Ronna Pennington joined the presentation via Blackboard Collaborate to demonstrate how COTO uses the technology in its online and simulcast classes.