Happily, the dean of the College of Education here at NMSU has invited me to help facilitate distance learning in our college. Her specific directive is to develop systems for increasing the quality of online instruction. From conversations thus far, I believe our leadership and faculty will embrace the support. The campus already has effective supports for online learning in place. Just today I received an email with an “NMSU Basic Online Course Check” of the online course I am currently teaching. Staff in the NMSU office that supports online instruction check courses using eight criteria. Interestingly, and contrary to guidelines in the office I led at TAMU-CC, staff in the NMSU office enters and reviews courses without faculty permission. In addition to the “Basic” check, staff conduct formal reviews using the Quality Matters framework. I believe that such reviews are conducted upon faculty request and that they are encouraged but are not mandatory. Discussions of whether or not such reviews should be mandatory abound across campus. Our task will be to establish specific goals for the college that complement those already in place.
My first steps in helping the college is to schedule meetings and listen to a number of different people in the college who have ideas about what would be most helpful. At TAMU-CC, among other change models, I adopted John Kotter’s “eight-step process for creating major change.” The first stage in the model is to establish a sense of urgency. At TAMU-CC the urgency was profound due to campus vulnerability to hurricanes. Our office impressed upon faculty the importance of having online course materials in place as a way of dealing with potential campus evacuation. I vividly remember the dean of the College of Liberal Arts telling me that I was playing on faculty fears and I should stop providing that message. When urgency is real, I think it is important to make it known. Online presence in courses can actually mitigate fear and help faculty feel in control in the face of dangers such as Harvey that lightly hit campus in 2017. Those of us who had online course materials were able to support those students who still had access to online tools. So I am asking myself and will ask others, what is our sense of urgency here at NMSU and how can we establish that sense among faculty? A little fear can provide motivation.
Kotter’s second stage is to create a guiding coalition. The dean here will help me get the Executive Council and a few faculty and students to serve on the team. That is the perfect group to help as they have enough power to lead the change. The final six stages are developing a vision and strategy, communicating the change vision, empowering broad-based action, generating short-term wins, consolidating gains and producing more change, and anchoring new approaches in the culture.