by Juan Soto-Franco
This experience started in the second week of March when there were rumors that all classes would switch to the online modality. At that moment, I remember contacting Dr. Andrea Fabrizio and Mr. Carlos Guevara, English Department Chair and Director of the Educational Technology Department (EdTech), respectively to let them know that I was willing to help colleague transition to online environment. Dr. Fabrizio sent out an email thanking me and others and letting everyone in the English Department know that a group of faculty members volunteered to assist them with the transition. Mr. Guevara thanked me for volunteering as well. Helping faculty members with this transition was a rewarding experience for me because for three months we prepared hundreds of instructors who are now teaching our students online either synchronously or asynchronously.
In June, Mr. Guevara emailed and offered me a part-time job as an Instructional Design Consultant (IDC) for EdTech, specifically with the Blackboard Online Learning Initiative (OLI) for the 2020 fall term. I accepted. As an IDC, I oversaw instructors’ work related to course design, form, and structure and a Mentor oversaw the pedagogical aspect of the course. At the onset of the course, things looked a little bit chaotic and to make matters worse, my Mentor quit after the first week. Nevertheless, Mr. Guevara took over as my group mentor and participants felt more at ease when they began participating in the synchronous weekly meetings and breakout groups as well as in the asynchronous discussion forums, readings, video watching, among other resources. Subconsciously and consciously, participants were being exposed to the different tools they would utilize with their students in the upcoming semester. Mr. Guevara and I assisted a group of 12 instructors (full-timers and adjuncts from different departments). I assisted them during my office hours and on one-on-one appointments. My flexibility and availability included extended hour and sharing some screenshot tutorials that I developed to better illustrate specific solutions. June initiative ended and I was satisfied for having assisted our faculty members properly. Some of them showed their appreciation and acknowledged my work quality by sending emails to Dr. Fabrizio and Mr. Guevara. Probably their words influenced Mr. Guevara because I was rehired for the month of July, but with a new role.
In July, we began with a new OLI cohort, but my responsibility shifted to being a Mentor since there were no official IDCs for the course. Now, the emphasis was on the pedagogical aspect of the course. However, some instructors were new to this training and needed to learn about course design, form, and structure. Therefore, Mentors became IDCs who assisted professors in every possible aspect. That is why, I volunteered to work on weekends to accommodate some instructors. I create more screenshot tutorials. Of course, I did not have all the answers, for this reason, I consulted with the EdTech staff for assistance and oftentimes came back with an answer. Once again, professors emailed Mr. Guevara to highlight my dedication, flexibility and patience while working with them and, again, I was rehired by EdTech for the August cohort as a Mentor.
The August cohort ran more smoothly than the previous ones due to the earned experience. During this initiative, I was able not only to assist instructors, but to make some suggestions to EdTech to introduce some changes on the course delivery. My story ends with the most gratifying news because as of August 25th, I started working as a part-time Instructional Designer for EdTech, a contract that will end on June 30th, 2021. Summer 2020 brought me the most rewarding experience of my life, not only because it brought me a new job, but because I was able to help my colleagues get ready for the 2020 fall semester while I learned a lot from each one of them and the EdTech team, my team. Finally, I would also like to thank professors Andrea Fabrizio, Deborah White, Elizabeth Olana, Robert Blair, Walter Rada, Remy Roussetzki, Ray Healey, Carlos Guevara, and many others for their encouraging words. They mean a lot to me and motivate me to keep helping others acquire the necessary skills to continue teaching online whether it is in the synchronous or asynchronous modality. Thank you all so much!