Recent InfoTech Graduate Helps Educators Navigate Emergency Shift to Online Learning

Person in a WOU sweatshirt standing outside in front of tall rocks

By Anthony Rimel

Kaitlin Lucas graduated from WOU’s Information Technology M.S.Ed. program in December 2019.

And just a few months later she would be on the frontlines of one of the biggest moments in the history of educational technology: the unprecedented shift to online learning following the global outbreak of COVID-19.

Lucas, who also earned a certificate in instructional design, was hired by Chemeketa Community College’s Technology Hub in January of 2020. In her role she does drop-in support for faculty members. This work involves helping them with instructional design, teaching them how to use educational technology and coaching them through teaching online classes.

“I feel lucky to be part of a supportive and experienced team,” she said.

When Chemeketa, like higher education institutions across the country, decided to shift all of its courses online in late March to help ensure students could follow social distancing guidelines, Lucas and her co-workers were the ones who had to help faculty members figure out how to teach courses online that they intended to teach in-person.

Although Chemeketa delayed the start of its spring term for a week to give instructors extra time to prepare, Lucas said her team had a huge undertaking in helping faculty learn to navigate the sudden transition.

“It takes longer than a week to plan an online course,” she said. “That’s been a challenge.”

Lucas said while the lab usually offers in-person support, they shifted to consulting with faculty over video chat.

She said supporting the transition was challenging, but it was also rewarding to see so many people coming together to find solutions to problems. For example, she said some art faculty members spent time video chatting with each other to share tips for setting up their studios to optimize video lessons.

She said she’s also been impressed by what she’s seen in the educational technology community, for example, Northwest eLearn, an educational technology professional organization, hosted a webinar for instructors to help facilitate their shift to online learning. Many of the presenters at that seminar were WOU faculty and alumni, Lucas said. She added that many people have been putting resources into the creative commons so they are available for everyone to use in teaching their classes.

“What we’ve been trying to emphasize is that we’re all in this together,” she said.

Lucas added that the crisis really emphasized for her how important building relationships is. She said her team decided to commit to building team cohesion even though they are working remotely. She said they have a daily “team huddle” through video call and she and her teammates sometimes have informal coffee/tea break chats by video to continue to build team dynamics.

Lucas said building online learning communities was one of the most valuable skills she learned in the Information Technology program. She added that she also appreciated her training in instructional design and classes that taught her not to overload people with too much new information at once, especially given the stressful situation faculty and students were facing.

Lucas said her advice for students studying in the information technology program is to work collaboratively with peers and find opportunities to get experience using skills the program teaches.

“Take as many chances as you can to apply what you learn to the real world,” she said.

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