Women help Alabama A&M University through major transition

single-meta-cal March 18, 2021

It’s Women’s History Month, and what better way to celebrate than to recognize three women doing great things in our community?

We’re all aware of the many ways COVID-19 has disrupted our lives. For example, it has forced traditionally hands-on schools to reinvent themselves. That’s been the case at Alabama A&M University, a diverse, land-grant institution that has educated thousands of men and women in Huntsville for nearly 150 years.A&M employees

Fortunately, A&M has a small but capable team of women who helped the university pivot head-on into e-learning, remote advising and revised research approaches. They swiftly transitioned the university’s instruction mode while still considering the needs of students and the institution at large.

These efforts, while administered by the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Research, were primarily led by Dr. Rhonda Moore-Jackson and her staff.

Investing in e-learning

Keeping tabs on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for physical distancing, A&M launched the Instructional Delivery Task Force to identify and develop instructional delivery modes for the fall 2020 semester.

Fortunately, the university had made substantial investments in e-learning over the past several years, which positioned it for a smooth transition. For instance, since 2014, the Office of Distance Education, Extended Studies and Instructional Technology (ODEESIT) has offered the AAMU Online Instructor Certification Program, which prepares faculty for e-learning instruction.

Thus, at the onset of the university’s transition to remote instruction, more than 70% of A&M’s existing faculty were already certified to teach virtually. By the end of the summer, more than 97% of faculty had earned the credential.

“The commitment and compassion of academic faculty and staff, in response to the fluid environment of the last several months, is highly commendable,” Moore-Jackson said. “Their efforts ensure that the university’s primary mission of educational access and opportunity is maintained.”

New normal

While the academic division adjusted, so did the university’s Division for Research. The research agenda required a significant revision to procedures for both laboratory and field work. A&M also implemented enhanced practices for physical distancing to support a safe research environment while ensuring important academic research could continue.

With the spring 2021 semester underway, the Academic Affairs and Research divisions have identified instructional technology to support innovative teaching methods. This effort is evident in the more than 45 classrooms that A&M updated in January, along with 60 classrooms slated for technology upgrades this month.

The purchase of interactive display technology and smart web cameras will facilitate a more engaging learning experience for students, regardless of how they attend. The launch of the HyFlex instructional delivery mode, which allows students to participate in an on-campus course with the option to transition to remote attendance, also provides students with flexible learning options.

Looking ahead, A&M is confident in its commitment to continue innovative approaches to instruction and research as we approach the “new normal.”