The Future is Now
It’s no secret that Dr. Jason Huett is a huge sci-fi fan. His license plate reads "KHAAAAAN."
“It’s been great for my life because it has always forced me to think forward,” said Huett, a tenured associate professor of instructional technology and design.
As he spoke, arriving e-mails chirped like the communicator on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Incoming calls on his cell phone played the ST:TNG theme song.
“What’s the next thing going to be like? It serves me well in my job because I have to anticipate what is next and not just react to it but help create it.”
What’s next for Huett is helping UWG faculty develop and adapt courses for the online world. Huett’s new job is as the associate dean of online development and USG eCore. He started in June and since then he’s been meeting with college deans, department chairs and faculty to spread his message:
“You are not alone.”
A targeted transition to online is crucial. Today’s middle and high school students are already taking courses online. They expect to do so in college too, Huett said.
“What we have, in a sense, is a perfect storm of what is going on in the educational marketplace,” he said. “We can do an effective job of pushing out in an online format to targeted audiences…. You can take what you do well and deliver it at a distance to new and underserved audiences.”
UWG has a good foundation, Huett said. UWG Online is already well known and respected. Huett’s colleague, Dr. Melanie N. Clay, the associate dean of extended degree programs, runs the USG eCore program.
“She was able to take a program that was losing money at UGA, now it’s a highly profitable program that has affiliate institutions, with more affiliates being added,” he said. “It’s become a showcase program for what online, undergraduate core education can be…. It’s becoming a model that other states can replicate.”
Clay also edits the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, a go-to publication for virtual education. The journal and UWG also sponsor the annual Distance Learning Administration Conference, a gathering of leading scholars in online learning.
“We’re known for having the best staff in the business,” Huett said.
While Clay works largely with the student side of the equation, Huett is working on the faculty development side and is building a team to help guide teachers from the analog world to the virtual.
He’s building a design team -- David Lloyd is the director of Online Faculty Development –- to help teachers turn their ideas for technology-enhanced courses into reality. He expects to hire two new staff members, to help develop the content and the infrastructure, soon. He’ll also pair faculty members who have already taught online with the newbies. The team will work closely with information specialists at the Ingram Library.
“The message that I want to get out is that we are here to help,” Huett said. “We will come in with experts and help you design your online course or program to where it meets your objectives and it's pedagogically and technologically sound so that we know it’s being delivered in a high-quality fashion.”
This past summer 13 faculty members from psychology, political science, humanities and continuing education participated in a workshop designed to help them think through the types of courses that could be taught online.
Among them were Dr. Donadrian Rice, chairman of the Psychology Department, and John Kim, a faculty member. After the workshop, the two planned the first of a series of courses that will ultimately result in a 95 percent online certificate program in Integrated Health Studies.
“The training did an excellent job in de-mystifying the online experience and clearly demonstrated how effectively courses can be delivered online,” Rice said.
The workshop taught Kim “the necessity and advantage of online courses.”
But more than anything, Huett hopes the teachers who have already participated in the workshop will spread his message.
“The expectation is that they will go out now and be ambassadors to their colleagues,” he said. “And say ‘This stuff is not so scary.’”
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