UW–Madison online teaching course helps South Carolina technical college fulfill its vision

woman on video conference with colleagues

Tri-County Technical College’s (TCTC) vision statement, Passionate people transforming lives and building strong communities one student at a time, is the backbone of all that the institution does. Boasting the highest graduation rate for two-year colleges in South Carolina, TCTC educates over 9,000 students in 70 majors annually and ranks in the top 1% nationally for successful student transfers to four-year colleges and universities.

Part of the success of this open-enrollment, community-focused institution has been meeting students where they are, says the school’s e-learning curriculum consultant, Justin Baggott. “One way we can do this is to provide online options, when available and appropriate, to accommodate student needs and ensure they receive instruction regardless of schedules or personal circumstance,” he says.

Which is why, when the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC) established guidelines that faculty needed to show evidence of their qualification to teach online, TCTC reached out to the Distance Teaching & Learning team at the University of Wisconsin–Madison for its expertise.

Finding their FoOTing

After previous experience with UW–Madison’s professional development programs, a TCTC committee member suggested the college’s faculty complete UW–Madison’s online course, Fundamentals of Online Teaching (FoOT). Administrators of the college quickly embraced the recommendation.

Justin Baggott, Tri-County Technical College
Justin Baggott, e-learning curriculum consultant, Tri-County Technical College

Designed for educators, program directors, and business trainers, the FoOT credential offers colleges and other organizations a way to transition faculty and staff from various backgrounds and industries to the world of online teaching. In addition to instruction on teaching remotely, the course also provides guidelines for designing online courses to encourage active engagement and participation.

Baggott notes that recognizing the differences between online and in-person instruction is essential in creating these quality courses.

“There are unique challenges and opportunities with online learning, such as redesigning assignments, creating opportunities for engagement and navigating technology. Faculty and course designers have to revisit their course competencies and design their course to achieve these in an online environment,” Baggot says. “Most faculty find that online course design requires a lot more up-front work. It’s so much more than simply uploading content.”

Since 2014, TCTC has placed more than 180 faculty members through UW–Madison’s program and has been incredibly pleased with the results.

“We appreciate the FoOT course because it is learning management system agnostic and focuses on online pedagogy, not just technology. Many of our faculty have never been online instructors or online students, and this program allows them to gain insights into both,” says Baggott.

True to their cause

In 2020, as the world shut down due to the unforeseen COVID-19 lockdown, TCTC saw a record number of faculty members sign up to participate in the FoOT credential.

What faculty members learned in the program empowered them to continue to create engaging courses for their students virtually, allowing the college to continue its mission of transforming lives and building strong communities, even in the toughest of circumstances.

And while TCTC is slowly transitioning back to more face-to-face and hybrid options, administrators have found faculty and staff enthusiasm for teaching online courses hasn’t waned. Baggott expects there will be many discussions about new online course development in the future.

Best of both worlds

Educators interested in learning about FoOT — along with a host of other distance education topics — can attend the University of Wisconsin’s 37th Distance Teaching & Learning Conference (DT&L), which will be held online, August 2–5, 2021. Conference attendees can earn a certificate in FoOT, (along with 5 CEUs) in the pre-conference course, which meets virtually July 27–30.

Conference director Wendy Fritz says the conference certificate offers the best of both professional development worlds. “You get a concentrated engagement with a specific online teaching topic as well as the diversity of the sessions in our annual conference — all for a price that is 40% lower than registering for these opportunities separately.”

Please visit the conference website for more information, or email dtl@dcs.wisc.edu with questions.