July 15, 2020
VINCENNES, Ind. – Vincennes University faculty members have worked
tirelessly to provide outstanding learning experiences for students in
the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 120 full-time faculty are
spending their summer preparing for the upcoming fall semester by
learning the best practices and tools for successful virtual teaching.
The faculty are enrolled in an eight-week Transitioning to Online
Teaching Certificate program by Blackboard, the largest education
technology and services company in the world.
VU’s adjunct faculty are equally committed to offering the best
learning environments for students. Many have chosen to participate in
a similar training opportunity developed by VU’s Center for Teaching
Dr. Laura Treanor
“VU provides high-quality instructional programs and that starts with
our faculty. VU values personal growth and academic excellence and our
faculty embrace the growth mindset that is necessary to ensure that. I
believe that this is key to their success. They know that their
teaching talents and abilities can be refined through training and
hard work, and they are always looking for opportunities to expand and
improve their skills,” VU Provost and Vice President of Instructional
Services/Dean of Faculty Dr. Laura Treanor said.
When VU pivoted to online teaching and online learning in March to
safeguard the health and well-being of the campus community, faculty
stepped up to deliver quality education from a distance. They remain
committed to supporting students in meeting their educational goals
and keeping them on track toward a degree or certificate.
Dr. Cynthia Ragle
“This training supports VU’s drive of continuous improvement and
supports our goals of retaining and graduating students. Faculty are
advancing their training and deepening their understanding of
engagement with content and students,” said College of Social Science,
Performing Arts, and Communication Dean Dr. Cynthia Ragle.
The goal of the program, said Treanor, is “to build confidence and
competence with our online and remote instructional delivery through
Blackboard. This is done through a series of intensive workshops.”
Treanor is very proud of the faculty for committing to the workshops
and investing their time.
The Blackboard Academy Transition to Online Teaching Curriculum
includes a series of workshops: “Design and Development of Online
Course Content”, “Design and Development of Online Assessments”,
“Online Facilitation using Blackboard Collaborate”, and “Support and
Success of the Online Learner.”
“It is extremely important to VU to provide faculty with the right
skills and competencies to effectively use technology in their
teaching,” College of Health Sciences and Human Performance Dean
Michelle Cummins said. “With so many unknown variables, it is exciting
to learn about new online techniques, strategies, and methods of
instruction. Learning how to incorporate these various methods and
techniques helps to ensure that the individual learning styles of
students are taken into consideration. The faculty’s passion and
preparation will be evident to students when they return. Being ready
and prepared will help provide a sense of calm for the student to know
he/she will get the best education possible.”
Susan Brocksmith is department chair of the Agribusiness and
Cosmetology programs. She has used Blackboard for over 10 years and
she says the certificate has given her new tools to be a better
teacher in the hybrid and online setting.
“I will be able to make my classes more engaging through quick
polling to make sure students are learning the concepts. The breakout
rooms will allow students to develop ideas in student groups and then
report their findings back to the whole class,” Brocksmith said.
Virtual teaching is fairly new to English Professor Beverly Burch.
“I am learning how to design and develop online course content, which
I especially need because even though I have used Blackboard for the
past 15 years to enhance my face-to-face classes, I had never taught
an online course until the last eight weeks of this past spring
semester,” Burch said.
The Transition to Online Teaching workshops are providing Burch with
more confidence to teach virtually as well as greater proficiency.
“More than just content, I have learned so much from other faculty by
participating in the course discussion boards. Each faculty member has
unique and creative ways to use Blackboard that I would never have
thought of on my own,” Burch said.
In addition to increasing her knowledge of Blackboard, Burch has
learned a great deal from taking an online course herself.
“After many years in the classroom, it is good to switch roles and be
reminded what it feels like to be a student,” Burch said. “When I
first started the Academy classes, I felt frustrated when I didn’t
understand new material and dreaded taking the tests and completing
the projects. Everything felt overwhelming. It takes discipline to
spend hours completing these four courses, and I had to work on
overcoming procrastination. I felt the pressure of having deadlines
while juggling my work schedule and family life. These are the exact
emotions that students feel at the beginning of their courses, so this
has given me more empathy for what my students this fall will be
Chair of the Art and Design Department Ron Wise is already using the
skills and knowledge he is gaining while planning the structure of his
“My courses will be taught as hybrid delivery, so a large portion of
the class resources and instruction will be online,” Wise said. “This
training is providing me with tools and concepts for making the online
course more interactive. I think this is very important for the online
VU faculty are adapting and finding unique ways to reach their
students. They are reaching students through alternative methods
extending beyond traditional coursework, which is crucial amid this
“Students need to be engaged and feel part of a larger community to
promote learning online,” Wise said. “I plan to use the interactive
whiteboard tool for creative brainstorming sessions where students can
interact with each other to create design concepts as a team. This
should be a great motivator for them to learn and grow as designers,
but also build relationships with fellow students to create a
community just like in the physical classroom.”