Today we continue our celebration of 2021 WOW awardees with a post from Rachel S. Thompson, Director, Center for Instructional Technology Office of Information Technology with The University of Alabama. When the higher education world moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Alabama’s ITAS and CIT teams collaborated to shift their student orientation online, and then doubled down to help the rest of the university shift operations remote as well.

As started last week, Frontiers is currently hosting our annual blog post series featuring posts from our 2021 WCET Outstanding Work (WOW) Award Winners.

This year we took a slightly different focus and asked for stories that described the intensely hard work that WCET member institutional staff, instructors, administrators, and students heroically stepped up with to the meet the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congratulations to the 2021 WOW awardees:

  • Colorado Technical University.
  • Miami University Regionals E-Campus.
  • University of Alabama.
  • University of Louisville.
  • University of North Dakota.
  • University of Texas at San Antonio.

Congrats to the University of Alabama and the digital learning heroes highlighted in today’s post. Stay tuned for the rest of this blog series as we lead up to this year’s WCET Annual Meeting!

Enjoy the read and enjoy your day,

Lindsey Downs, WCET

“Hey! Are we going entirely remote?”

“Yup. Faculty and students get an extra week of break. We go fully remote for the rest of the Spring 2020 semester on March 31.”

“Wow…how many Zoom accounts can the System office spin up quickly? How many of the 10,000 courses offered this term are already fully online or meeting virtually?”

“We’ve requested a Pro account for each of the 5,400 instructors and staff. And teaching assistants. Oh and tutors and advisors need them too. 

"About 1,000 of the 10,000 sections this term are fully online now, but every class has a shell in Blackboard as of this morning.”

“Well, I guess we will get them up to speed quickly. Glad instructors and students get an extra week of break. We can use that time to get our cats herded and our ducks in a row. 😊”

“Sounds good. I’m going into the office tonight to get my plants and my laptop.”

“Stay safe. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Don’t lick any doorknobs. Roll tide.”

A Quick Shift

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

In March of 2020, The University of Alabama joined universities across the world in a quick shift to emergency remote teaching.

The conversation above and others like it happened throughout the Capstone, many of them between the Center for Instructional Technology (CIT) and UA’s Department of Instructional Technology and Academic Services (ITAS) as we moved to remote operations. Together, these two teams ensured faculty, staff and students could continue their learning experience during the unprecedented circumstances associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the University of Alabama was thrust into remote operations in March 2020, the ITAS and CIT teams exemplified their on-going commitment to faculty, staff, and students by collaboratively assisting the Department of Orientation in delivering Bama Bound – what we call our student orientation – virtually to over 7,000 incoming Fall 2020 main campus students.

Over the course of a five-week period, ITAS staff provided instructional design, media production and technical support to the development of the online version of the orientation. CIT staff provided technical support for the learning management system and virtual web conferencing sessions.

As a result, the Department of Orientation was able to deliver Bama Bound to all incoming freshmen and their families, in a virtual environment, in preparation for their fall arrival on campus.

It wasn’t just orientation that had to go virtual. Now that orientation was available remotely, we needed to ensure our other operations could shift as well.

screen shot of UA orientation website
Bama Bound orientation information –

Shifting Operations

ITAS and CIT had helped push orientation online, and next the ITAS and CIT teams were called upon to collaboratively provide the entire University of Alabama campus with innovative and creative solutions in the areas of instructional design, technical support for faculty/staff and students, media production, and faculty training. ITAS and CIT expanded available tools and support for:

  • web conferencing,
  • assessment,
  • evaluation and proctoring,
  • accessibility, and,
  • rights and resources and collaborative writing tools,

… to meet the needs of the campus during remote operations.

These collaborative ITAS/CIT initiatives have been implemented at the University of Alabama since March 2020:

  • Delivered Faculty Roundtables and co-offered faculty development sessions to share ideas and explore issues.
  • Developed resources and training about flexible learning modes based on Quality Matters and on Online Learning Consortium suggested practices.
  • Provided online content (from Bama By Distance online courses) for main campus faculty to enhance the delivery of their face-to-face courses that had been moved to the virtual environment.
  • Provided 24/7 technical support, in collaboration with Blackboard Student Services, for all University of Alabama main campus and Bama By Distance students.
  • Opened the University Hall media production studios, using appropriate covid-19 mitigation strategies, so that faculty could record media content for online delivery during remote operations.
  • Developed and promoted resources for on-campus students who were suddenly studying remotely.

As a result of the efforts of ITAS and CIT, the University of Alabama persevered to deliver instruction to students all over the world, and without interruption.

All of our faculty, staff, and students are proud of the work our ITAS and CIT teams accomplished in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Remember, don’t lick any doorknobs and Roll Tide!   

Rachel Thompson

Director, Center for Instructional Technology, The University of Alabama


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