Welcome to our continued celebration of 2021 WOW awardees! We’re joined today by Jenny L. Reichart, who is the Faculty Development Specialist and Inclusion Ambassador with the Teaching Transformation and Development Academy (TTaDA) at the University of North Dakota (UND). The TTaDA team was selected as a WOW recipient this year due to their innovative and enthusiastic support of faculty, their institution, their students, and national social justice movements.

This is our final post in 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 and thank you to the University of North Dakota and the digital learning angels/heroes highlighted in today’s post. Make sure to check out all of the previous posts in this year’s WOW series. You can learn more about our awards at this year’s WCET Annual Meeting!

Enjoy the read and enjoy your day,

Lindsey Downs, WCET

The University of North Dakota’s Teaching Transformation and Development Academy (TTaDA) received one of the 2021 WCET WOW Awards for setting the highest standards of excellence amidst the 2020 pandemic. While we are proud of this achievement, we are not complacent; indeed, we work on a continuous improvement model that has been featured in many conferences and publications. In fact, our acronym TTaDA itself speaks to our ability to work magic in the face of adversity.

 Our Pioneering Spirit

Before the pandemic, TTaDA was already one step ahead with our Academic Continuity Plan. Due to some seasonal and regional flooding, we had the plan in place and, when the pandemic hit, we were ready.

UND TTaDA logo

The North Dakota State motto is “Be Legendary,” and the University of North Dakota’s motto is “Leaders in Action.” In Spring 2020, all our courses rapidly migrated to remote instruction. In response, we created an onboarding orientation, a course development plan, and a new interactive rubric. We supported faculty with letters of understanding, development stipends, and exemplary course awards. Additionally, TTaDA hosted campus-wide tutorials and Q&As as synchronous sessions to better prepare faculty. In Summer and Fall 2020, TTaDA also assisted faculty in the creation, development, and revision of 455 online courses. We developed 35 new SPEA (self-paced enroll anytime) courses and laboratories and launched six new one-credit HyFlex intersession courses. We now categorize every course at the University of North Dakota as HyFlex or SPEA, making us pioneers in online education. This pioneering spirit has greatly improved our student outcomes.

Unprecedented Growth

We supported our HyFlex model in various ways, including:

  • offering 235 synchronous workshops for faculty, staff, and graduate students. In total, we reached 1,063 individual employees and issued 1,774 digital badges.
  • responding to development needs asynchronously by uploading 57 videos, which were viewed 1,000 times on YouTube with a total watch time of 114.8 hours.
  • providing 2,017 writing center sessions and responded to 6,075 academic technology tickets.

TTaDA also responded to national social justice needs by:

  • offering two book studies on diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence about universal design for learning and anti-racism, hosting a total of 319 participants.
  • welcoming participants (170 live and 687 via HyFlex sessions) to our Spring Innovative Learning Symposium on universal design for learning, which was led by a national expert.
  • adopting new academic technologies and adding more of these to our learning spaces, all of which better support and enhance HyFlex learning.  

We saw outstanding improvements in our student outcomes and retention, including a:

woman waving toward a laptop
Photo by Marcus Aurelius from Pexels
  • 3.35% increase in undergraduate transfer,
  • 6.27% increase in graduate-level enrollment,
  • 5% increase in racial diversity, and,
  • a dramatic 18.4% increase of online enrollment in Fall 2020 from Fall 2019.

Individually, we helped increase faculty satisfaction in course creation by developing a new evaluative course rubric and student evaluation scores of faculty and courses while also establishing new assessment and evaluation methods for TTaDA offerings and faculty. At a time when most of higher education was struggling, we fostered tremendous growth due to implementing innovative best practices in faculty development, instructional design, curriculum planning, and online excellence.

Innovative Collaboration

These efforts were viable due to our own departmental growth, including namely six new positions in faculty development, staff development and instructional design. This expansion then supported the hiring of 47 new full-time faculty in Fall 2020. We provided diversity training for ROTC faculty and core advisors, video production services for first-year experience instructors, and a faculty summer self-care program. Meanwhile, our Office of Extended Learning and Writing Center supported our students by pivoting to provide proctoring and captioning services. We accomplished all of this as a team of over 50 individuals while working remotely across multiple states and time zones.

The implementation of the online course design rubric offered innovative opportunities for faculty development. The rubric itself encouraged and incentivized faculty development via course development. With the implementation of a new badging program, faculty could receive up to three badges based in full or partially on their online course design rubric scores. The three badges are incremental:

  • Badge 1: “Meets UND Online Course Design Standards,”
  • Badge 2: “Exceeds UND Online Course Design Standards,” and,
  • Badge 3: “Exemplary Educator.” 

The first two badges respond only to the online course design rubric scores, while the third incorporates those scores along with other forms of concurrent faculty development such as completing the Blackboard Online Best Practices self-based course for faculty, achieving a high Blackboard Ally score (accessibility) across all of their courses, presenting as part of the Faculty Lecture Series, and participating in the Alice T. Clark Faculty Mentoring Program.

The opportunity for ongoing engagement and improvement incentivizes faculty to improve their courses through the somewhat gamified model of the online course design rubric scores and the badging series. It encourages faculty to think critically about the areas where they earned low scores and improve their scores via the implementation of best practices. Throughout the process, faculty members are supported by faculty developers and instructional designers in creating new course materials and models including HyFlex course models, alternative assessments, and interactive lectures. This customized support moves us all away from the mentality of one-size-fits-all model and the check-a-box-to-complete modus operandi. If you are checking a box, then you are only engaging in summative assessment, and there is no iterative process. However, if you are asking a question, then you are engaging in formative assessment and thus contributing to a continuous improvement model. 

The “Angels of TTaDA”

TTaDA’s transformative and developmental impact for our university community was best described by one of the professors at the University of North Dakota when they said:  

“I am beyond impressed with the number and variety of trainings you have all offered. I have always resisted teaching online courses, but now I will be much more open to it. It’s been a good growth opportunity for me.”

While we love the title of “Digital Learning Heroes” associated with winning this WOW award, we are perhaps most proud of our faculty nickname, the “Angels of TTaDA.” We are indeed superheroes.


Jenny L. Reichart

Higher Education Consultant, Speaker, and Author


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