UTEP Technology Teams Earn International Honors
Last Updated on July 16, 2019 at 12:00 AM
Originally published July 16, 2019
By UC Staff
Blackboard Inc., one of the world's leading educational technology companies, will present two of its prestigious Catalyst Awards to The University of Texas at El Paso during its annual BbWorld conference July 23-25, in the Austin Convention Center.
The Washington, D.C.-based organization will recognize UTEP’s Technology Support (TS) and Center for Instructional Design (CID) in the categories of Professional Development and Inclusive Education, respectively. A cross-functional team of Blackboard experts selected the winners.
The company stated that its Catalyst Awards, created in 2005, honor those who push the boundaries of their educational programs and technology in order to help instructors to deliver innovative and impactful learning experiences to their students across the globe where millions work every day to redefine what is possible when leveraging technology.
"We’re thrilled to honor this year's Blackboard Catalyst Award winners for their commitment to improving the educational experience for all learners … and sharing these insights with the broader community," said Lee Blakemore, Blackboard’s chief client officer and president, Global Client Operations & Success. “Clients like these inspire us to accelerate innovation driving student success and we’re proud to be a part of their story.”
Click here for more information on the Blackboard Catalyst Awards.
Center for Instructional Design
The center earned its Catalyst Award for how it used the Blackboard application, Ally, to enhance how UTEP complied with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). First, the CID collaborated with the University’s Technology Support Help Desk to create a series of presentations to give faculty a greater understanding of Ally. Then, in early 2018, it developed and executed a series of workshops and webinars focused on greater accessibility for UTEP students in blended and online courses. The effort included partnerships with the Help Desk and UTEP’s Center for Accommodations and Support Services.
The experiential sessions trained faculty how to create and update course content to comply with the ADA, and how to support multiple learning styles, said Cira Montoya Olson, CID director. As a result, overall accessibility rates for UTEP online courses increased to 60% in spring 2019 from 51% in spring 2018.
Beth Brunk-Chavez, Ph.D., dean of UTEP’s Extended University (EU), which oversees the CID, said she was thrilled for the program.
“This award is a reflection of the hard work that CID does to make sure that UTEP's online courses are accessible and engaging for our students,” Brunk-Chavez said. “This is important work because we know that online classes, just like face-to-face ones, enroll students with differing abilities. CID's attention to accessibility ensures that every student is in an online environment that facilitates learning. This award is a mark of distinction for CID, Extended University and UTEP.”
The CID team is comprised of Montoya, Julio Batiz, Karina Enriquez, Radamés Gómez, David Gonzalez, Jesus Presa-Quiroz and Aime Valdez.
This is the CID’s second Catalyst Award. It previously earned one in 2017 for Professional Development in recognition of how it used Blackboard programs to support and enhance UTEP faculty and staff.
UTEP’s Frank Poblano, executive director of Technology Support (TS), and Steve Varela, associate director of Creative Studios in TS, will accept the award for the University’s Blackboard Institute. The pair also will make a 50-minute presentation about the institute at the conference.
“This is a very prestigious award in the academic arena,” Poblano said. “What Steve and his team have done is huge.”
Poblano and Varela said that the drive to create the institute started two years ago to make better use of the University’s investment in the Blackboard system. To that point, faculty mainly used it as a content repository for syllabus’ and PowerPoint presentations.
Their solution was to create the institute– a five-day academy where Varela would teach up to 25 faculty members how to build, manage, and implement courses that would help them teach and with research. His team would also create custom artifacts that they could use in courses. Creative Studios has taught nine cohorts since spring 2017. The 10th cohort will start Aug. 8, 2019.
“What’s important is that this transforms the way we teach,” Varela said. “The impact is that students can learn more effectively.”
Poblano said he has data that shows that instructors who go through the institute maximize their use of Blackboard’s course management tools to include one that tracks student progress at a higher rate than those who have not been part of a cohort. Another example is a move away from paper tests in favor or electronic exams.
Kristine “Tina” Garza, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences, said the institute helped her to understand Blackboard and to fashion a more dynamic general biology course. She was able to include online videos, quizzes and other material that students could review before class, which allowed her to use class time more effectively.
“I was able to create a more active learning environment that was visually stimulating,” Garza said.
The TS crew consists of Poblano, Varela, Cyndi Castro, Jessica Duran, Lizette Gameros, Janet Hill, Adrian Meza, Alex Miramontes, Mitsu Overstreet, Michael Morales and Irene Rojas.