‘Digital Learning Heroes’: Instructional Technology Teams Earn Award

‘Digital Learning Heroes’: Instructional Technology Teams Earn Award

The Center for Instructional Technology, a part of the Office of Information Technology, and the department of instructional technology and academic services, housed in the College of Continuing Studies, have worked quickly and diligently to keep up with the University’s remote teaching and learning needs throughout the pandemic.

In recognition of their outstanding efforts, the CIT and ITAS teams were honored with an award from a national digital learning policy group.

The University recently was recognized by WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies — the national leader in the practice, policy and advocacy of digital learning in higher education — with the 2021 WCET Outstanding Work (WOW) Award. As one of six institutions receiving the honor, UA was commended for its move to large-scale remote operations as well as its transition to a virtual Bama Bound new-student orientation.

As the director of the Center for Instructional Teaching, Rachel Thompson was at the frontline of UA’s move to emergency remote learning. At the time, the campus community was about to go on spring break, before the sudden announcement that the break would be extended a week and that the rest of the semester would be remote. Ten CIT staff members and 30 ITAS employees embarked on what would become an instrumental part of surviving the pandemic within higher education.

“The day UA announced a move to remote operations, CIT made sure every UA course had a Blackboard shell and, through the UA System Office, generated Zoom accounts for all UA faculty and staff,” Thompson said. “We also alerted UA’s instructional technology vendors to expect a deluge of usage and support requests. CIT and ITAS realized that we would need increased support for giving online exams, recording lectures, web conferencing and other academic necessities. In some cases, we had robust enough support in place to handle the increase in use. In other cases, CIT and ITAS staff members took on new duties quickly to make sure we could support the campus.”

Thompson said the transition took a team effort to be successful. And even after their accomplishments over the past year and a half, there is room to grow, learn and improve going forward, Thompson said.

“One lesson our office has taken from the pandemic is to always account for a hybrid approach to business and academic operations,” Thompson said. “Some staff members may work remotely and some may be in the office five days a week; those groups still must work together like the close colleagues they are. We may always face a world where we need to account for remote and in-person teaching and learning. The flexibility to accomplish both simultaneously is challenging and requires a lot of preparation. CIT and ITAS are taking the lessons learned from early in the pandemic and extending those to make it so our faculty, staff and students are prepared to move between face-to-face, hybrid and fully online meetings as we need to.”

CIT and ITAS were previously recognized on a cross-campus team that received the 2020 Sam S. May Commitment to Service Award, one of the Capstone’s highest honors for faculty, staff and departments.


Caroline Gazzara-McKenzie, Strategic Communications, caroline.mckenzie@ua.edu

The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.