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Dec. 22, 2014
In 1999, Northwest Missouri State University launched a new form of higher learning and began offering online coursework through Northwest Online. Fifteen years later, the platform continues to evolve, supplementing the academic needs of an increasing enrollment and enhancing the ways to University faculty delivery content.
“These last 15 years have gone by fast, but look how far we’ve come,” said Dr. Darla Runyon, who was a staff member during the launch and now serves as director of Northwest’s Center for Information Technology in Education, or CITE. “We use the technology, and we evolve.”
Northwest established CITE in 1999, with state-provided mission enhancement funding, to support instructional technology needs of Northwest faculty. Dr. Roger Von Holzen was CITE’s first director and stayed in the role until 2013 when he assumed the role of vice president of information technology. In addition to Von Holzen and Runyon, the CITE staff includes Jolaine Zweifel, computer specialist, and Kris Mavity, secretary and faculty support assistant. All four individuals were part of the CITE staff at its inception. Recently, Shandy Beck joined the team as multimedia and instructional design specialist.
Today, CITE continues to supports faculty through the development and sharing of pedagogical and content-specific knowledge in addition to providing access to professional development support and resources.
As a result of CITE’s creation, Northwest Online developed as an internet portal with supporting features and a course management system to support Northwest courses.
When it launched during the fall of 1999, nine Northwest Online courses existed with an enrollment of 57 students, including one student based in Malaysia. The courses consisted of six general education courses and three business management courses.
Today, about 100 Northwest Online courses exist with nearly 3,000 students enrolled each trimester. Most Northwest Online students are campus-based, but the courses enroll students from throughout the country. This fall Northwest Online also unveiled a new look with updates to the personal homepage and course sites for all courses.
Northwest Online consists of five online graduate programs, one undergraduate completion program, three certificate programs and at least one general education course from each academic area. Blended courses, which consist of a combination of online and classroom coursework, also are established within Northwest Online.
Dan Smith, assistant professor of political science, joined the Northwest faculty in 1999 and has watched Northwest Online evolve into a platform that allows instructors to enhance their courses both in and outside class sessions.
“It lets us provide a lot of information to students so we can free up class time for doing what we do in class,” Smith said, noting that papers submitted by students through Northwest Online often trigger additional class discussions.
Northwest Online also serves as a platform for instructors to post supplemental resources, such as syllabi, links and presentations. “They can come into class with the document, or some of them will have the document up in class and they’ll take notes on it,” Smith said.
Additionally, Smith worked with CITE to develop a virtual supreme court he uses to facilitate judicial simulations in his course. It includes a collection of online centers such as a library with legal research and writing and a law office with filings.
“The site was an idea in my head, I wrote it down on a piece of paper, a CITE intern designed it for me and that entire process was because they were willing to think outside the box and work with me,” Smith said. “If you have an idea, if they can help you, they will find a way to do it and the support has been tremendous.”
Building on CITE’s mission, faculty fellowship grants are offered each year to provide faculty with the opportunity to learn more about new ways to teach and to enhance their courses using instructional technology. Fully online programs take priority for funding. Workshops, training sessions, online tutorials and one-on-one sessions are offered on a regular basis.
“CITE plays an integral part in Northwest’s effort to enhance student learning through the use of technology,” Runyon said. “CITE operates in such a way as to capitalize on the talents of Northwest’s faculty and provides them with an opportunity to advance their understanding of information technology’s applications to learning, to develop relevant applications for their fields, and to spend time with their colleagues helping them apply information technology to their courses and programs.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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