“Completely Transformational”: Ohio Faculty Reflect on their ACUE Journey

“It is you, our faculty, who can dismantle the barriers and create the pathways to student success — no work is more important,” Dr. Penny MacCormack, ACUE’s Chief Academic Officer, said to an audience of 122 newly ACUE-credentialed faculty who were joined by their chief academic officers and other administrative leaders. “You used practices that created community, you made sure students were actively involved in their learning, and you made efforts to reach and engage with all of your students, so that no one felt invisible or unseen.” 

Thanks to a partnership between the Ohio Association of Community Colleges (OACC) and ACUE, faculty members across nearly all of Ohio’s community colleges—22 colleges in total —had the opportunity to refine their teaching skills and learn how to apply evidence-based practices in the classroom, both virtually and in-person.  

Made possible by a grant from Every Learner Everywhere in partnership with Achieving the Dream, the program kicked off at the start of 2021. As demand for the program quickly exceeded capacity, in September 2021, OACC and ACUE expanded their partnership to launch an additional seven cohorts of instructors.

Now, as the year comes to a close, faculty who completed ACUE’s 25-module Effective Online Teaching Practices program in the first wave of cohorts were honored in a pinning ceremony, receiving their certificate in effective college instruction endorsed by the American Council on Education (ACE). At the ceremony, they reflected on their experience. 

“I really felt validated as an instructor,” said Sara Burke, Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing and Health

Professions at Owens Community College, who served as both a course facilitator and participant.  

Burke talked about experiencing imposter phenomenon in her teaching before the course. “I felt like there was something missing. But taking this course empowered me. I felt like now I had the research to back up what I was doing and new techniques and tools… to do what I love to do.” 

She added that her students enjoyed sharing the perspective of learning together and were eager to offer feedback, too. 

Burke is among the vast majority of OACC course takers who found the ACUE program pivotal to improving their teaching. Ninety-nine percent reported that the modules were helpful in refining their teaching practice and found the content relevant to their work.  

Overall, faculty reported implementing an average of 20 new practices in their own courses over the duration of the ACUE program and that they plan to implement 50 additional practices in the future. Moreover, the course prompted more conversations with colleagues about teaching. 

“For me, the course was completely transformational,” said Kathy Renfro, Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Cuyahoga Community College. She found the opportunities to reflect on practices and refine her teaching with colleagues enormously helpful. 

“The other added benefit was being an online student myself at a chaotic time,” she said. “It helped me gain a better perspective as an instructor. I definitely don’t have all the answers… but I feel armed and empowered to take my learning to the next step and the next. Isn’t that what we all hope for our students?… that they, too, are lifelong learners?” 

Lori Zakel, Interim Provost and Vice President for Instruction, Sinclair Community College, and Lead Faculty Engagement Coach, OACC, encouraged the course completers to pay it forward. “Don’t forget to share what you’ve learned with your colleagues,” she said. 

Congratulations to all these dedicated faculty! 

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