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New Director of Instructional Design Guides Faculty Through COVID-Related Changes

By Lea Hart

Even before Beth Shepherd became Poole College of Management’s new director of instructional design in June, she was hard at work supporting faculty through the changes taking place due to COVID-19.

Shepherd has remained a key figure in communicating necessary information and providing tools from the university and in helping faculty make the transitions in their instructional plans.

“Early in the pandemic we had to pivot rapidly to online,” said Richard Warr, associate dean for faculty and research and professor of finance. “Beth was hugely instrumental in helping the college make this change.

“Throughout the summer she ran open forums for faculty to meet and discuss specific issues that they are having with the transition in order for us to provide the best options for our students.”

Shepherd first joined the staff at NC State in 2008 as a part of NC State DELTA (Distance Education and Learning Technology Applications). She also worked for the Office of Information Technology for a time, before taking a break to pursue her own graduate degree. When she returned, she joined Poole College of Management as a distance education assistant for the Jenkins MBA program, later becoming the online program manager.

She was appointed director of instructional design in June, a new position that is part of the college’s plans to create an instructional design group.

As it became evident that the campus would need to close, Shepherd provided training sessions to faculty members who would need to move to online learning. She also became the main point of contact in communicating information regarding changes suggested by the university and in curating that university-wide information for Poole College’s faculty.

Even before the campus shut down it was suggested that large events be halted, and Shepherd orchestrated the transition of the Innovative Women’s Conference, an annual event hosted by the National Association of Women MBAs – NC State Jenkins MBA chapter, from an in-person to an online format.

Once campus closed, she worked with Poole College’s communications team to create a website to answer faculty questions, beginning with the questions they anticipated from faculty who did not normally teach online, and adding to those topics as other questions came in from faculty. She ran workshops for faculty on topics ranging from how to use to Zoom to how to create quizzes in Moodle, an online learning platform.

A large part of Shepherd’s role involved collaboration across campus.

“I was staying in communication with the distance education group, finding out what tools they were building, helping them build when I could, and sharing those tools as much as possible,” she said.

Summer was about transitioning from being reactive to looking ahead and planning for fall. Shepherd spent hours teaching faculty the skills they would need for online and virtual learning, and communicating about available resources.

Tracy Freeman, senior lecturer in operations and supply chain management, said Shepherd was an essential guide in converting Freeman’s four courses to online, hybrid and virtual.

“Beth has provided many valuable services since the spring as we switched to virtual, and even before,” Freeman said. “In my experience, Beth is always willing to help even if just pointing you in the right direction. She is responsive and knowledgeable and provides outstanding support.”

As the Fall semester began, Shepherd said many faculty anticipated that, at some point, it may have to go online. When that happened, she felt everyone was prepared.

“It was surprisingly quiet for me,” she said, indicating that was due in large part to the fact that much of the preparation and training had successfully taken place prior to the start of the semester.

The work continues this fall, however. Though Poole College has traditionally offered many online courses, Shepherd points out that the students taking those courses in the past had chosen that online format, where some thrived from the structure of in-person learning. Faculty are working hard to ensure all students are engaged in online learning this fall, and Shepherd continues to work with them, recently hosting a forum for faculty which focused on student engagement.

Halfway through the fall semester, Shepherd said she is most proud of how prepared the Poole College faculty is for these changes.

“Our faculty handled it well, we had the resources in place where they were able to make the transition and keep students engaged,” she said. “Our faculty and our staff were prepared and able to be innovative and use things that already existed because they were well-informed.”

This story is part of the “Resilient Pack: Employees Going the Extra Mile During COVID-19″ series that celebrate NC State employees doing “extraordinary ordinary” things in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.

This post was originally published in Poole College of Management News.

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