A New Era of E-learning

Man with Tablet

Our lives are increasingly growing digital with each passing day, shifting towards a digital future with the accelerating change in technology. From communicating at home to virtual meetings in the workplace, it seems our world is electronically integrated. This is also true for the future of education.

In the spring of 2007, the Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies offered its first online course through its professional development program – the classroom CFP® Certification Education program was developed into a live, instructor-led online program using voice-over-IP (VoIP) technology. Since then we have offered a growing number of online programs in a variety of areas including the Center for College Readiness (CCR), Teacher Education and the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership. After launching our first online course eight years ago, we are projected to increase our online offerings by 62 percent from the 2006-07 to 2015-16 academic year.

To ensure the highest levels of instructional design, support and training in online learning, we recently established an official e-learning department and hired two new staff members to accommodate this growth. Jennifer Larson, senior instructional design specialist, and Saira Cooper, instructional design specialist join us as the newest “e-team” members while Jennifer Gigliotti, associate dean and executive director of CCR, will oversee the department. Additionally, Jody Hilderbran, instructional technologist, who has been with us since 2013, will provide technology and production support and continue to support our instructors and students with training and troubleshooting.

“This rapid growth is exciting, but also points to the need for a more systemic approach to the development of future course offerings and continuous assessment and improvement of existing courses,” said Jennifer G. “The establishment of the new e-learning department is in response to this need … Our increased focus on the quality and interactivity of our online courses ensures that a solid foundation is being built as we move on this future trajectory toward a vibrant online curriculum”

We asked Jennifer L. and Saira, our two newest “e-team” members, to share more about themselves including how they ended up in e-learning and what they look forward to most in their new positions.

Jennifer Larson

Jennifer Larson

Can you share a little about your professional background?
JL: I received a B.A. from Washburn University, my M.S.E. from The University of Kansas and achieved Ph.D. candidate status while at the University of Kansas. I have been in higher education my entire professional career. I have more than 15 years of experience in residential learning, e-learning and blended learning.

SC: I have been working in higher education for the last 16 years in various capacities. I started working at Rice University through Jones Graduate School of Business in November of 2010 as an instructional designer and was promoted shortly after as educational technology manager. Among other job duties, I was responsible for providing leadership in identifying needs and resolving issues related to technology use in teaching, including application assessment, pedagogy, deployment methodologies, integration strategies and curriculum design and development.

Why did you start working in this field?
JL: I pursued education because I have a strong desire to help others learn! My educational experiences were not always positive, especially as a child. I found that I learned differently from the way most teachers taught. My journey and struggles with traditional teaching methods fueled my desire to approach education more creatively. The e-learning environment is the perfect place for me to blend my design approach and aesthetic with my passion for helping people reach their educational goals.

Saira Cooper

Saira Cooper

SC: By nature I am one of those people that love to help others. After completing my bachelor’s degree in computer science, I realized that I didn’t just wanted to work with computers; I wanted to work and help people. This desire led me to getting a master’s degree in technology education with an emphasis in instructional design. Now as an instructional design specialist I get to work with both and help students learn in creative ways.

What do you enjoy most about the e-learning field?
JL: E-learning can empower. Learners have more choices, greater flexibility and increased access to education. I feel very lucky that I can contribute to transforming traditional instructor-led teaching into student-centered learning.

SC: The fact that this is a fast evolving industry and many technologies are now centered around learning which makes it fun to incorporate them into learning. As well as helping instructors think of creative ways to engage learners.

What are you looking forward to most in your new position?
JL: The future in e-learning is wide open. I am so excited to be part of a work community that is embracing online learning. I am most looking forward to engaging with the different departments and people. There are so many unique perspectives and courses. Designing to meet the needs of each course will keep me on the creative cutting edge, a place I love to be!

SC: I am looking forward to working with instructors in various fields and helping them create quality courses and assist them in getting ready to teach in an online environment.

What are some of the ideas you have in mind to increase the e-learning opportunities at the Glasscock School?
JL: Aside from new course development, I believe highlighting and enhancing online content is a good place to start. A few ideas I have been kicking around include:

  • Short promotional videos for our online courses
  • Micro-courses – short, online courses
  • Course sneak peeks
  • Podcasts
  • Collaborative learning activities
  • Social media integration

Down the line, I believe we should create a Glasscock School mobile app and integrate adaptive personalized learning solutions into our courses.

SC: There are already many great ideas being implemented at the Glasscock School to increase the e-learning opportunities such as the formation of the E-Learning Collaborative group, and various ways to increase student engagement. A few more ideas that come to mind include increased training for all instructors who teach for the Glasscock School in order to facilitate further student engagement and interactivity in courses, developing course sneak peeks to get students hooked on course  topics and posting student testimonials to demonstrate strong satisfaction to perspective students.

What is one of your favorite quotes?
JL: My favorite educational quote is “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I will learn.” – Xun Kuang/Benjamin Franklin

SC: “The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.” – B.B. King

This fall, we’re excited to offer 21 online and hybrid courses to the greater Houston area and beyond. We hope to see you in class – either online or in person. Visit glasscock.rice.edu/online for a complete listing of our online offerings and to learn more.

Rachael Shappard


Rachael Shappard, Marketing Coordinator

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