Quality+ Program Faculty Interview: Wade Lowry
April 6, 2023
This is the first in an interview series where Instructional Designers from the ITRC speak with faculty who have designed a quality online course through ISU’s Quality+ program. In today's interview, Paul Lynch speaks with Wade Lowry from the Health Information Technology program about his experience. To learn more about the Quality+ program, visit our website.
PL: What courses have you put through the Quality+ program?
WL: I actually have two courses that I have put through the Quality+ program. The first one that I put through the program is the capstone course, HIT 0204, Health Information II. It deals with managing health information assets and personnel. Then the second one we took was an introductory course, my HIT 0215 course, Introduction to Reimbursement.
PL: With two courses having gone through the Quality+ program, how was your experience?
WL: Our program started out like most programs at the university as being [a] fully seated brick and mortar type of classroom. It was very heavy on lecture, and you had that interaction one-on-one with the students.
Even though I had folks all over the state taking that [course], it was still very much the same format several years ago. We recognized that we had students in Idaho and across the country, so we went to a fully online asynchronous model. Unfortunately, not being accustomed to that and not understanding some of the resources that were available to help me in that area, it just continued to be a lecture-heavy type of model. We knew there had to be a better way; we really did. With the Quality+ program, we were able to take a look at that, and we started to bring other things into that HIT 0204 course.
One of the things we did was focus on our learner engagement in the course. And the other thing that we focused on very heavily was connecting those learning objectives and assessments together, really connecting our objectives across everything in the course, especially from the objectives we get from our accrediting body.
PL: Have you noticed a difference in your student engagement in the courses that have completed the Quality+ program?
WL: I've seen that engagement with the course itself increase. In that HIT 0204 course, through this semester, in looking [at] what the students have viewed, what they're completing, and everything, they're looking at 96% of the materials that are out there. And that's huge. I think that is really huge. My HIT 0215 course, that course is now sitting at about 83% engagement with the material.
I do see them becoming more engaged with each other. I see some quality responses and conversations that occur back and forth in those forums. They are not surface-level questions anymore.
I like the way that students are engaged in the [course review process] of the Quality+ program. When it came time for the students to evaluate the course design, it was really valuable for me to hear from them.
PL: Absolutely. That's something that I've seen with my faculty partners, how they value the student voice in their review process.
WL: Their voice is so important, and it is unique feedback to be given and a very insightful one.
PL: With an increase in quality student engagement and presence, have you done things to improve instructor presence in your courses?
WL: It's imperative. I have taken an online course where the instructor was fully less than engaged. Making sure that we've got student-to-student interaction, student-to-material interaction, and student-to-instructor interaction, I've stepped up my level of communication with the students.
If we are doing a forum, everybody that replies in the forum will get a private written response from me. Discussing the good, the bad, the ugly, [and] the indifferent of their post. Then, I also now make sure that I respond to the class as a whole with an in-depth review of the case. In some cases, I've gone out and I've asked professionals in the industry to write a response to those forums.
If we are discussing matters regarding, say, HIPAA, for instance, I have a professional in the field who is a HIPAA compliance officer who writes the general response to the whole class, giving a little more engagement outside of the class walls.
PL: As a part of the Quality+ program, faculty are required to take professional development courses. Could you share your experiences with your professional development?
WL: Well, one of the things that I liked, and I'll be honest, I grumbled about it but realized I got three professional development credits towards my teaching credentials, so okay, I can do this.
The first class that I was required to take was Teaching Online with Moodle. I was surprised when I went through it at just how much I was underutilizing the capabilities of Moodle. I wasn't aware of all the neat little things that you could bring in and add. I thought I was good at Moodle, but I learned much more from that course. And you get three credits for it. Life is good, especially for those of us in the College of Technology who have to have a CTE teaching accreditation certificate.
PL: Do you share with your students that your courses have completed the Q+ program? Does that impact how students interact with your course?
WL: I do. As a matter of fact, if you go in and look at either HIT 0215 or HIT 0204, Paul, what you'll see is right underneath the welcome to the course, and the pictures of the books that they need to have for the course is a blurb about the fact that the course has been through the eISU Quality+ program and what that means.
From the comments, they appreciate the structure and they appreciate the understanding of the connectivity of the course. And because we have other faculty members in the program using the Quality+ program, that obviously bleeds out to everybody on the faculty.
PL: For your colleagues that are on the fence about reaching out to the ITRC about the Quality+ program, what would you like to share with them about the program?
WL: I would say get off the fence and dive into it. Just do it. Yes, there's a little bit of time and effort. Maybe a lot of time and effort. I experienced transitioning from a lecture in a classroom environment to moving in and figuring out the best way to work in the online environment. That's going to take some work, but the benefits, in the end, are well worth it. As your course quality improves, you see the quality of student interaction improves.
I think a lot of us are afraid we're not going to have the support that we need to be successful with that. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have amazing support at Idaho State for this. I love that every time I bring a course into this program. I have a one-on-one face-to-face meeting with Dr. Lisa Kidder, Quality+ Program Manager, who helps get things set up and the ball rolling. I appreciate that.
I've got support, and that support goes beyond when you finally receive that badge that says you’ve completed the eISU Quality+ program. For any faculty member thinking about it, know you're well supported, and it's well worth it in the end.
PL: Wade, is there anything else that you would like to add?
WL: I had a professor years ago when I was getting my degree in HRD, and his mantra was, “Get on the bike and ride.” He was a Harley Davidson rider. As we were working on projects, he was always encouraging. He was always like, “You just gotta get on the bike and ride.” So, hey, get on the bike and ride.
You can view the Quality+ website to learn more about the program and see other Quality+ recognized courses and faculty. You can also enroll in the Quality+ program by completing the registration form.