One of the most significant challenges that higher education institutions face is providing sustained training and professional development for instructors. The University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville (UACCB) is investing in the education and excellence of its instructors with the opening of a new Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, made possible by funding from the Title III Strengthening Institutions grant awarded to them from the Department of Education in Sept. 2020.
While UACCB faculty benefitted from the Title III training in 2020, its support is now manifested in a comprehensive and hands-on training center. With the start of the new semester, the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence officially opens its door for faculty use and support in the main classroom building (MCB).
“Last year was highly unusual for everyone,” said Anne Austin, Title III project director. “The virtual training sessions provided faculty opportunities for discussion and gave them a place to talk about something that was near and dear to their hearts: educating students. Now we have a physical location for faculty to come and do their work, talk with others about teaching methods and even test out new ideas with one another. It helps affirm the reason we are all here.”
UACCB’s approach for utilization of the funding focuses on improving faculty teaching capacity and improving its technology teaching base. In addition to opening a physical location for faculty to gather as part of these goals, the center has been working to train for and implement new technology across campus to ensure all efforts are being made to enable instructors to have flexible, innovative options when creating their lessons.
The college provides two types of training to faculty members: Quality Matters (QM) and Association of College and University Educators (ACUE). These certifications teach faculty members better teaching practices and online teaching methods. For many, this is like icing on the cake.
“We have astonishing, interesting people on staff who are innovative and passionate about providing the best learning experience possible for their students,” said Austin. “They never settle. We don’t do enough to celebrate that and create a spirit of continuous improvement. How can we be even better? It hurts when students leave or don’t do their best – we want to see if there’s something we can do to help.”
The new Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence will allow faculty to put their ideas and newfound skills into practice in a space that is conducive to learning and collaboration. The center boasts a specialized space to allow for webinar participation and faculty collaboration to test out new technology, equipment, and teaching strategies before implementing these methods in the classroom.
“Our faculty and instructors always go above and beyond for their students,” said Andrew Seely, Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence director. “To see our faculty embrace these trainings with open minds and truly consider how they can make learning more accessible to their students has been astonishing. The number of faculty who have come to my office with success stories or new ideas has been overwhelming — it is encouraging to see even our most seasoned faculty members ask themselves ‘what can I do better?’”
The Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence is funded through 2025 with $2.5 million dollars distributed in sums of $450,000 annually to provide sustained support for instructors and students. While the center primarily focuses on providing direct support to faculty, the desired outcome is to increase student retention and completion.
UACCB and the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence help equip teachers with training to become effective instructors.