College professor wins Catalyst Award for online course

By Josette Keelor

Cheryl Brindle’s first ever online math course won her Lord Fairfax Community College’s first ever Blackboard Catalyst Award for Exemplary Course Design. But that doesn’t mean she won’t change it up before the upcoming fall semester.

“It’s always being tweaked and revised,” she said. “It’s sort of an evolving process.”

Assistant professor of mathematics at Lord Fairfax Community College’s Fauquier Campus in Warrenton, Brindle said any student can take the school’s online courses, whether or not enrolled at Lord Fairfax. The Math 240 Statistics course is intended for those pursing a major in math, science or business and includes prerequisites.

One of 60 Catalyst Award winners at the July 15-17 Las Vegas Blackboard Conference, held annually, Brindle said talking with other course designers was a good resource for her and encouraged her to design another this summer — Math 151 for liberal arts or general studies students.

“It’s what we call a survey of math course,” she said. The prerequisites are lower than they are for her other course.

Since designing last year’s statistics course, Brindle said she has a better idea of how to reach students basically teaching themselves online.

“The main difference is that with a face-to-face course, the students get a lecture or class time every week,” she said. Brindle has developed ways of keeping in contact with online students, such as through messaging boards and assignments requiring them to interact with her and other students.

She provided PowerPoint slides used in the classroom-based statistics course and recorded lectures that students can access online. She also assigned online students the same homework and tests as on-campus students.

“Numbers are not just answers, it’s how they got the numbers and how they got the solutions that I’m looking for,” she said.

“I was afraid that the online class, those students wouldn’t understand the concepts as well,” she said. But they did. “[The] spread of As and Bs and Cs were basically the same.”

The college requires at least one test for every online course taken at a testing center each semester. Students can test at any of the college’s three campuses in Middletown, Fauquier or Luray-Page. If they live outside the area, they can use a testing facility close to home or, as a final option, use a lockdown browser to video themselves at home taking the test.

Lord Fairfax offers enough online classes now that students could earn an associate’s degree without ever leaving home, said Leslie Kelley, communications specialist based at the Middletown campus.

“And you know what, it’s grand to say that our community college is doing such a wonderful job in online classes,” she said.

Brindle said a Catalyst Award helps align Lord Fairfax with some of the best four-year universities offering online courses around the world.

Other winning schools listed at the website http://www.blackboard.com include George Mason University and Johns-Hopkins University’s school of Engineering for Professionals. Some schools won several awards, and director’s choices included Boston University and Charles Darwin University in Australia.

The list includes five community colleges, and high school courses were also considered.

Said Brindle, a Catalyst Award tells “everyone that we have quality courses and not just online, but we also obviously have quality face-to-face courses.”

The fall semester at Lord Fairfax Community College begins Wednesday.

Contact Lord Fairfax Community College at 540-868-7000 (Middletown), 540-351-1505 (Fauquier), 540-843-0722 (Luray-Page) or online at http://www.lfcc.edu.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com