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TTaDA earns Western Interstate Commission’s WOW Award for exemplary work through COVID-19 pandemic

For its efforts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Teaching Transformation and Development Academy (TTaDA) at the University of North Dakota received an emphatic “WOW” on the national stage.

The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education’s Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) recognized UND as one of six WOW Award-winners in 2021.

The award, named the WCET Outstanding Work (WOW) Award, this year, was dedicated to “Digital Learning Heroes” who went above and beyond to meet the challenges to higher education brought on by the pandemic.

Lynette Krenelka

At UND, TTaDA supports faculty, staff and students through professional development opportunities in the form of workshops, webinars, seminars and individual consultations for teaching innovations, integrating digital technologies into courses and more.

Lynette Krenelka, executive director for TTaDA, said that she feels “blessed” to work with such a great team.

“During the pandemic, everybody stepped up to provide additional support and services to faculty, staff and students – as well as each other – when it was most needed,” Krenelka said. “I have witnessed some of the most innovative work within our team over this past year, responding to local, regional and national needs.

“I am so proud to work with each and every one of our team members, and can truly say, ‘Team, you deserve this WOW Award!’”

Working magic

But this isn’t the University’s first encounter with the distinction. In 2004, UND was among the inaugural winners of the WOW Award for its work on the distance engineering undergraduate degree program. The 2021 award was announced in late June after UND’s written nomination was selected by a five-member panel.

“The acronym TTaDA itself speaks to our ability to work magic in the face of adversity,” wrote Jennifer Reichart, faculty development specialist and inclusion ambassador for TTaDA, in UND’s letter. “When the pandemic hit, we were ready.”

With an Academic Continuity Plan in place, due to potential, seasonal flooding, Spring 2020 courses moved to remote delivery quickly. The TTaDA team supported faculty with letters of understanding, development stipends and exemplary course awards, wrote Reichart, and created orientation sessions and course development plans to further support professors and instructors moving their teaching online.

Jeff Holm
Jeff Holm

According to TTaDA, the team assisted faculty in the creation, development and revision of 455 online courses; developed 35 new self-paced enroll anytime courses; launched six one-credit intersession courses and assisted faculty with developing over 300 HyFlex courses – a hybrid model combining on-campus and online learning.

Jeffrey Holm, vice provost for online education and strategic planning, said while he has always appreciated TTaDA’s work with UND’s faculty, their work in the past year has exceeded all expectations.

“They have worked together and attained the highest level imaginable in their efforts to support faculty responding to the challenges imposed by the pandemic,” Holm said. “Ultimately, their efforts have made it possible for our faculty to provide the best possible educational experiences to our students.

“I’m proud of what the TTaDA team has accomplished. No group I have ever worked with has done, or could have done, more.”

Shining through collaboration

Though she only arrived at UND just before the pandemic, in January 2020, Reichart noticed the way in which TTaDA’s team members showed strong respect for collaboration as well as strong leadership through an unprecedented situation. In particular, TTaDA’s focus areas of faculty development and instructional design were able to shine through their cooperation over the past year, she said.

“Moving to an institution where these areas are so valued and supported has been amazing,” Reichart remarked. “The resources available to us to offer one-on-one help with instructional design, among other services, is like a dream come true.

“There has been no shortage of requests for assistance throughout the past year, and I’m so proud to work in such a responsive department that truly values faculty development.”

Other WOW 2021 awardees include: Colorado Technical University, Miami University Regionals E-Campus, University of Alabama, University of Louisville and University of Texas at San Antonio.