By Norm Miller, LCNews
PINEVILLE, La. (LCNews) — Utilizing a $2.2 million Title III grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Louisiana College launched the Center for Online Innovation and Development (COID) as it moves to 100 percent online classes for remote learning on March 30.
Expanding online learning is an integral part of Louisiana College’s strategic plan, but the coronavirus put the effort on fast-forward.
“Facing COVID-19 restrictions and an unprecedented federal mandate, we had to adapt quickly to move classes to remote, 100 percent online access,” said Dr. Stacey Duke, who joined LC’s staff and faculty in February as Title III Activity Director, Distance Learning Coordinator, and Associate Professor of Business.
Jason Mercer joined LC in January as Instructional Designer for Distance Learning.
Duke and Mercer marshaled web-based assets to create digital tutorials, resources, and community pages, where faculty can share ideas and readily communicate with each other and their students, thus further equipping faculty to teach in the online format.
“With the move from face-to-face classes to remote access, we provided immediate tools and training for faculty, as well as helped administrators develop new policies to meet the demands of remote learning,” Duke added.
“I’ve had the opportunity to not only help faculty prepare for this transition through my work at COID, but the opportunity to pray with faculty and to assure them the Center will support their efforts to transition to remote learning,” said Mercer, who was a consultant for the Louisiana Department of Education and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber in the implementation of the BRAC Micro-Enterprise Jump Start pathway.
The Title III grant enabled Louisiana College to employ Mercer and Duke.
“The higher education community is facing unprecedented times wrought by COVID-19 and a shrinking student population,” said LC President Dr. Rick Brewer. “Meeting these challenges requires innovation, flexibility, and leveraging effective resources.” Given what Duke and Mercer have accomplished so far, Brewer said he is “deeply pleased and very confident” about the future of online classes and remote learning at Louisiana College.
“Dr. Duke and Mr. Mercer rendered a herculean effort to so rapidly create The Center for Online Innovation and Development,” Brewer said. “I am grateful the Lord sent them to us not only for their ongoing assignment, but also for the timing of their arrival. These two consequential professionals are welcome additions to our team.”
Duke said, “From day one, God clearly confirmed that this is the right place for me. I have been able to use my God-given gifts to support faculty in an extremely difficult and uncertain environment. God knows when and where we are needed; we must be obedient to go where He leads.”
Formerly the Dean of the Graduate School and of Online Programs at John Brown University, Duke is a graduate of Regent University, where she earned a doctorate in Strategic Leadership and an Advanced Graduate Certificate. She holds an MBA from Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee, where she served as the Assistant Dean of Adult and Graduate Studies, and was the Director of Curriculum and Instruction.
Mercer said he could “never have envisioned the scope of the project. But I know that I’m exactly where God wants me. I look forward to serving the faculty and students of LC during this transition to remote learning.”
Mercer was technology consultant for the Career and Technical Education Leadership Academy created by the Louisiana Council for Economic Education in Baton Rouge. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Master of Arts in Adult Education – Technology Leadership from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches and a Master of Natural Science in Biology from Louisiana State University. In 2017, the Louisiana Association of Business Educators named him Secondary Teacher of the Year for his contributions to business education in the state.