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22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

OLC Innovate 2016 - Innovations in Blended and Online Learning
April 20-22, 2016 | New Orleans, LA | Sheraton New Orleans Hotel

Tech Tools & Active Cultures: A Recipe for Successful Campus-wide Blended Learning Initiatives

Erika Beck (Nevada State College, US)
Tony Scinta (Nevada State College, US)
Session Information
April 23, 2012 - 2:00pm
Faculty Development and Support
Areas of Special Interest: 
Institutional Initiatives
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Lakeshore B
Session Duration: 
50 Minutes
Virtual Session

An engaging look at how institutions can leverage their campus culture and technological infrastructure to capitalize on the promise of blended learning despite dwindling resources.

Extended Abstract


While the disinvestment in public higher education is a national trend, the challenges presented by the economic downturn have been particularly difficult for public institutions in Nevada. At Nevada State College, a perfect storm of double-digit enrollment increases and dwindling state appropriations has accelerated the need for new models of instruction that retain a largely non-traditional and under-served student population in the wake of reduced resources. Blended learning models have emerged as a promising means to this end due largely to their instructional versatility and comparative cost effectiveness.


In this session, we examine the administrative challenges and successes our campus has encountered in promoting effective models of blended learning. Participants will be treated to a practical look at how our accomplishments have been guided by:

  • Instructional practices that capitalize on the unique strengths of the online and face-to-face components of blended learning models
  • A campus culture defined by shared governance and pervasive incentives for instructional innovation
  • An infrastructure founded on the broad accessibility and availability of essential learning technologies

Audience members will entertain a rich dialogue about the opportunities and challenges posed by blended learning on their own campuses, permitting each of us to (hopefully) walk away with a set of practical applications.


The literature generally paints a favorable picture of blended learning, indicating that the format more effectively promotes student learning (e.g., Schraber, Wilcox, Whiteside, Marsh, & Brooks, 2010), is often preferred to other methods of instruction (e.g., Bersin, 2004), and maximizes institutional dollars through a more efficient use of classroom space relative to purely in-person courses (Gould, 2003). In our experience, these benefits are fully realized only when the blended learning curriculum capitalizes on the unique strengths of the face-to-face and online modalities that comprise it. Our most successful efforts combine the flexibility, open discussion, and autonomy afforded by online instruction with the personalized, hands-on interactions made possible by face-to-face sessions.

For example, our science and clinical instructors convey core concepts online through engaging multimedia presentations (e.g., lecture capture videos), thereby liberating additional class time for more detailed, exploratory lab sessions. Likewise, faculty in the social sciences have devised a short-term research methods course that maintains the rigor and experiential skill development of a purely in-person course, but does so in a drastically reduced time frame thanks to an intense sequence of online lectures and activities. On a programmatic level, blended learning has opened the door to faculty-driven innovations in the remedial mathematics curriculum that enable students to learn more, in less time, and at a lower expense to the college.

These and other advances are predicated on two cornerstones of our institution: an infrastructure that firmly prioritizes the ease of use and broad availability of learning technologies, and a campus culture that rewards and empowers faculty innovation. Ease of use is facilitated by a unified, cross-campus system that consolidates nearly every technological tool under one umbrella (e.g., a single learning management system that handles announcements, support requests, teaching, and media hosting). Broad availability, in turn, is promoted by a pervasive and oft-iterated commitment to technology. Budgetary constraints have necessitated cuts and concessions in many areas, but we nevertheless have leveraged one-time funds, salary savings, and strategically-chosen grant opportunities to consistently invest in learning technologies. At all levels of the college, but most notably among the departmental heads who consistently engage faculty, these technologies are vigorously promoted as a means to improved instruction and greater efficiencies in the execution of daily tasks.

Several of our investments specifically complement blended learning efforts, such as an automated lecture capture system that helps faculty efficiently create compelling multimedia content while fulfilling their normal face-to-face instructional duties. But many investments extend to a variety of seemingly unrelated technologies. For example, a Wall Street inspired Finance Lab underscores a commitment to technological sophistication in our business programs, and handheld student response systems reside in every classroom on campus, removing key financial obstacles from student - and, consequently, faculty - participation.

This infrastructure is complemented by a campus culture that implicitly and explicitly promotes faculty innovation. Integral to our success in this regard is a reward system - instilled down to the level of faculty annual evaluations - that promotes innovation and clearly prioritizes the benefits of trying new things over the potential repercussions of failure. The creation of a Technology Fellows Institute, the expansion of the Instructional Technology division, and the addition of an Emerging Technologies Librarian have all helped solidify campus gains in blended learning. Moreover, administrators at NSC leverage faculty innovators by showcasing their efforts and positioning them as purveyors of instructional and technological advancements. This approach, which is best supported by a general, campus-wide policy of shared governance, establishes the academic credibility of blended learning endeavors, even in relation to initiatives guided by instructional technology experts. The net result of these efforts is an environment in which technological innovation is both supported and tacitly expected.

Recipients of campus-wide teaching awards and broad acclaim for presentations at national conferences, Provost Erika Beck and Associate Dean Tony Scinta plan to regal the audience with their engaging presentation style, a live demonstration, multimedia-driven examples, and, if necessary, generous cash prizes.*

* - Cash prizes are contingent upon budget approval.**

** - Budget approval has not been awarded

Lead Presenter

When Provost Erika Beck joined Nevada State College in its opening year in 2002, there were 177 students. By fall 2011, that number had grown to 3,200. As a founding faculty member and Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS), Dr. Beck played an active role in establishing the foundational practices necessary to facilitate this growth. She was the co-author of the College's set of core values, called "iTeach," which emphasizes innovation, teaching, economic development, assessment, customer service, and heritage. In the classroom, Dr. Beck pioneered many of the innovative teaching practices that help to sustain these values. Throughout each of these endeavors, Dr. Beck has been committed to making the College a leader in exemplary teaching practices, technology and diversity. As the Provost and Executive Vice President, Dr. Beck oversees academic affairs, student affairs, enrollment management and instructional technology. Dr. Beck holds a PhD in Experimental Psychology from the University of California, San Diego where she served as a faculty fellow prior to joining NSC. A former Research Associate at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Dr. Beck has conducted research in the areas of developmental psychopathology and cognitive neuroscience.