Cheryl Fulghum, Haywood Community College’s Distance Learning Coordinator, was recently named Innovator of the Year, Western Region by the NC Community College Association of Distance Learning (NC3ADL).    

NC3ADL is an educational, non-profit organization that supports and promotes distance learning (also known as e-learning, digital education, or digital learning). Members connect with other distance learning educators and take part in professional development activities to expand their expertise.

In addition to serving as learning management system administrator and distance education coordinator, Fulghum is tasked with providing professional development for faculty who teach online. HCC reports 65% of their courses have an online presence, meaning that even a traditional seated course that meets on campus two to three days per week, may deliver supplemental content online. This blurs the lines between online and on-ground courses, Fulghum says. 

"The trend in higher education is to offer more class options with flexible meeting times, utilizing multiple delivery methods,” Fulghum explains. “This is what learning looks like in the 21st century, and what the work force looks like as well. When we expose students to an online learning environment, and do it in an engaging and meaningful way, we condition them for lifelong learning and prepare them for a technology-rich job market.”  

Describing one aspect of her job as ‘cheerleader for faculty,’ the award was given for expanding her cheerleading focus for online instruction to include on-ground teaching topics. Fulghum and her Distance Learning team developed, coordinated, and staffed a wide ranging schedule of professional development best practice workshops for faculty and staff covering many 21st century learning and teaching practices. Workshops include topics such as Increasing Student Engagement, Basics of Course Design using Universal Design for Learning, Best Teaching Practices for Course Success, Library Resources for faculty and students, Classroom Clickers, Equitable Activities, iPads in the Classroom, and Copyright & Fair Use Tools. 

In addition to curriculum-specific faculty development, HCC is also participating in a North Carolina Community College System initiative toward accessibility of all electronic content, including instruction delivered online. Beginning Fall 2014, HCC’s Vice President of Academics and college Deans embraced an initiative conceived and coordinated by the Distance Learning department under Fulghum’s leadership that lists more than 50 elements to build into and modify online content toward accessibility for all students regardless of ability or disability. Each semester, three specific technical standards are issued to all instructors using online platforms to deliver content.

This summer Fulghum helped coordinate and serve as faculty for a 4-day Institute for New Faculty Developers sponsored by the POD Network in Asheville, as hosted by the WNC Educational Development Consortium. Fulghum presented on HCC’s approach to Faculty Professional Development and provided a workshop on GoPros in the classroom.

Fulghum says, “I am a teacher at heart. I left the classroom a few years ago to join instructional support services and found that I missed teaching. Developing and facilitating training for instructors allows me to teach again. It’s what I like most about my job. When people ask me what I do, I say: I help teachers do what they do best by encouraging them to take what they teach and expand how they teach it.”

“At HCC, we have always known that our Distance Learning Team was on the cutting edge, but it is nice to have one of our own recognized with such a special award,” says Dr. Laura Leatherwood, HCC Vice President of Student Services.

According to Fulghum, there is tremendous support for distance education at HCC. “While my colleagues at other colleges struggle with ‘administrator buy-in’ of requiring faculty to participate in professional development opportunities, HCC continuously looks for ways to offer training opportunities for faculty and staff. The administration at the college is very receptive to the Distance Learning Department’s ideas for faculty development and initiatives toward discovering emerging instructional technologies that assist faculty to do what they do best. I am honored to receive this award on behalf of HCC. It is a team effort.”

Donated photo. Cheryl Fulghum, Haywood Community College’s Distance Learning Coordinator, was recently named Innovator of the Year, Western Region by the NC Community College Association of Distance Learning (NC3ADL). Pictured left to right are:  Kimberly King, NC3ADL President; Marc Lehmann, NC3ADL member and HCC Distance Learning Instructional Technologist; Fulghum, Susan Roberts, NC3ADL member and HCC Learning Support Services Instructor; and Kim Gelsinger, NC3ADL Western Region Vice President.