Zoom ‘Paving the Way’ for Texas A&M’s Modern Delivery of Distance Learning & Online Education

Texas A&M University is using Zoom to deliver distance learning and online education while enabling learning spaces of the future.

We talk a lot about time efficiencies in the Office for Academic Innovation. Zoom allows a professor’s time and the students’ time to be utilized much more efficiently with these high-touch learning experiences where students can virtually interact with the content — and then have the learning assets archived for use on their own time.

Dr. Jocelyn Widmer

Assistant Provost for Academic Innovation, Texas A&M

We talk a lot about time efficiencies in the Office for Academic Innovation. Zoom allows a professor’s time and the students’ time to be utilized much more efficiently with these high-touch learning experiences where students can virtually interact with the content — and then have the learning assets archived for use on their own time.

Dr. Jocelyn Widmer

Assistant Provost for Academic Innovation, Texas A&M

Founded in 1876 in College Station, Texas, Texas A&M University has been a staple of academic excellence for generations. With over 60,000 students pursuing their education at locations across Texas and even one in Doha, Qatar, A&M boasts the largest student body in the United States. 

As a land, sea, and space grant institution, the university receives funding from prestigious organizations like NASA, the National Institutes for Health, and the Office of Naval Research. These one-of-a-kind educational opportunities grounded in a tradition of transformational teaching and learning have led to explosive growth in student enrollment, creating some unique challenges for how the university can most effectively deliver quality education. 

Texas A&M has used video for hybrid and distance delivery for over a decade. With total university enrollments growing by more than 20,000 students over that same period, it became increasingly important for Texas A&M to find a solution that made the delivery of education efficient while maintaining consistency with quality that TAMU strives for. 

Innovation necessitates an idea, a champion & a platform

Dr. Jocelyn Widmer, Assistant Provost for Academic Innovation at Texas A&M, had experience using Zoom before joining the Texas A&M team, and she was impressed by how easy the solution was for faculty to use and the way Zoom enhances the educational experience of students. So Widmer championed the implementation of Zoom across A&M through the Office for Academic Innovation.

While Widmer’s role is focused on distance and hybrid delivery at TAMU, Zoom also has the potential to impact and innovate face-to-face delivery given how the feature enhancements align with active learning strategies. 

“Many of the students attending Texas A&M right now were born around the year 2000,” Widmer said. “These are individuals who grew up as digital natives, and presenting information in a way that is familiar to them spurs student engagement in the classroom.”

It was for this reason that Widmer advocated for enough licenses for faculty, staff, and students at TAMU … 79,000 in total. The prevailing logic was that putting Zoom in the hands of everyone would help drive adoption. Widmer says that evidence of this comes when a student sends a professor a Zoom link to connect (rather than the other way around).

“Democratizing the learning channels is evidence we have adoption,” Widmer said, “and from there, innovations to transformational teaching and learning follow.”

Efficiency: one of Zoom’s great benefits 

Zoom has been a catalyst toward Texas A&M’s transition to a more contemporary digital learning environment. Efficiency is a hallmark of the digital learning environment Texas A&M is working to create, and efficiency allows more time for what is most important: student learning.

We talk a lot about time efficiencies in the Office for Academic Innovation. Zoom allows a professor’s time and the students’ time to be utilized much more efficiently with these high-touch learning experiences where students can virtually interact with the content — and then have the learning assets archived for use on their own time.

Dr. Jocelyn Widmer

Assistant Provost for Academic Innovation, Texas A&M

With Zoom features like timestamped audio transcripts and audio and video recordings, Texas A&M students are able to interact with content presented synchronously in class and asynchronously after class. Widmer has experience with students using the archived materials in ways that she could never have imagined, so she encourages faculty to make it all accessible and let students digest the content however they want. 

Zoom Rooms key to the digital learning environment

The university is also beginning to implement Zoom Rooms across campus, which will offer more opportunities for deeper engagement with active learning features like interactive whiteboards and live annotation. Texas A&M University’s 21st Century Classroom Building — under construction now — is a state-of-the-art teaching facility that will have 2,200 general-purpose seats in 10 classrooms, all of which will be Zoom Rooms, according to Widmer.

Widmer is most excited for the day when Zoom integrates into the new learning management system (LMS) at TAMU. Work is currently underway to implement Canvas by Instructure university-side.

“When faculty log into the new LMS and see Zoom as a tool along the left-hand side and realize that Zoom and Zoom Rooms sessions are organized and archived right there in the course shell, that will be the moment that Zoom will really hit its stride at Texas A&M,” she said. 

Zoom use across A&M 

Until that day in the not-so-distant future, here are a few of the creative ways Zoom is being used across Texas A&M:

  • Office for Student SuccessZoom’s functionality and feature offerings align with the Office for Student Success’ approach to connecting with students at Texas A&M University.
  • Aggie Honor System Office: Zoom is removing access barriers to the Aggie Honor System Office and creating better efficiencies for faculty to focus on issues of academic misconduct, when necessary.
  • University Writing Center: With Zoom, the University Writing Center can be flexible in setting virtual sessions with students, often from within the library. 
  • Help Desk Central: Students working at Texas A&M’s Help Desk Central are able to use Zoom to more efficiently provide students and faculty with IT support. 
  • Career CenterZoom allows the Career Center to forge innovative and meaningful connections among students, faculty, staff, and recruiters.
  • Division of Human Resources & Organizational Effectiveness: The Division of Human Resources and Organizational Effectiveness is exploring innovative learning and leadership development, coaching, and partnership opportunities using Zoom’s dynamic features to more effectively bring people together.

To learn how Zoom can help your educational institution better enable virtual learning and connect students and faculty, schedule a one-on-one demo today.

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