Conversation with an Instructional Designer – Villa Vance

Mountain View College is pleased to introduce Villa Vance, an Instructional Designer from the LeCroy Center, who is providing consultation support twice a month on our campus. Please take a moment to learn more about her, in her own words.


Please tell everyone what an Instructional Designer is and what types of services and support they provide?

Instructional design (ID) is a broad area for me. Depending on where you work, it can mean different things in every area. But in higher education an instructional designer basically helps with course design. From planning and analysis, design and structuring the flow of the course, management, implementation, and evaluation. But it does not necessarily mean we always start from planning. A faculty and/or staff could come to us, and they may have done all the analysis and planning. Our job then is to help with the design and structure. As an instructional designer for the district at DCCCD we can support faculty and staff with questions about course design, course copy/template, course clean up and management, eCampus/blackboard (from simple questions about adding a syllabus to complex issue about gradebook, eConnect, Quality Matters (QM), etc. We also assist and deliver professional development workshops and presentations.


What is your professional background and why did you choose this field as a profession?

My undergrad is a BS in Computer Science and I have a master’s degree in Learning Technology with focus in Instructional Systems and Design from University of North Texas. I am also a License Vocational Nurse (LVN) but haven’t practiced for a few years now. Previously, I was an instructional designer for the eLearning Center at Collin College. I also worked for America Online (AOL) in the Philippines back when it was still famous. I stumbled into Instructional Design when I was in nursing school doing my preceptorship. I wanted to combine my computer science degree and healthcare experience and do some training work. But, I didn’t end up in the healthcare, so I chose the next best thing. To add to that, I started working for eLearning in another college and it sort of started my drive to do instructional design.

What does working in higher education mean to you?

Two things: I get to take a holiday when it is a holiday and I love being involved in a community. During my undergrad years I was very involved in my school and I think that’s when it started… somewhere in my subconscious mind, I always wanted to work in a school, so I chose higher education. Seriously, working in higher education is so great because you get to work with diverse people who help mold and share the next generation. It also means that I don’t have to be stagnant. I always need to keep up with my education/professional growth to make sure the faculty/staff I am helping are up to date with current trends.


What was the very first job you ever had and what skills did it teach you?

My first job was an adjunct faculty. It was the first job offer I got a few months after graduation. If I remember it correctly, I taught computer 101, turbo pascal and another computer languages. And because of the adjunct position, I was hired by another college to teach 3 more courses. It was challenging at first because most of my students were only a few years younger than me (1 to 2 years) and I had one class with only male students. From these two jobs, it taught me to adapt and be flexible with many different types of audiences and/or clients. It also helped in being able to communicate better. I’ve learned how to mentor others and ensure that I am constantly learning as well. I’ve also learn to take risks and be imaginative when it comes to teaching.

What about instructional design is most exciting to you?

What I find really exciting in instructional design is when I get to see the faculty I am helping flourish and be able to take the advice I gave them and use it in their course. Afterwards they’ve come back to me and tell me that it made teaching more fun or how it has a positive effect on their courses and students.

What is your first impression of Mountain View College?

I love it! The environment is very relaxing. And so far, the faculty and staff I’ve met are very nice. I like the location of the college also, tucked away in its own little place.


What is one thing you’d love to accomplish working with the amazing faculty and staff at Mountain View College?

One thing that I would like to accomplish is to establish a good rapport with the faculty and staff. And hopefully that will open the door to have more engagement, so I can better serve them.

Is instructional design limited to only those who teach in the classroom?

Definitely not. Instructional design can be applied to many different things. For example, if you are looking at a recipe online with step by step process on how to cook something, that particular process was created by someone. In some ways, they had to go through a process to put together the recipe. It may not encompass the hard-core parts and it doesn’t necessarily include all the nitty gritty parts of instructional design, but instruction and design are everywhere.

How should a faculty member prepare for a consultation with an Instructional Designer?

The preparation for a consult with the instructional designer really depends on what the faculty need help with. But the first thing that the faculty or staff need to do is to make sure to set up an appointment with the ID. This will make sure both you and the ID will be prepared because there is some sort of pre-arranged agreement for the appointment.


If interested in learning more or collaborating one-on-one, what are the next steps one should take?

Let’s chat! Essentially giving us time to collaborate on what you want to do with your course and how I can assist you. This will also give me the chance to meet more of the wonderful staff and faculty of Mountain View College.

If you would like to set up a consultation with Villa, please fill out an ID Consultation Request.


Innovations 2018

Wow! What an honor it was to attend Innovations 2018 with my colleagues (aka partners in crime) Steve Sosa and Jennifer McGuire and represent Mountain View College in the process. It was an amazing experience and one we were able to share with a few MVC faculty members as well.


This Innovations conference is designed to foster innovation in teaching and learning and enhance the higher education experience for students, faculty, and staff. This international event provided a forum for collaboration amongst academic experts and thought leaders in sessions dedicated to teaching and learning, leadership and organization, workforce preparation and development, student success, basic skills, and developmental education. There was truly something for everyone.


The session we presented focused on professional development and employee engagement. Officially, “Professional Development for the Selfie Generation (and Everyone Else Too)” provided insight into the efforts taken during the past 1.5 years at Mountain View College to increase awareness, engagement, and participation in all-employee events.


During the session, participants learned the state of professional development as a whole, the challenge of providing a variety of workshops, scheduling all-day events, employee engagement strategies, and ways in which MVC has set out to do things differently. We showcased how professional development could provide a fun and engaging experience at any college (full presentation below).

Attendees walked away with knowledge of social media engagement strategies they could utilize in their own institutions. To say our session was well received was an understatement. Days after our session was presented we still had attendees coming up to us sharing how much they loved our key message and that it was the best session they attended.

It’s a beautiful thing to see others so impressed by what we are doing at MVC and a great assurance that we’re doing some things right. 

For more information on the League of Innovations please visit The next conference is scheduled for February 24-27, 2019 in New York City!


My First Flex Course

This semester I took on the challenge of teaching an eight-week flex course. You might think the student has the biggest challenge when signing up and completing a flex course due to the condensed format, but I have learned that the instructor is challenged just as much.

An eight-week course sounds amazing as opposed to a full-semester length course. Business Correspondence and Communications is a big course to offer in half the time.

Yay! The course is completed in half the time, so I have half a semester to just chill, then…right?

Wrong. I spent the first half of the semester setting up my course template and found it to be quite challenging. A condensed time frame doesn’t make a course easier. The same amount of work has to be completed by students and this requires instructors to focus time and energy on remapping curriculum. It’s the exact same amount of work as a traditional semester course. This results (surprise) is that this endeavor took large amounts of planning and time to execute.

One of my biggest challenges was determining a schedule for assignments. I continually second-guessed myself when setting up assignment due dates. I found myself wondering if a given week was too much work for my students. I had to take multiple steps back and realize that students made an informed decision in electing a flex course and in doing so are prepared for a heavier work-load. Once I let that sink in, I didn’t feel so guilty about the workload each week.


I panicked when I realized that I my online class could range in size from 15 to 37 students. That is a lot of grading to complete in just eight weeks. Yes, my class does use a Learning Management System (LMS) to aid in the area of quizzes, but 80 percent of the writing assignments are to be graded by me. I soon discovered that grading rubrics were to become my best friends. After extensive research, I developed and implemented  rubrics for all of my writing and discussion assignments. Thanks to such rubrics, I found it easier to grade all writing assignments. The rubric clearly stated the expectations for  students, but it also provided me, the instructor, very specific grading criteria for the assignment. This is now one of my top tips in working with faculty and advising their utilization of the college LMS, Blackboard.

I’m now all in and the first week of my course has successfully come to an end. Students, as it turns our, did not complain about being assigned numerous assignments. Yes, there have been a lot of questions, but they were the typical questions for the first week of any class.

Where can I find the link? How do I submit the assignment? Is it okay if I email you at midnight? These, and more, were just some of the normal questions received during a flex course (or any course for that matter).

Thanks to my careful planning though and the utilization of grading rubrics, aka my new best friend, grading has never been easier.


Will I continue to teach flex courses in the future? That is a definite, “Yes!” The ground-work has been laid to offer this flex course at any time in the future. My new course template is now designed in both eCampus and the LMS. I will simply need to request a course copy and update appropriate due dates and other minor tweaks as they occur.

The hardest work is behind me. I now look forward to continuing to teach flex courses as long as there is a need. I’m a believer.

Grading Rubric Resources

Course Mapping Resources

2018 Employee Dev Days: Photo Gallery Live!

Need proof that Mountain View College had the best Employee Development Days ever? Look no further than our very own photo gallery, which represents just some of what makes MVC a “Promising Place to Work” (as recognized by NISOD three years in a row!).


Employee Development Days kicked off with a variety of sessions focused on the overall theme of “Shaping Our Future: Team Impact” and focused on key elements of Guided Pathways to Success (GPS) (Connection, Entry, Progress, Completion, and Employment). With multiple professional development sessions led by MVC family members, there was something for everyone to participate in.


Thursday kicked off with an engaging campus forum on DCCCD Guided Pathways to Success, led by Dr. Lori Doddy and Reginald Gray. This provided an opportunity for all to stay informed on this important initiative.


Immediately following the GPS forum were a variety of workshops and employees had the difficult task of choosing which session to attend.


The best part of any development day is the chance to reconnect with employees we don’t get to see that often. It’s an opportunity for the entire MVC family to learn, laugh, and love what we do.


Of course an employee engagement event wouldn’t be complete with a dedicated selfie station! Be sure to check out the complete gallery to see all selfie images and to spot your colleagues in action.


Even lunch was an opportunity to learn as GPS-focused word puzzles added a competitive element to table conversations.


Afternoon sessions continued to inform and engage MVC employees.


None of this would have possible of course without all the volunteers who worked behind-the-scenes and led professional development workshops.


Thank you for taking a few moments to review the 2018 Employee Development Days and the many opportunities employees had to participate and engage in meaningful ways. We’ll see you at the next employee event!

View the Complete Photo Gallery

Teaching My First Online Course (at MVC)

There’s something exciting that occurs every time a new semester begins on a college campus. Such excitement can be attributed to first time college students on our campuses, the smell of textbooks opening for very the first time, or the optimism faculty feel when setting out to redesign curriculum.

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That’s how it starts at least. It soon develops into an official, class-three hurricane as you realize that teaching is a very difficult thing. It’s a craft that can take a lifetime to master. Teaching requires subject matter expertise, passion for your field, awareness of learning theories, meaningful engagement practices, and carefully crafted curriculum and assessment. Oh…and don’t forget you’re being rated on all of the above by your dean and via sites like RateMyProfessors by your students. Good thing teachers get paid the big bucks (lol)!

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Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love teaching. It’s been a few years since my last adjunct faculty role and it’s something I am very excited to devote time and energy to once again. My excitement is attributed to creating new instructional materials that are meaningful, memorable, and motivational for my online students. This perspective forces me to evolve each time I teach and continuously explore new tools, resources, and instructional strategies.

Three Simple Goals

This time around, in teaching my first online course at Mountain View College, I knew I wanted to accomplish three very specific things.

  1. Teach without a textbook
  2. Utilize free, Open Educational Resources (OER)
  3. Introduce micro-credentialing to my students

Teaching Without a Textbook

It’s 2018. I see little to no reason to ask or require students to pay over $100 (and that’s cheap by the way!) for a textbook that they most likely won’t keep after my course has completed. Besides, back in the olden days when I used to require textbooks for my courses I found that many of my students never actually purchased the textbooks to begin with. They simply borrowed from another student if needed, reviewed a copy from the library, found alternative sources of information, or opted to purchase previous (much cheaper) editions. It didn’t help that every year I taught courses, new editions were released by the publisher, which meant continuously updating instructional materials and assessments. And, so after multiple years of experiencing this as an instructor…I’ve arrived at the conclusion of teaching sans textbook.


Production begins on my online course! There’s no stopping me now.  😉

Today, I create mini lectures (like the one below) on specific topics or themes and release such videos on a weekly basis along with all other material. The purpose of each mini lecture is simply to introduce a concept and motivate my students along their learning journey. Because my students are online, I find that such personalized videos help reinforce a sense of instructor presence (needed especially in online courses).

As a replacement to traditional textbooks, I have been able to find a wealth of alternative content. Below are just some of the resources I have utilized within weekly content folders of my course.

  • News articles from reputable sources
  • Social movements that connect with the material in some manner
  • TED talks focused on key messages
  • YouTube channels dedicated to the field
  • Educational apps available on Android and iOS
  • Online tutorials that often come directly from software vendors
  • Industry webinars and live streaming events
  • Case studies, current topics, and research within the field
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Example of a shared (free) resource referenced within course.

Open Educational Resources

But I haven’t stopped there. The benefits of teaching sans textbook, in my case, means that I simply find other resources to integrate into my curriculum. Much of those resources, usually driven by large grant initiatives, are classified as Open Educational Resources (OER). OER are freely accessible, openly licensed material, such as the  resources below.

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Simply type what you’re looking into this site and find OER content.

Open Educational Resources (OER)

Open Textbooks

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Just some of the many open textbooks freely available.

Still not a believer in OER or open textbooks? That’s okay. This article didn’t set out to convince anyone of switching to OER. It’s simply based on the belief that textbooks cost too much, are updated too often, and ultimately are no longer needed in today’s educational ecosystem.

Introduce Micro-Credentialing to My Students

Lastly, as if teaching without a textbook and redesigning curriculum wasn’t enough work to complete before a semester began, I still had one other major component of instruction that I wanted my students to benefit from. Instead of simply finishing my course with a grade, something of little significance outside of the academic environment, I wanted students to obtain a credential that they would actually value…something to be proud enough to share via their personal and professional networks. That’s exactly where micro-credentialing comes into play.

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An example of free HTML course that ends with micro-credentials.

Micro-credentials recognize competency via performance-based assessments. It’s no longer enough (in today’s world) to say that you know HTML. Instead you need to showcase that you’ve achieved mastery in some way. Most commonly, micro-credentials are displayed as digital badges and shared via sites like LinkedIn. As my online course relates to digital media and web authoring, I utilized a variety of sites that provide micro-credentials, such as the sites listed below.

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Another free HTML course ending with micro-credentials.

Looking Back

Looking back at my development process, I am proud to say that I saved students money, utilized open educational resources, and provided real-world relevance to the skills taught in my course.

Was it work? Yes. A lot of work the first time around. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I actually look forward to teaching this course again since all the heavy lifting has already been achieved. Additionally, I’ve grown through the process, developed new skills, and never stopped learning. I only hope that I continue to embrace the challenge of being meaningful, memorable, and motivational for my students.

Additional Resources

April 2018 Workshops

The Office of Professional Development has helped coordinate and promote various workshops throughout the month. There’s even a conference opportunity in October (register ASAP if interested). Below, you can view, download, and print the entire schedule of upcoming workshops. Training Courses

  1. Log into myPortal
  2. Click on Lynda Training (right hand side of screen)
  3. Select course of interest and begin viewing tutorial videos
  4. Upon completion, print out certificate of completion to keep in your records

eConnect Registration Information

  1. Log on to eConnect as an employee and choose “Register for Staff Enrichment” from Employee menu.
  2. Select the current term, choose Mountain View College as the location, and click Submit (or choose another location to see all available training across the district and online).
  3. Select course(s) by checking the selection box(es) to the left and click “Submit.”
  4. Questions? Call the Software Training Support Hotline at 972‐669‐6452 (between the hours of 8AM – 5PM, Monday – Friday).

Hosting Your Own Workshop?

Interested in hosting your own workshop to share your knowledge, expertise, or passion for teaching and learning? Simply contact the Office of Professional Development (email and we’ll help coordinate logistics and raise awareness for your event. Our goal is to connect faculty, staff, and administrators across the institution in discipline specific, teaching pedagogy, and leadership opportunities. As a reminder, all requests must be submitted by the 15th of the month prior to the workshop scheduled.