Tuesday, May 14, 2019

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GALVESTON, TEXAS – UTRGV’s Center for Online Learning and Teaching Technology (COLTT) has been recognized with the “Outstanding Commitment to Excellence & Innovation in Distance Learning by an Organization” award, by the Texas Distance Learning Association (TXDLA).

The annual award is presented to a person, institution, or corporation who has done the most to benefit and advance the applied practice of distance learning.

“We’re intensely focused on quality, both in terms of design and delivery of online courses, and now our processes have been recognized at the state level,” said COLTT Director Francisco Garcia. “This year, the TXDLA has recognized COLTT as a group because we’re going beyond expectations for both technology and pedagogy.” 

COLTT is a department of the UTRGV Division of Research, Graduate Studies & New Program Development, and supports the delivery of online courses and programs at UTRGV, including those delivered by online, hybrid or interactive methods.

The recognition was awarded at the annual conference for the TXDLA in late March in Galveston. TXDLA provides guidelines for distance and online learning, and annually awards both individuals and groups that raise the bar for online education. 

For faculty to teach online courses at UTRGV, they must review their course with COLTT through a series of training sessions that ensures the quality of online programs. Garcia said this “Blueprinting Process” has been recognized by the TXDLA and other organizations and is being adopted by other institutions of higher education.

“A Laredo community college visited us because they wanted to see what we’re doing here – and they are now in the process of replicating what we do,” he said.

Another COLTT innovation that contributed to the recognition was UTRGV’s new Large Online Courses. Because there is a waitlist for students trying to register for online classes, the university was concerned about how those students would get the courses they needed for graduation. The solution was another professional development plan for faculty that prepared them to teach large online classes – which are capped at no less than 75 seats with a minimum enrollment of 60 students per course section.

“Teaching online is a whole different way of teaching from traditional classroom settings, and teaching large online classes is even more different,” Garcia said. “So we prepared them in terms of best practices, and provided academic coaches, or TAs (teaching assistants), that help faculty with grading and communication with students, but faculty is doing the teaching.”

Additionally, UTRGV was one of the first universities in Texas to implement an accessibility module in BlackBoard to help faculty create educational content that offers accessible means of delivery for students with disabilities. For example, a blind or visually impaired student can use a screen-reader to turn text files into audio, a feature not standard on all computers, but now available through BlackBoard.

To learn more about COLTT, visit utrgv.edu/online.


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.