Restructured CELT focuses on campus' evolving needs

ISU Online

Tom Keinert, a human sciences extension program specialist, appears on camera during a video shoot in the Food Sciences Building. It is part of a 10-module, online course delivered through a video series produced with Iowa State Online. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Sarah Francis had never developed an online course. The Iowa State Online team was working together for the first time. In less than a day, their collaboration on an online nutrition course turned into a recipe for success.

A reorganized CELT

Faculty with questions about offerings in any of CELT's four units should email (not the Iowa State Online email) to ensure the right individuals address needs efficiently.

"From Jan. 1 through Jan. 20 in 2022, we had about 160 tickets through the system. For that same amount of time this year we are already at about 300 tickets," said CELT director Sara Marcketti. "I think that shows the growth of our services and faculty learning to reach out to us in the different areas."

CELT currently has about 45 employees. That includes the previous CELT team, new hires and staff in online units from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Human Sciences and the combined Engineering and Liberal Arts and Sciences colleges. Online curriculum decisions remain in the departments and colleges. CELT staff do not teach courses; they simply are resources to enhance in-person, online and hybrid teaching.

"We have a lot of familiar faces, so when faculty and staff interact with us, they will have deep histories with many of them," Marcketti said. "This just provides us a deeper bench available to serve campus."

Francis, associate professor of food science and human nutrition, is the principal investigator for one of four pilot projects this spring for a restructured Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) as it prepares to serve faculty, staff and students' online needs. CELT now consists of four units: course design and quality, enterprise instructional technology, instructor development and Iowa State Online.

Francis met for months with members of Iowa State Online staff, including professional development services manager Hiroyuki Iino and media production specialist Allison Kayser, to build the 10-module, online course delivered through a video series. It will benefit employees at hospitals, retirement communities and assisted living facilities across the country and was possible with a grant through the federally funded Nutrition and Aging Resource Center. This pilot gives Iowa State Online staff the opportunity to learn while working on a grant project.

"My research team was just in awe of what [Iowa State Online] could do, because we had no idea the amount of detail, time and creativity that went into this," said Francis of the recording session last Friday. "We quickly realized what a high-quality course this was going to be."

For Francis, success was more than just the ability to shoot effective video.

"Because of their expertise, they know the questions we wouldn't know to ask, and provide us with the learning strategies to make online learning impactful and engaging," she said.


In addition to Francis' project, three other pilot projects are underway to help instructors and CELT staff get to know each other, anticipate instructor needs and define university-level guidelines. The four pilots touch on CELT's goals of growing online learning and supporting educators to create and deliver high quality experiences. The four are:

  • Grant-funded project focused on aging and nutrition
  • Microcredentialling with cybersecurity
  • Program marketing and student support services with human computer interaction
  • Quality Matters certification with the agronomy department's online master's program 

Each pilot has a different goal: developing grant-based content, developing continuing education for working professionals -- called microcredentials -- to earn a certificate, refining courses for online delivery and earning the Quality Matters distinction. The projects were chosen, in part, to connect with multiple departments and colleges and determine internal and external processes, said assistant provost and CELT executive director Sara Marcketti. Each has one or more faculty members working with multiple CELT units. 

"The pilots allow us to work through some of the services that we will be providing to campus while being able to see some of the pinch points we encounter," Marcketti said. 

She said the goal is to have a finished look to Iowa State Online's offerings for faculty and potential learners by fall semester.

One unit

Iowa State Online launched Jan. 3 and brought together individuals previously working across campus (see breakout). CELT is developing a strategic plan for continued success. Marcketti shared eight goals:

  • Have a high functioning CELT team and culture
  • Establish a universitywide business model focused on both growth and operational efficiency
  • Provide a consistent, high-quality experience, whether the class is taught in the classroom, online or in a hybrid format
  • Streamline instructor support 
  • Ensure a seamless, high-quality experience for learners on campus, in the 99 counties across the state and anywhere in the world
  • Support growth and innovation in online offerings and online students
  • Develop and foster a consistent cohesive brand that elevates awareness of Iowa State’s online programs
  • Leverage Iowa State's strengths as a university of science and technology to address student and employer needs

All of CELT's units can assist instructors in developing strong online courses, but Iowa State Online is the first point of contact for students. It is the central stop for students looking for more information about online education and has marketing, promoting new programs and corporate outreach among its duties. Iowa State Online director Susan Arendt emphasized the importance of the Iowa State Online website as a central stop.