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Portrait Gallery: Amber Bryant, Center for Learning Enhancement, Assessment, and Redesign (CLEAR)

Amber Bryant, CLEARAmber Bryant keeps track of the many academic online programs and services. Away from campus, you’ll find her in a Denton theatre or behind a microphone.

 What is your position? How long have you been at UNT?

As an alumna, I feel like I’ve been here forever, but  I’ve been the senior marketing specialist with the Center for Learning Enhancement, Assessment, and Redesign (CLEAR) for almost four years now and couldn’t ask to learn from - and work with - a nicer group of people.

What is your academic and professional background?

I have a bachelor of business administration in finance, back in the day when we were NTSU, and have more 20 years of experience in marketing.  From the corporate headquarters of Braniff Airlines, to pharmaceutical wholesaling and commercial printing, I’ve worked with various messages and mediums helping people get their information out and about.

What does the Center for Learning Enhancement, Assessment and Redesign do?

CLEAR is a major resource for UNT faculty.  Our faculty development team works to improve faculty teaching skills on campus, online, and all things in between, as well as harness assessment data geared toward various learning styles. Our instructional consultants train faculty on the latest technology-based teaching tools, as well as assist in developing online courses and sections. Our NextGen team helps to redesign and improve existing sections by incorporating new media and new teaching methods.

When you have questions about intellectual property and the online program/course approval process - who do you call? CLEAR, that’s who.  Are you a faculty member needing assistance with GradeBook, Wimba, or Blackboard Vista?  CLEAR can help with that.  Perhaps you need to teach a course via videoconference. CLEAR delivers content through the University of North Texas Videoconferencing Network (UNTVN).

What are your duties and responsibilities as senior marketing specialist?

I gladly embrace a wide range of duties; advertising our various programs (NextGen, TII, QEP, LEG, UNTeCampus), working closely with our production team to create eye-catching, vibrant campaigns, tinkering on websites, generating distance education statistical reports, acting as the conduit for all things UNTeCampus. I assist online faculty with the Course Information Database.

What are the benefits/drawbacks of online teaching and learning?

Online courses benefit students by giving them greater flexibility with their schedules and by saving gas and time, which are both huge advantages. These students are serious about their future.

Online or on campus, faculty teaches people, effecting change in students’ lives, whether they share a classroom or just a zip code. 

The benefits of an education are unquestioned,  but it’s not that simple. Many students don’t have the resources to go to school full-time. They face the difficult task of working education into an already busy schedule of work and family responsibilities. Online courses offer the possibility of an education where no possibilities previously existed. How great is that! Online learning offers the hope that one can effect change to one’s future.

There are always drawbacks to using technology; computers break (and are expensive), updates leave you hanging, students might desire more face-to-face time with an instructor, the learning style might be challenging for some students, the subject matter may require a lot of hands-on study to adequately impart the skills necessary to complete the course. In short, there are many reasons teaching and learning online might not be for everyone. But for many students, it affords the only real solution. I guess you could say online programs/courses offer real solutions in a seemingly theoretical world.

Is there resistance to online learning?

In general, I believe faculty are excited about all online has to offer. The ability to show-and-tell is more vivid with technology. Now you can see pictures, hear audio casts, experience videos and interviews along with written facts and oral discussion. With so much additional sensory input, you can more fully immerse yourself in the online experience so that you gain real knowledge.  However, some subjects require learning skills which are definitely more hands-on. In that case, students and teachers usually employ the videoconference option to allow groups to connect over large distances and time zones.

What’s ahead for online education?

Not all innovations will take place solely online. For example, in Next Generation courses take an undergraduate core course, and break the large lecture group into smaller groups of 25 students each. Students meet on campus (face-to-face) one day a week and receive the rest of the instruction online or within the small groups. Faculty introduce complex subjects to students such as BIOL 1710CHEM 2370, DSCI 3710, KINE 3500MATH 1580, PSCI 1040 and many others using this three-pronged system.  Students have been very receptive and excited about these courses, especially the fact that they meet on campus and online. The students aren’t so overwhelmed, because the campus component is a grounding measure.

Tell us a bit about your family and hobbies

I’m very involved in the Denton theatre scene and can often be found treading the boards at the Campus Theatre and other stages, often with my husband and 21 year-old-son. Acting is a great passion of mine – over this past year, my husband and I have been training to become voice-over actors in the DFW area, where we hope to put our dramatic flair to good use.

Why the palm tree?

Working at UNT is a serious endeavor. Education is important – people’s lives are changed every day by what we do and how we do it. With so much at stake, sometimes it’s good to lighten the mood and keep life, and UNT, fun. 

(Interview by Brooke Nottingham, student assistant, University Relations, Communications and Marketing.)

Posted on: Sun 02 October 2011

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