Boston, MA, United States
Drew Mirque is the Senior Applications Support Specialist at Simmons College, in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. He has extensive experience in e-learning dating back more than 20 years, and he faces challenges every day in improving the quality of online education at this women’s college.
Simmons College has been working to empower women through education in the arts and the sciences for more than 115 years. It boasts the only MBA program designed especially for women, and every year it features on the widely-acclaimed lists of the best universities in America, such as Princeton Review’s Guidebook.
This focus on women education began with the founder John Simmons’ revolutionary idea — that women should be able to earn independent livelihoods and lead meaningful lives, and the numbers says that women’s college graduates comprise more than 20% of women in Congress of United States and 33% of women on Fortune 100 boards. To achieve this goal, technology in education at Simmons College is seen as one way to improve the service learning experience and promote social change.
Online education is one of the college’s more important endeavors; teams of employees in several units in Technology work together to support academic technology efforts: some staff work on networking; others on networking and infrastructure, while others assist instructors in the classrooms. There is also a Help Desk for Students and Instructors who need assistance with various hardware and/or software issues.
Additionally, there is the Enterprises Applications unit, from which Drew Mirque provides the teaching and learning community with various forms of training, user support, and technical administration for a number of learning or academic technology softwares, Simmons Moodle among them.
“I’ve worked at Simmons College since 2007. Before that I worked at the University of Colorado and helped develop and support the online courses for the Nursing school. When I knew I was going to work here, I was already very familiar with Blackboard and several other learning management system”, says Mirque.
The college formerly used two Moodle platforms: one was called CE Moodle and was part of the School of Library and Information Service (SLIS), however its content has gradually migrated to the other installation, the main, Moodlerooms-hosted system, Simmons Moodle, which Drew Mirque administers and supports. This system is used throughout the college by the undergraduate and graduate students.
“The whole college uses the platform, but in different ways. The School of Nursing and Health Sciences, for example, is highly dependent on Simmons Moodle for its assessment tool and the discussion forums. Nursing Instructors also record lectures there and deliver them using the Tegrity plugin, so that all students can access critical lecture material online and at their convenience”
The Journal tool is another tool recently added to Simmons Moodle and School of Management and the School of Nursing and Health Sciences have begun using it. Drew is currently working with the schools on using the Journal plugin because Instructors wanted its students to keep a journal for weekly reflections or to share weekly project updates but didn’t want students to be able to see what their colleagues wrote. The Journal plugin has been the perfect fit for this need.
Because Drew helps teachers and students understand and use these various academic technologies, his work is very challenging. The college has almost 5,800 students. “The students have high expectations because now, thanks to technology, they have access to knowledge all the time. One of the challenges we therefore face is keeping up-to-date with changes, because Moodle makes changes every semester. I don’t think only of how I can educate myself about the changes, but also of how to inform other teachers about them. Training for them is an everyday challenge”.
*Drew Mirque, Senior Applications Support Specialist at Simmons College
*Photos by: AFP Gretchen Ertl