Simmons College: Empowering Women Through Education

María Triviño
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Boston, MA, United States

Drew Mirque is the senior applications support specialist at Simmons College, in Boston, United States. He has over 20 years’ experience in e-learning, facing daily challenges to improve the quality of online education at the women’s college.

Simmons College has been working to empower women through education in the arts and sciences for more than 115 years. It boasts the only MBA program designed specifically for women, and every year it is featured on widely-acclaimed lists of the best universities in America, such as The Princeton Review.

The focus on women’s education began with founder John Simmons’ belief that women should be able to earn independent livelihoods and lead meaningful lives. To achieve this goal, education technology at Simmons College is considered to be a powerful way to improve the learning experience and to promote social change.

Online education is one of the college’s key endeavors, as diverse teams work together to support academic technology efforts. Some staff work on system networking and infrastructure, while others assist instructors in the classroom. There is also a Help Desk for students and instructors who need assistance with hardware or software issues.

Simmons College. Photo: AFP Gretchen Ertl.
Simmons College. Photo: AFP Gretchen Ertl.

Additionally, there is the Enterprises Applications Unit, where 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 software, 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 systems,” says Mirque.

The college formerly used two Moodle platforms: CE Moodle and Simmons Moodle. CE Moodle was part of the School of Library and Information Service (SLIS), however its content has been gradually migrated to the main system, the Blackboard Open LMS hosted-system Simmons Moodle, which Mirque administers and supports. This system is used throughout the college by 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,” says Mirque.

Journal is another tool recently added to Simmons Moodle, and both the School of Management and the School of Nursing and Health Sciences have begun using it. Mirque is currently working with the schools on using the Journal plugin as instructors wanted students to keep a journal of weekly reflections or to share weekly project updates but didn’t want students to be able to see what their peers wrote. The Journal plugin has been the perfect fit for this need.

Mirque’s work in helping faculty and students understand and use these various academic technologies can be challenging, as the college has close to 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 only think about 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.


* AFP Gretchen Ertl.

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