Behind the screens: a graduate student’s journey from band director to online course developer


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Jeanne Anderson is an extroverted former band director who lives in Minneapolis, MN. Two years ago, her graduate studies at Calvin snowballed into an unusual passion: helping faculty build, adapt and manage online programs and courses.

Jeanne Anderson is an extroverted former band director who lives in Minneapolis, MN. Two years ago, her graduate studies at Calvin snowballed into an unusual passion: helping faculty build, adapt and manage online programs and courses.

As a lead instructional designer, Anderson helps faculty adapt existing in-person courses for an online format and build new online courses and, through her work with the Global Campus, she helps to design new online programs from the ground up. 

“Even before the pandemic, and certainly during it, Calvin faculty have faced the challenge of crafting excellent learning experiences with digital technologies,” Associate Provost Kevin den Dulk told Chimes. “Jeanne [Anderson] and her team help address that challenge by offering top-notch expertise in instructional design, which is the craft of connecting good pedagogical practices to instructional technology [e.g., Moodle].”


A perfectly timed rabbit trail

In 2018 Anderson followed in the footsteps of two of her children by becoming a Calvin student. Virtually enrolled in the master’s in education program, Anderson developed a research interest in online pedagogy, inspired by an idea for hybrid, dual enrollment courses at Minneapolis high schools.

This “bunny trail,” as Anderson called it, eventually connected her to Robert Bobeldyk, Calvin’s assistant director for teaching and learning. Together, they designed an independent project in which Anderson would dig into research on online pedagogy and work with Moodle, Calvin’s primary pedagogical software. 

You and I are the two people most qualified … to help our faculty pivot.

To support her work on the project, Anderson began working through a series of Quality Matters courses, a program focused on best practices for online education. 

Then COVID hit. “Rob [Bobeldyk] said to me, ‘You’re Quality Matters certified for teaching online courses. You’ve been working in Moodle for most of the semester. You know the ins and outs. You and I are the two people most qualified … to help our faculty pivot.”

Anderson said she “jumped straight in,” leading workshops, providing resources and offering support to faculty while she was still a student. Due to her status as both a remote student and someone with Quality Matters training, Anderson was familiar with online learning tools.

Although he had experience with online teaching and felt prepared for the shift to online learning in 2020, Philip Stegink, education and urban studies professor, said there’s always more to learn, and Anderson helps him to do that. 

“Anderson has been and is an invaluable resource to me in my journey to teach well in the online environment,” Stegink said. “Working with Jeanne [Anderson] expands my repertoire of online teaching skills and it enhances her capacity to support other instructors as she shares among all of us strategies that she learns from working with any one of us.”


“How can I support you as a human being?”

For Anderson, helping faculty figure out how to use the available tools is only part of the picture. “One of my big things that I really focus on is this sense of human-centric community,” Anderson said. “I want to support you in your most stressful moments. … How can I support you as a human being? I see you have a problem: let’s lower your stress level. I’m here to help you figure it out. I may not know the answer right now but I’m on it with you.”

When Anderson came on board in 2020, Calvin’s Global Campus was only just beginning, but it was one of many things rapidly evolving, according to Anderson. As the Global Campus was forming, “we were starting to get our rhythm in IT and academic support. Wiley [a partner in developing online courses] was coming. All [of] these things happening at once,” Anderson said.

“All of this was kind of snowballing into a place that God was just kind of driving me into and finding that I had a place to be missional — I had a place where my calling was to support people and to use tools, and I found it really exciting,” Anderson said. 

Although she remains in Minneapolis, Anderson said she still has “both feet planted” at Calvin. Her role includes onboarding new professors to Calvin’s collection of online tools and supporting online adjuncts from across the country. Her favorite projects involve collaborative course development, which combines Anderson’s skill with online tools and knowledge of best practices with instructor’s area expertise. 

“I tell them, ‘You don’t have to know anything about Moodle, you just need to be the expert. I’ll walk you through the processes and I’ll create the Moodle course for you, and we’ll just work back and forth,’” Anderson said. 

Like many others, Elizabeth Oommen, speech pathology and audiology professor, made a jump to online learning when COVID hit. Over the two years since, she has developed and taught graduate courses for the online speech pathology and audiology master’s program as well as online undergraduate courses. Anderson has supported Oommen throughout the course development process.

“From the numerous workshops focused on the use of online teaching programs such as VoiceThread and learning management systems (Moodle) to one-on-one meetings, her interest and expertise in online teaching and learning is very evident,” Oommen told Chimes. “Jeanne [Anderson] is always willing to lend a helping hand (with a smile).”


A woman on a mission

Back in 2020, Anderson was in the process of discerning how to apply the new skills she was learning in graduate school. “I still didn’t know where God was leading, but I knew He had grabbed my heart in multiple ways,” Anderson told Chimes. “How can I be missional? How can I be intentional? But online learning — this has really grabbed me, too.”

Today, she onboards new instructors to Calvin’s mission — a mission which, via her children, drew her to Calvin in the first place — while also onboarding them to the university’s online tools. 

“I found I loved it here. God was calling me to do something completely different from where I started out — He grabbed my heart in the circumstances,” Anderson said.