Dr. Nicholas Hryhorczuk, Academic Director of Online Learning Highlighted at Annual Conference
Dr. Nick Hryhorczuk has been a believer in online learning well before the pandemic. As Morton College’s Academic Director of Online Learning, he brings a global perspective to the position and knows the “secret sauce” to make online learning work.
Amazingly, it’s less complex than the formula for Coke or KFC’s chicken recipe with its 11 herbs and spices. It boils down to one word – “reputation.”
“The future of online learning is rooted in that,” Hryhorczuk observed.
Hryhorczuk sees a field evolving with many players competing for students and their dollars in the online learning world.
“We want to become a globally-recognized innovator in the education profession for online learning,” Hryhorczuk explained. “The goal for Morton College is to deliver high quality for our community.”
In addition to understanding the “whys” of online learning, Hryhorczuk also knows the “hows” in terms of delivering a quality online product that stands above the others.
“Engagement is important,” Hryhorczuk said. “We have to devise strategic ways to engage both faculty and students.”
Since community colleges educate a wide range of students in terms of age and educational backgrounds, Morton College needed a platform that would engage the greatest number of students and faculty.
Morton College’s Chief Information Officer Ruben Ruiz liked what he saw with YuJa Enterprise Video Platform, which allows students the flexibility to attend classes in multiple modalities.
“YuJa has features that would help students with special needs or who are bilingual,” Ruiz stated. “We’re able to do close captioning and translate things into different languages for ESL and adult education classes. We’ll be able to enhance the size of the text for closed captioning to assist students with special needs.”
Currently, cameras are being installed in classrooms on the third floor across campus. They are replacing the bulky tech platforms, which are now out of date.
“Faculty will be able to sync their presentations to the textbook they may be using,” Ruiz added.
“We have the software and hardware to explore this dynamic modality,” Hryhorczuk continued. “With faculty interest in this cutting-edge technology, this highlights how far we’ve come post-pandemic.”
Hryhorczuk also will be hosting Director Talks, which is an opportunity for students to meet him personally and discuss all things EdTech.
“People are far more likely to pursue a course of action enthusiastically when they have had a say in creating it,” Hryhorczuk said. “Diverse perspectives deliver better outcomes.”
Morton College also is enhancing its One-to One program to include automotive technology and welding by bringing iPads to these programs.
“This will enhance their learning experience and complement their preparation for the exciting growth in these fields,” Hryhorczuk observed.
Training the teachers is important. Hryhorczuk and his team conduct an average of 75 training sessions per month, ranging from one-on-one to virtual group settings. There’s a faculty-driven group called MOST (Morton Online Strategic Team). This fall, MOST is launching Appy Hours, The Maker Series and the Digital Frontiers Podcast.
“We’re very excited to bring innovative and accessible programming to our faculty, students and community,” Hryhorczuk said. “We want everyone working toward an aligned result. It’s their team, too.”
The product Morton College uses to deliver online learning is important, too. Morton College uses Anthology + Blackboard, which serves over 150 million learners, educators and administrators in over 80 countries. Anthology + Blackboard, which merged in October of 2021, identified Morton College as an ambassador for its Learning Management System and highlighted Hryhorczuk at its annual conference last month.
“Being recognized by Anthology allows us to broadcast Morton College’s story to the broader educational community,” Hryhorczuk said. “Having our story shared at their annual conference is just the beginning for us.”
The pandemic of 2020 forced higher education to rethink its way of delivering education. It took place at warp speed, too.
“Pre-pandemic at Morton College, 6 percent of classes were online,” Hryhorczuk said. “When the pandemic hit, 100 percent of classes were online.”
According to data from Morton College’s Institutional Effectiveness, 27 percent of registrations in credit classes are for online classes. Online registrations in credit classes has increased by 21 percentage points from pre-pandemic to post-pandemic.
“The paradigm shift is here to stay,” Hryhorczuk added. “It’s now part of the fabric in higher education. Online classes are more flexible, more affordable and more customizable. We want to support our students and community. Online classes allow students to work and go to school.”
Hryhorczuk’s international experience and interdisciplinary background shaped his academic outlook to this position at Morton College.
“I could see the future of higher education shifting in this direction,” Hryhorczuk stated. “The ROI (return on investment) is not what it used to be. The landscape is changing. We need to meet students where they are and be more flexible. We’re not only thinking about the jobs of today, but also the careers of tomorrow.”