He's an "Edutech geek". A musician. An accessibility champion. And everything in between. Rodney Hargis is all about transforming the LMS experience to meet with today's demands for engagement, efficiency, and experience.
Rachel Reiss: Tell me a bit about your current role?
Rodney Hargis: I am a Senior Analyst in our (Mercer’s) online program, as well as the primary Blackboard administrator. My role is to manage the routine operations; I’m the guy they go to when there are all complex support issues. I also work with IT to do tighter integration with our Blackboard system and SIS. Our user base has blown up from 4,000 enrollments to 20,000 when we moved from Angel to Blackboard back in 2014, so we serve a lot of people. I was always techy since I got my hands on a computer in the mid to late ‘80s.
RR: How do you think distance learning is going to change in the coming years?
RH: I’ve never had the same job two days in a row. I’ve been here at Mercer for a while; I started here as a student worker. I was hired as a part time analyst, turned into a full time one, and now I’m a senior guy. The changes in the 10 years I have been here have been so dramatic. We were originally on web CT and now it’s astonishing. In the future I’m hoping to see a tighter integration between the LMS and the rest of the web (social media, etc.) Two years ago, I lost hearing in one of my ears and I have had to adapt in ways I never thought possible. So that experience has changed the way I look at accessibility and course design. We have worked very hard with accessibility as part of our vision; we have an office in inclusion transition and accessibility. I’m working with the head of that department to introduce universal design concepts to the full campus. Lecture captioning is something in the works – however, this isn’t as engaging as we would like, so we want to be able to embed activities and assessments that will boost student engagement.
RR: What are some things you would consider “best practices” in designing online courses
RH: Set the system up so that students don’t have to learn all the bells and whistles. As a community college, our student body is diverse – some are tech savvy and some don’t want to touch a computer. So we want to create a course experience where students don’t have to learn the LMS. That is the trick to make a seamless learning environment.
Universalizing the LMS itself is also important. We are a community college so we have a lot of traditional classes, some hybrid, and 125 online classes. Every class has Blackboard associated with it in some capacity. At the end of the day, it makes it a lot easier on faculty.
RR: How do you use the Community site?
RH: I found out about it through an email from Blackboard, and now I’m on the site every day. I’m an active member of the admin listserv so I’ve been enmeshed in that world. I will usually go to the admin discussions and see what the admins are talking about typically.
RR: One is one thing you would like to see added/changed to the site?
RH: I would love to see a regional BUG for the East coast/Northeast. We’ve got several schools in New Jersey and we’re part of a New Jersey distance university affinity group, so merging into a BUG would be exciting.
RR: What is one thing about yourself we would never guess?
RH: I’m a musician. A singer/songwriter/guitar player. Everyone should play an instrument. It provides relief, a creative outlet, and enables you to learn and to think in a completely different way. I’ve been playing for about 20 years now.
RR: Favorite quote?
Thanks, Rodney! Interested in learning more? Check out Rodney's Corner – Instructional Technology tools, tips, tricks, and random thoughts