eLearning Pioneer: Women Leaders in Technology Series
“The eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in The Little Prince.
This quote continues to guide Lisa McNeal’s leadership decisions.
I have admired Lisa McNeal since I first met her when I taught Business Communication, a hybrid course at Appalachian State University. I valued her responsiveness to myriad requests from faculty newly adapting to online delivery of their courses and how she put them/me at ease. When I saw her walk on campus with a colleague, I admired her for taking a break and setting a good example for those struggling with work/life balance, a common issue for many women.
Lisa earned her Ed.D in 2013 while at Appalachian State. In her dissertation entitled Women in the Integrated Circuit: A Study Examining the Intersection between Technology, Subjectivity, and the Academy, she wrote about how computer technology shapes the professional and personal experiences of female faculty. The participants talked about how computer technology was both a site of connection and tension.
Lisa said, ”One woman I interviewed worked diligently during the Christmas break writing formulas in Access and preparing an accreditation report. Despite her technical expertise, her work was undervalued. Instead of a bonus or course release, the department chair presented her with a gift basket from Bath and Body Works. This gift was a stark example of how technology can maintain the division of labor in the workplace.
On the other hand, the women in the study also talked about how their devices help them to sustain their relationships with friends and family.”
Can you recall a challenge in your role as an instructional developer on the Appstate campus that required hands-on resolution under pressure of deadlines?
The online gradebook for a large student population and varied course offerings presented challenges at the end of the semester. Although there was great amount of stress in resolving the issue, it was resolved within 24 hours.
Today Lisa is in her third year as Director of eLearning at the Coastal College of Georgia (CCGA), where she teaches courses in Global Issues and American Studies in addition to guiding faculty as they develop online courses and managing the Course Management System and other instructional technologies. CCGA is an undergraduate college in the University System of Georgia. The college was ranked #7 among public state and regional colleges in the 12 southern states in the South by U.S. News and World Report in 2016.
What sparked your interest in technology? “I did not study information technology or computer science. When I was an undergraduate at Samford University, I worked in a computer lab and served as an editor for the campus newspaper where I learned about page design. I made a career shift to web design when it became popular in the late 90s. I took continuing education classes at University of Alabama at Birmingham as well as entry level community college courses such as introduction to computing, network administration, and microcomputer applications.”
“This was intentional on my part to obtain hands-on access that I could show when interviewing for future positions that included the Help Desk at Samford University.
I further learned hands-on during the ‘Dorm Storm’ where I configured network cards and was part of the trouble shooting team.” Lisa worked at Samford for nine years, gradually progressing to the position of director of the learning applications group. After completing a master’s of science in instructional systems, she left Samford University to work as an instructional developer and pursue a doctorate at Appalachian State.
What has been your greatest challenge as Director of eLearning?“Hurricane Matthew required full use of our Emergency Management Team for one week in 2016. Initially we moved printers and computers preparing for the emergency. I posted messages for faculty on Desire2Learn (D2L), the college’s Course Management System. We followed established protocols to communicate with approximately 100 full-time faculty and 100 part-time faculty members. I suggested ways for faculty to communicate with students and post online assignments and videos. Additionally, I posted announcements to assure students that they would not be penalized for late assignments. In addition we adjusted the academic calendar.”
Lisa refers to the fine balance of time/money and attends regional conferences in discerning professional development. She looks forward to attending University of West Georgia’s Distance Learning Administration Conference co-sponsored by the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration entitled “Meaningful Living in Digital Age”. According to its website, “The DLA symposiums are specifically designed for those involved or interested in the administration, management, planning, and evaluation of distance learning programs.” A proponent of life-long learning Lisa is taking a self-paced online course in project management.
What are your favorite online learning affiliations and resources? “I find Online Learning Insights (OLI) an informative community for researchers. OLI’s site notes that the community “has evolved into a valued and credible source for hundreds of education professionals from over 90 countries. Their contributions have led to rich discussion within OLI’s comments, on Twitter, and Google+, making OLI a place for learning and growth.”
EDUCAUSE®, a nonprofit association and the foremost community of IT leaders and professionals committed to advancing higher education, provides great online resources and presentations from its yearly conference.
Further, Lisa expressed she values the online discussions and other activities offered by the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education(POD) whose mission is “to provide a community for scholars and practitioners who advance teaching and learning through faculty and organizational development.”
Resource for online teachers:
Lisa recognizes that students can also feel isolated. She says, “My goal is to help them focus on best practices and connections.” She mentors student employees and follows the philosophy of hiring the right people. “I encourage them, listen to them, provide them a chance to problem solve and nurture their confidence. They learn from entry level positions as I did.”
“Knowledge is important, but you also have to trust your gut and heart.”
Lisa is contemplating a summer trip to New England which will include family visits in New Hampshire and Maine.
“I am looking forward to participating in faculty book group this summer. We are reading The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy.”
If you could share one hour with someone who would that be? Why?
“Karen Barad, brilliant scholar, feminist and physicist. Barad is a Professor of Feminist Studies, Philosophy, and History of Consciousness, at University of California at Santa Cruz.”
I would love to know how her brain works.
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Evelyn Asher is an Executive and Leadership Coach who brings big picture perspectives to deep dives with women leaders. She is amazed at the resiliency of her English garden. Evelyn welcomes suggestions of women leaders in technology for future interviews for this series.