Pioneers Together — Our Community Responds to COVID-19: Randi Plake
By Robert W. Dalton
This article appeared originally in the Fall 2020 issue of Frontiers Magazine.
A late addition to Spartanburg Methodist College’s roster quickly became one of the most valuable members of the team.
Randi Plake, who had been working as a visiting instructor at Clemson University, came to SMC in April to assist with the transition to distance learning in the middle of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“That seems like a lifetime ago,” she said.
She hit the ground running, launching a four-week program to train faculty members on the use of BrightSpace, an online learning management system. In addition to helping faculty gear up quickly for the spring semester, she also had to prepare them for the summer and fall semester – including creating an evaluation system, a task she had to complete in about three weeks.
Plake also conducted four virtual workshops focusing on training for video recording and storage; designing online-friendly, student-centered courses; using Virtual Classroom, an online tool to help faculty members connect with students, and grading.
The reaction from faculty has been overwhelmingly positive, Plake said. “In the beginning people were shellshocked from the spring semester,” she said. “But we had to come up with a game plan for the fall, and basically the faculty has not stopped since the spring. I think in the beginning people were feeling overwhelmed, but we had a lot of faculty go above and beyond.”
It didn’t take long for SMC to recognize the value of Plake’s contributions. About two months into what started as a temporary assignment, SMC brought Plake aboard full time as an Instructional Designer.
While her primary role is to support the faculty, she hasn’t left students out of the equation. Plake has communicated with students to keep them updated on developments.
“We have a lot of student resources,” Plake said. “We’ve taken a holistic approach, making sure everyone is on the same page about what the fall semester is going to look like.”
While Plake has accomplished a lot, there’s a lot more she wants to get done. She is working with SMC’s IT Department to create a studio for faculty members to record lectures, and she’s offering workshops throughout the semester on topics that are important to the faculty.
“We can’t stop building,” Plake said. “We have to get to the finish line.”