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Dr. Randy Hansen

Dr. Hansen began his career in education as an elementary school ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teacher. Soon after starting, he opened a closet to find 10 computers in boxes. “The principal said nobody knew what to do with them, so there they sat,” he says. “I started digging deeper into understanding the technology — and things have grown ever since.”

That initial inspiration launched Dr. Hansen’s long-term drive to ensure teachers use technology effectively and build engaging activities for the classroom. With 15 years of experience as an instructor and administrator, he is now an associate professor and program chair at University of Maryland University College (UMUC), which is an online learning institution with a mission to increase higher education options.

“There’s a misconception that higher education doesn’t evolve,” Dr. Hansen says. “What I’m trying to do is accelerate innovation and show we are doing new and different things in how we’re preparing tomorrow’s teachers.”

Dr. Hansen is the current president of the International Society for Technology and Education’s (ISTE) Teacher Education Network (TEN). Through ISTE, Dr. Hansen is helping develop a set of technology competencies or guidelines that higher education faculty can use to improve their technology skills.

“ISTE has a series of guidelines for integrating technology into education for K-12 teachers, and it has vastly changed the way they use technology in the classroom,” he says. “They’re a fantastic roadmap — but we don’t have the same guidelines for higher education faculty. What we’re creating is very specific and relevant to them.”

Through ISTE, Dr. Hansen is also developing a series of short videos to demonstrate technology use in the classroom. The videos will show, for example, what a collaborative project in language arts might look like, or how to incorporate engaging technologies into a graduate-level course.

Demand is driving higher education institutions deeper into online learning every year, but Dr. Hansen says there isn’t adequate comprehension of how to do that optimally. As a result, he is developing a new master’s program at UMUC to teach instructional design from the perspective of personalized and adaptive technology and data analytics.

Other tips he offers for quality online education delivery include: thinking through where problems might arise for students during course design; trying new projects with technology in the course, even if they fail the first time; and building strong relationships with students through writing and real-time, one-on-one video conferences. 

Despite the fact his students don’t share a physical classroom with him, Dr. Hansen knows them far better than when he was teaching in a traditional setting. “Through discussion posts, you have to do that extra layer of comments to get meaning across,” he explains. “So you tend to better understand a student’s perspective, background and where they’re coming from.” 

Dr. Hansen earned a master’s degree from University of Maryland Baltimore County in instructional systems development and an Ed.D. from Pepperdine University in educational technology, which was largely delivered online — something he feels is important for online educators to experience for themselves. 

Dr. Hansen points out that the idea of online courses is an old one, starting back as far as 19th-century correspondence courses conducted through the mail. “But the exciting part is the new technologies allowing us to do much more — in a way that is both engaging and effective.”