Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services helps students get ahead

Mackenzie Coleman
Professor Heather Leidy smiles as she starts the live broadcast of her nutrition course on Sept. 19, 2023.

For students racing to get through core requirements or planning to graduate early, navigating the puzzle of fitting courses into a hectic schedule can be overwhelming. In the fall of 2012, professors James Pennebaker and Samuel Gosling recognized this issue and decided to do something about it. 

Now, more than ten years later, Pennebaker and Gosling’s collaboration with Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services increases engagement in large lectures and enrollment capabilities with an online course program dedicated to making graduating easier. Professors across 48 departments now live stream and record over 146 undergraduate courses from studios in Mezes Hall.

Marla Gilliland, director of course development, said the program originally offered students the option to enroll in live courses but quickly added asynchronous courses in 2014 after LAITS found success with an asynchronous Texas politics course. 

“Our enrollment was really strong, so that gave us what we needed to move forward and understand how to build a lot of efficiencies out of these courses,” Gilliland said.

For environmental science freshman Akanksha Mehta, her asynchronous class gives her the balance and flexibility she needs to stay on track. While students work independently watching the lecture videos, professors give deadlines throughout the week to help students stay up to date.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how much of it is guided in its pacing, it really does keep you on track,” Mehta said. “It’s completely asynchronous, so I knew I would be able to work on it in my own time, which is really nice because I can work around my other class schedules.”

LAITS also offers summer classes to help students meet their individual requirements.

“One thing that’s really important to us … is providing online courses to students in the summer,” Gilliland said. “It’s accessible, allows students to take courses or continue on their path to their degree, have some convenience if you’re working or traveling or whatever else is going on in your summer.”

For corporate communication freshman Amie Ann White, the online LAITS courses help her to reach her degree goals in a timely manner. In order to meet her timeline of graduating early in 2025, White needed to finish her core requirements this semester.  

“It was very relieving to know that UT had one option that I could rely on when everything else is such a guess on if you’re going to be able to get in,” White said. “It was nice to know I was for sure going to be able to get my core because of how many students they were accepting into this class.”

Looking forward, Gilliland said LAITS hopes to continue innovating and help students get their degrees as efficiently as possible.

“We’re here for (the students),” Gilliland said. “We work really hard, and working in media, as based as it is in technology, is ever-changing. (We’ve) got to continue to improve and do new things, and a lot of us are here because of the goal of serving students.”

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