To Francisco Garcia, it all happened in the blink of an eye. He remembers enrolling at Texas Southmost College in 1987 and taking English as a second language classes to improve his English skills.
Born in Brownsville, Garcia completed his elementary and secondary education in Matamoros. “That’s what started it all,” Garcia said. “I wanted to learn English, and TSC offered that opportunity.” In 1988, Garcia enrolled in remedial courses and started work toward his associate degree.
“I had to take remedial courses in reading and writing. I was able to forgo the math and jump straight to college algebra,” he said, adding that in 1988, he took a job as a work study in the Computer Science Department.
In 1993, Garcia earned his associate degree in computer information systems and began working on his bachelor’s degree in applied arts and sciences.
At the same time, his journey to technology would take him to the Brownsville Independent School District where he worked for three years as a computer user specialist.
In 1996, he made the trip back to The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College to work in what is now known as the Distance Education and Instructional Technology Department.
“We were known as Educational Technologies,” he said. “Those were the early stages of distance learning through videoconferencing.”
Garcia and two colleagues were the founders of the department that started in a small office in Tandy Hall. Fast forward to 2000, the then-Office of Distance Education continued to grow, and the need for change came in a spur of a moment.
“That’s when online courses were first offered at UTB,” he said of the milestone reached at the turn of the century. “Distance learning started in collaboration with the UT TeleCampus. The first programs of study offered were the master’s in educational technology, master’s in business administration and bachelor’s of science in criminal justice.”
When the Office of Distance Education launched MyUTBTSC Blackboard, Garcia was tapped to be the system administrator while he worked on his master’s degree in educational technology offered online at UTB/TSC, which he earned in 2005.
“That’s when I learned about pedagogy, instructional design and the development of online course,” Garcia said. “That’s what helped (in my master’s program) that I had a background in technology, and the master’s helped me a lot.”
While working on his master’s, he and fellow staff members designed a professional development project to assist UTB/TSC professors interested in designing online courses.
The implementation of this pilot program began shortly after the acquisition of MyUTBTSC Blackboard in 2003. “I began to work with faculty to ensure high quality online courses were being developed,” he said.
But it was not over, or as Garcia likes to explain, “it had just begun.” Then came the implementation of multidisciplinary groups, composed of an instructional designer, a graphic designer, video editor and course reviewer.
“My role changed to coordinate all these efforts and resources so they could function,” Garcia said. “Our goal was to produce high quality online courses, which is something we continue to do and expand on.”
Twenty classes were offered in the early statges of distance learning at UTB/TSC. Currently, more than 500 online course sections are offered per year.
Garcia, who is currently the manager of the Distance Education and Instructional Technologies Department, explained how UTB/TSC guided him on the right path.
“UTB/TSC has provided me with the tools needed to succeed,” he said, adding he is planning to begin work on his doctoral degree in instructional design through distance learning.
At the same time, Garcia also continues to explore the future of distance learning at UTB/TSC. “In fact, UTB/TSC has the most sophisticated online tools integrated in MyUTBTSC Blackboard such as webcasts, class video capture, audio and video chat, podcasting and more.”
To learn more about online courses, call the Distance Education and Instructional Technologies Department at (956) 882-6696 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org