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How to innovate under pressure and uphold best practices: SDSU customer story

International IT Professionals Day

Every year since 2015, the world celebrates International IT (Information Technology) Professionals Day on the third Tuesday in September. And at Turnitin, we’d like to highlight one contributor in hopes of acknowledging all the work IT professionals do in the realm of education.

Christine Lee
Christine Lee
Content Manager

Every year since 2015, the world celebrates International IT (Information Technology) Professionals Day on the third Tuesday in September. And at Turnitin, we’d like to highlight one contributor in hopes of acknowledging all the work IT professionals do in the realm of education.

Dr. James P. Frazee is the Chief Academic Technology Officer and Associate Vice President for Information Technology at San Diego State University, where he has led instructional technology for over twenty-one years. Dr. Frazee is also a voluntary member of the National Ski Patrol, whose first responder skills were of great value in Spring 2020 during the initial stages of COVID-induced emergency remote learning.

Under the adage of “The only thing I can guarantee is that everything will change,” and to “build the plane while flying it,” his staff enthusiastically endorsed both his competence and affability, adding that “He does all that and his end clients love the work he does.” Most notably, Dr. Frazee is well known for partnering with faculty and staff in implementing technologies and initiatives that benefit student learning.

Prior to the pandemic, Dr. Frazee led a unit nationally recognized for its innovative use of instructional technology to drive transformational classroom learning. Dr. Frazee has contributed greatly to San Diego State University and does not limit his contributions to his own campus; he publishes his insights widely in journals and has given talks at various conferences about enabling student success via instructional technology.

He and his work have been recognized nationally. Most recently, Dr. Frazee and his team were featured as an exemplar in the 2021 Horizon Report, and in 2020 EDUCAUSE featured SDSU in the 2020 Student Success Report, “Supporting the Whole Student.” Also in 2020, the President of San Diego State University bestowed Dr. Frazee with the University’s Manager of the Year Award. In 2018, he received San Diego State University’s President’s Leadership Fund Faculty & Staff Excellence Collaboration Award “in recognition of innovative, forward-thinking and community-based work." In 2015, Dr. Frazee was named a “Technology Trailblazer” by the Center for Digital Education, which recognized him as a thought leader in higher education. His numerous publications on educational technology in various journals, too, are evidence of his digital and academic citizenship.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Dr. Frazee led the university’s efforts to expand technology resources for faculty and oversee the shift to virtual instruction with the SDSU Flexible Course Design Institute. Prior to the pandemic, fewer than five percent of the university’s courses were online.

Dr. Frazee took a kernel of an idea in April 2020 to full implementation of the Flexible Course Design Institute in June 2020, training 1,052 faculty (out of 1,700 total) for the rapid transition to campus-wide remote instruction, including the module for online assessment with Gradescope as well as Turnitin Feedback Studio to uphold end to end assessment with integrity per the stated needs of faculty.

The Flexible Course Design Institute modeled best practices in pedagogy as it simultaneously educated faculty and staff on virtual instruction and offered technology solutions. In pairing faculty peer mentors with faculty participants, the institute witnessed the cross-pollination of ideas, with many faculty members realizing similar challenges outside what would otherwise be the silo of online instruction. As a result, Dr. Frazee enabled a sense of community among faculty and staff.

Dr. Frazee ensured that the institute was flexible, quickly implemented, and not “one size fits all,” allowing for customization. The institute, comprising four elective modules (with twelve to choose from) and four required modules, addressed learning objectives, bias, accessibility, and student engagement in online learning environments. Dr. Frazee collaborated with faculty and staff to design modules that centered the learning needs of faculty and staff, increasing the popularity and efficacy of the three-week institute.

The Flexible Course Design Institute also assigned faculty peer mentors to facilitate learning, further modeling pedagogical best practices in a time when building community and providing just-in-time support is critical to achieving learning outcomes.

Dr. Frazee has followed up with Quick Talks, or follow-up sessions, that detail the application of the content in the institution’s modules and during which faculty shared the ways in which they have applied what they learned from the Flexible Course Design Institute, further contributing to a sense of community in a time of isolation. In the past, Dr. Frazee has shared his experiences, such as with the SDSU Learning Glass initiative, in numerous talks and publications, and it is likely he will do the same detailing the Flexible Course Design Institute with the goal of helping educators increase student learning outcomes.

On International IT Professionals Day, we celebrate Dr. Frazee and IT professionals like him who work hard behind the scenes to make an impact on student and faculty outcomes. In the past year, particularly, we acknowledge and salute their hard work.