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Key person behind Grossmont College's online conversion wins special award

Posted on: Jun 2, 2020 12:00:00 AM
In: District, Grossmont
Contact: Della Elliott

Grossmont College faced a daunting challenge when the campus was abruptly closed March 19 in response to the coronavirus pandemic: train scores of instructors on how to make a speedy conversion to online teaching.

Instructional design technology specialist Dawn Heuft rose to the challenge, working with colleagues to lead dozens of boot camp sessions with instructors over a two-week period. Her efforts earned her plaudits as the first recipient of the college’s aptly named Grace Under Pressure Award.

At Grossmont College’s 21st Annual Recognition Awards ceremony – held virtually for the first time – the instructional design technology specialist was described by President Nabil Abu-Ghazaleh as “the one individual who we as a campus have perhaps leaned on the most.”

“Dawn has done an incredible job getting all of our classes online,” he said. “For many, the stress of just the idea of moving all classes online in the span of days would prove too hard to bear. Dawn has shown grace under pressure these past few months by providing high-quality and innovative consulting to students, faculty and staff.”

Heuft is responsible for maintaining and training instructors in Canvas, the course management system that supports online learning and teaching. Once the campus was closed after the shelter-in-place order was imposed, Heuft and colleagues she calls Canvas power users shifted into high gear to hold training sessions.

“We called it our Canvas Boot Camp,” she said. “We held multiple Zoom sessions each day.”

About 80 instructors have gone through the training and some 280 have signed up for summer training sessions and self-paced instruction in learning the ins and outs of Canvas.

Praised as open, honest and compassionate, Heuft has a legion of fans among college faculty who view her as an ally and coach as they are suddenly faced with learning Canvas.

“She has taken the time to meet with me and demonstrate how to use particular features of Canvas so that I could use these features to enhance my teaching,” English professor and Learning Disabilities Specialist Carl Fielden said. “She has greatly improved the quality of our online instruction by working one-on-one with faculty to design engaging and content-rich courses that contribute to students’ persistence and completion of their academic goals.”

Heuft began working for the college district in 2006 as an administrative assistant in the Business Services office. She took classes online during that time, earning a bachelor’s degree in Web Design and Development from Brigham Young University-Idaho. In 2018, she was hired for her current post at Grossmont College, where she quickly acquired a reputation for her skill working with faculty.

“Dawn has exceptional interpersonal skills,” said Janet Gelb, the college’s distance education coordinator, who works closely with Heuft. “She has to deal with varying personalities, teaching and learning styles, while providing training and encouragement in how to use Canvas and the other support applications used in online education.”

Heuft is quick to credit others for her most recent accolade.

“I was surprised and honored to receive this award and I couldn’t do it without all the amazing support I get throughout the campus,” she said at the awards ceremony. “I am continually inspired by our faculty, many of whom thought they would never teach online or don’t want to teach online.  Suddenly they had to, and they rolled up their sleeves and dove in and looked for creative ways to get things done. And that helped to motivate me to be there for all of you.”




Dawn Heuft at computerRichard Heuft/photographer

Dawn Heuft is the point person behind training Grossmont College faculty the skills needed to convert to online instruction.


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