Rebecca Sanchez is a seasoned traveler. She’s taken many paths through academia, the southeastern United States and her professional career. These paths brought her to DELTA, where she’s spent nearly two years as an instructional designer.
After growing up in Missouri, she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and education from Tulane University and went on to earn a master’s and doctorate in cognitive and developmental psychology from the University of Kentucky.
“I was always interested in the way that people learn and think and how to create those ‘aha’ moments for people –– the best ways to get information to stay with people, the best ways to get people to apply what they know,” says Sanchez.
Sanchez fed this passion in different roles throughout her career. Previously, she wrote content and conducted research to build online educational games and interactive programs focused on social, emotional, and physical health for kids and teens. It was this position that sparked her interest in interactive learning and pointed her to what she loves to do now.
“I didn’t take a direct path to instructional design, but followed my interests at each of my jobs. That led me to a path that has ended up in instructional design.”
How would you describe your position to someone unfamiliar with DELTA?
“My job is to create effective and engaging learning experiences for students to help them meet the learning objectives in a course. To do this, I work with faculty from across the university to solve instructional challenges they’re having.”
Sanchez and her fellow instructional designers consider various learning strategies and apply what will work best to help students succeed in their courses, primarily online and blended. Their work helps students recognize their goals, engage with material over the length of a course, and ultimately, understand what they’re learning.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
Sanchez’s days are filled with different projects and tasks, but they all revolve around the same thing: student learning.
“I work with faculty on refining their goals, developing learning objectives, aligning all aspects of a course or module such as materials, activities and assessments so they all work together to help students achieve the objectives, and then we decide on instructional strategies and the best use of new media to put it all together.”
Sanchez enjoys the team-based approach and the “rapid pace of novelty” that her job offers. She frequently collaborates with different groups in DELTA and on campus, and she acquires new skills along the way.
Working with faculty has introduced her to new subjects and helped her discover talents of her own, like project management. She creates task lists, manages timelines and monitors the scope of what faculty take on to ensure it’s achievable.
While some instructors are clear in what they want to accomplish, others need more guidance. Sanchez works with these clients to gather and create course content, narrow their focus and solve instructional challenges. Simultaneously, she’s circling in on student success by making sure that everything a student does applies to the larger learning objectives of a course.
As she turns to her colleagues for support, Sanchez demonstrates DELTA’s collaborative spirit.
“I collaborate a lot with New Media Development partners on the approach we’re going to take, the layout we’re going to use, and how media pulls into the act of instruction. AppsDev has been crucial on some of my recent work. I also work closely with our Instructional Technologists on some of my projects, and I love to talk about different approaches with my fellow IDs.”
What has been your favorite project you’ve worked on?
Sanchez has spent the past two years contributing to numerous rewarding projects, but her favorite has been the Course Quality Program (CQP), a new initiative to ensure the quality of online education at NC State. The program comes from DELTA instructional designers and technologists including Sanchez, Bethanne Tobey, Bethany Smith, Arlene Mendoza-Moran, Christopher Beeson and Vince Lastreto. In addition to several pathways aimed at applying the Quality Matters rubric and improving online course quality, CQP encompasses the Online Course Improvement Program (OCIP) which Sanchez takes part in each semester.
OCIP team members partner with a faculty member who is interested in improving their online course and receiving Quality Matters certification. When Sanchez arrived at DELTA, the program had just taken shape.
“It’s been a really rewarding experience of collaboration and openness to growth and change,” says Sanchez. “It’s so gratifying to work through the process with a faculty member, to get to know them over the semester and see how their course changes. The faculty in the program are so dedicated to student success, and we’re getting some really good feedback.”
She enjoys that the program allows her to make a concentrated difference each semester that will endure and expand to impact the university as a whole.
Sanchez calls best practices in online course design her area of expertise. As she focuses on the program’s evaluation plan, she appreciates the team’s collective commitment to making it the best it can be.
“Everybody brings an expertise and a perspective to [the program] that I think really works very well together to help it grow,” she adds. “To see how the courses change from start to finish and how much the instructors really appreciate working on it, that’s been really fulfilling.”
What makes your job special?
“I feel so fortunate to be working at DELTA. The openness to new ideas, the push toward excellence and the spirit of collaboration is a great fit for me. I love seeing the excitement in my DELTA team, faculty and students when something we’ve been working on ‘clicks’ and we can see that we’ve improved a learning experience for students,” says Sanchez.
Additionally, she loves DELTA’s fervor for innovation which motivates her to achieve her goals and explore new ideas. She feels the support of everyone around her as they share their knowledge, skills and experiences.
“We all work together to push our projects forward –– not just the ones that we’re working on. [That] has been a really cool thing for me.”
What do you like to do outside of work?
Outside of work, Sanchez is an adventurous traveler and hobbyist.
Last year, her family visited France and Iceland, where she enjoyed “cool, spectacular scenery.” More recently, they toured the cities around Lake Ontario including Niagra Falls, Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City. They also make New Orleans a frequent destination to visit her husband Steve’s family.
When she’s home, Sanchez is an avid sports fan. She loves to spectate at Hurricanes and Durham Bulls games as well as her children’s sporting events.
This school year, she’ll be catching her daughter, Lauren, play high school soccer and volleyball. Her son, Luke, is a preferred walk-on for NC State’s football team, and he’ll be a first-year student at the College of Engineering.
“I also like to cook and spend time outside doing just about anything.”
Just about anything is right. If you pass by Sanchez’s desk, you might notice a sign that reads “Stay Curious.” She’s followed her curiosity from shag dancing and Zumba® to book clubs and axe throwing, adding as much spice to her spare time as she does to her specialty dish, gumbo. She also treats DELTA to king cake for Mardi Gras.
“I keep my eyes open for things that would be fun to try. I’m always trying new things.”