Student writer Andrea Day contributed to this story.
An influential presence in the School of Education since 2000, Adult Education and Training Assistant Professor Don Quick’s commitment to technology in education has impacted not only the program but the School as a whole.
When the Colorado State University campus shifted to online operations – and learning – Quick’s efforts over the past two decades to improve the School’s technology infrastructure allowed SOE faculty, staff, and students to make the move with fewer hiccups than expected.
With his retirement in 2020, the AET program and School of Education celebrate Quick’s influence on technology in education and his passion and motivation for student success that inspired countless students over more than 20 years.
From corporate employee to higher education instructor
At 6 years old, Quick received his first science in electronics kit, kicking off a lifelong interest in technology. He later received his associate’s degree in electronics and landed a job with Hewlett-Packard. Quick’s career with HP covered two campuses and several roles – that of a technician, an engineer, and a manager – in various departments and divisions across Northern Colorado. While working his full-time job at HP, Quick earned his B.A. in management from Regis University. As HP began to change from a technology innovator to a marketing company, Quick opted to leave and pursue his goal to teach history in high schools.
He earned his master’s degree in history at CSU in 1992, and quickly realized he preferred teaching adults. Offered a graduate assistant position as a doctoral student in interdisciplinary studies, Quick focused on adult learning, higher education, and technology. Even before earning his Ph.D. in 2000, he was hired by CSU’s Adult Education and Training program, helping to build the program’s distance delivery by focusing on the technology needed to make distance learning possible. Since then, while maintaining his role as an assistant professor, Quick has been a force in technological innovation in the School of Education.
Changing education with technology
Though the AET program now offers robust online course delivery, this was not always the case. Quick had a significant impact on the program’s shift from solely in-person classes to in-person, hybrid, and totally online options.
“I liked helping faculty and staff solve their problems with technology and the CSU systems,” said Quick. “In the late ’90s, the university’s systems couldn’t provide the data needed for a state report. I developed a system to combine their system with ours to produce the report.”
In 1995, Community College Leadership (now Higher Education Leadership) chair Tim Davies shared his vision with Quick for a hybrid class for the CCL doctoral program. The idea that students didn’t need to come to campus to get an excellent education was exciting.
“This would also make the attaining of the Ph.D. a reality for those populations who can’t afford to take off work for several years,” said Quick. “Tim said that he wanted to take the University to them.”
Using technologies such as a two-way interactive video system, audio-based phone calls, and SURGE, a lecture recording system to tape lectures, Quick created a system that allowed students to interact with each other live in a face-to-face graduate seminar. In the beginning, though, this system was unreliable. Eventually they switched to phone, reliable audio, and WebCT for communication support. Video and screen-sharing became the necessary last pieces for a true hybrid classroom.
In the late 2000s, Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, and Cisco’s WebEx technologies allowed for reliable video and screen-sharing at a reasonable cost. Eventually, the program evolved to Zoom and added ease of connection, a full 5×5 gallery video view, breakout rooms, and the ability to record a class and post it to Canvas. Today, as instructors adapt to teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic, School of Education programs are prepared for online and hybrid classrooms.
While developing this hybrid classroom in the late ‘90s, Quick and the AET faculty were able to launch a fully online track for their master’s program with minimal labor and resources. Instead of using the traditional approach of teacher-centered lecture and quizzes with filmed lectures posted to Canvas for students to watch before completing a quiz, Quick established a student-centered program.
“It’s more efficient to change your teaching philosophy when you’re going fully online,” said Quick. “When creating a complete online master’s track in a matter of months, I had to – and wanted to – use a model that was student-centered and used authentic assessment.”
The model he developed focused on the discussion board feature to create a community of learners. Quick adapted the Kahn seminar method of “barn building,” as presented by Michael Kahn in the 1995 book The Tao of Conversation. Quick’s model establishes the discussion board as the idea builder. A student can post an idea and other students begin to build on it, creating true student-centered learning facilitation. Assessment is then based on what a student accomplishes and how well they accomplish it, rather than quizzes or exams.
“Don has been pushing the use of technology in education delivery for 20 years,” said Tobin Lopes, an assistant professor and co-coordinator of the Adult Education and Training program. “He’s pushed the School of Education into places where we didn’t realize we should go, and we’ve been better for it.”
Looking back, Quick’s favorite part of his time at CSU has been the students. He’s enjoyed pushing them beyond their comfort zones so that they can do their best. Quick made sure to facilitate his students’ learning, as opposed to treating them like consumers of a product. In doing so, he helped students excel even if they had been previously written off.
“I believe we are here for the students and they come first,” said Quick. “However, they are not customers. We must facilitate their learning; they are not consuming our products. There is a world of difference in how you treat the two. I had one student who had a very low undergraduate GPA. The Graduate School requires a 3.0 and hers was closer to 2.0 GPA. I requested a variance for admission because of her determination to accomplish her goals. She ended up completing a thesis in the AET program and now has her Ph.D. There was another with a low GPA who became president of his community college after completing our master’s program. There are many examples like that. I enjoyed pushing the system to help students succeed.”
Quick is known for helping students, faculty, and staff. He considers the learner first and expects little in return. His School of Education community will miss his drive and support.
“Don is an amazing colleague who always wants to support everyone in the School of Education to the best of his ability, whether they’re faculty, staff, or students,” said Kelly McKenna, an assistant professor in the AET program. “He has such a wealth of knowledge that he is willing to pass along in order to support individual growth or the growth of the program or school. He always wants everyone to succeed and to do their best, and is willing to put in the time and effort for everyone to achieve this.”
Keys to success
Quick’s biggest keys to success, he says, were his disabilities and his parents’ care.
“My two disabilities – one is a learning disability that causes issues with writing capability and the other is ASD [Autism Spectrum Disorder] that made it difficult to interact ‘normally’ with people – gave me the drive to be the best that I could be, and the focus to accomplish what I wanted and never give up,” said Quick. “The other key was, when my parents gave me my first educational science kit at the age of 6, during the ’50s, they were unknowingly able to complement those disabilities with the logical system of science.”
Settling into retirement, Quick looks forward to writing his memoirs.
The Adult Education and Training master’s specialization is offered by the School of Education, part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.