Patricia Baia, Ph.D. – Albany Law School
Since she was a kid growing up in upstate New York, Patty Baia knew she wanted to be a teacher. It was in her blood, she says, and when she started to travel down her chosen career path, what got really exciting was exploring the process of teaching others how to teach.
Adult learners, to her, are intriguing. Factor in the latest trends in pedagogy and technology and, well, the world is transformed into anyone’s oyster. Particularly hers.
With advanced degrees that are a testimony to her love of learning, Baia has become one of the “go-to” pedagogical experts at Albany Law School. Located on the banks of the Mohawk River, it’s one of New York’s oldest law schools, founded in 1851.
Working there for six years initially, she took a break and earned a doctorate and worked as a professor, only to come back with the latest educational initiatives. Now Baia is teaching the faculty how to educate the latest crop of professionals, serving as its director of online learning and instructional technology, just a stone’s throw from where she grew up in nearby Amsterdam.
“I am a small piece of the puzzle in academia, but a cog, that has evolved in the educational process,” Baia says.
Training the trainer
Beginning her educational journey at the University of Albany, SUNY, Baia soon fell in love with academic technology and pedagogy, the method and practice of teaching. That led to a master’s degree in curriculum development and instructional technology in 2001—which whetted her appetite for more, despite a foray into work in the government sector.
Baia says Albany Law took a chance on her, giving her a job as an instructional technologist back in 2001—one of the first jobs of its kind at any law school. Thirsting to learn more, she jumped into a doctorate program in curriculum and instruction at her alma mater in 2002.
In the course of pursuing her degree, a teaching opportunity opened up at the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences where she became a professor for the next 10 years— further developing her love for teaching, learning and instructional technology.
Additionally, Baia consulted as an instructional designer and online learning expert. Eventually she returned to Albany Law for a full-time job in 2016 to support faculty pedagogical initiatives and transform online education and degree programs for the college.
“It felt like home,” Baia says. “Albany Law has a wonderful community and family feel. Moreover, it is personally and professionally satisfying as Albany Law continues to push boundaries and explore teaching and learning beyond brick and mortar.”
Walk before you can run
Online coursework and earning a degree around one’s job is fast becoming a fact of modern life. In response to this trend, Albany Law is targeting an audience of working adults with family obligations.
To that end, Baia is part of a department of three, joining Deans Anthony Haynes and Jason Fiske in the Office of Online Graduate Programs. In addition, she is part of the Office of Academic Affairs with Dean Mayer. Collectively they divide and conquer the details of curriculum, assessment, online learning, programing, instructional design and process changes. Albany Law now offers online degrees such as an LLM and MSLS, in addition to certificates in cybersecurity and data privacy, and will soon add financial compliance and risk management. While it doesn’t offer a JD program online, it does offer some JD courses online.
“It’s truly a team effort,” she says.
Baia helped Albany Law adopt a learning management system utilizing Canvas to deliver course content to support accredited programs—both residential and online. ARC is used to create content and lecture videos to facilitate engagement and interaction. Incorporating multimodal teaching in learning is a must; if a student can’t see and hear what’s going on, they can’t learn Baia says.
“Instructional technology adopted by the school is scrutinized to death by me to make sure it works for both the students and faculty,” Baia says. “If it is not easy to use or has poor customer support, it is out.”
To that end, Baia works closely with faculty on organization, instructional design, assessment, theory and innovation.
“Quality matters here. We evaluate courses to make sure they are rigorous, and designed and communicated well,” she says.
While Baia was getting all the players trained on these new technologies and pedagogies, she simultaneously worked with faculty to deliver course evaluations online using an automated tool EvaluationKit by Watermark. It is also used for institutional assessment and faculty scholarship data collection.
“The next phase is assessing the assessment, so we know what changes we need to do to move forward,” she says.
Baia is grateful she found the freedom to grow and develop as a woman in the evolving field of educational technology, ultimately becoming a leader in this space. She credits her supportive family network—on and off campus—including her parents, grandparents, sister and her partner Dan, who has helped her raise three “happy, silly and loving children,” Katelyn, Kevin and Cameron.
“You need a good support team—at work and at home—to make it all work. We take each day as it comes and remember that it is important to be able to laugh at yourself and find humor in life,” Baia says. “Having a supportive network and being challenged to grow is how we were raised and has helped define who I am.”
Growing up, Baia says if you couldn’t solve a problem, you asked for help, did your research, worked hard and asked questions until you found an answer. The same is true in the workforce and at Albany Law School.
“It’s important to communicate well, admit your faults and bring others to the discussion who have the right skills and knowledge. An answer will come,” Baia says. “There is always a solution and innovation to be had.”
It feels great to be home.
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