June Staff Spotlight: Jackie Wickham Smith

by Loren Guay

Staff Spotlight: Jackie Wickham Smith 

This month, we’re spotlighting Senior Learning Designer Jackie Wickham Smith! In the blog post below, Jackie tells us more about her work with Distance Learning.

How long have you worked here? How did you come to join the DL team / get involved in distance education?

I started working in Distance Learning in April of 2012. I had finished my master’s in school counseling and entered a tough job market in that field, so I started applying for other jobs in education. My resume stood out to the distance learning team because I had experience using Blackboard (our LMS at the time) as an instructor – I’d taught Career Planning to undergraduates at Northern Illinois when I was in grad school there.

Describe your typical “Day in the Life.”

I spend about half my work day in meetings, whether to check in with the team on the progress of a course I’m working on, work collaboratively on course content or other projects, consult with a team member on one of their projects, or participate in one of the department, school, or university-wide committees I sit on.

During the other half of the day, you can find me reviewing course content, building Canvas sites, exploring the functionality of our current technologies and researching new ones, and planning for upcoming projects.

What’s something about your job that might surprise readers?

Readers might be surprised to know how many different technologies have been used to deliver our courses in the decade-plus I’ve worked here! Not only have we switched our learning management system from Blackboard to Canvas, but we’ve been through several web conferencing systems: Adobe Connect, Blue Jeans, and Zoom; video hosting platforms: Adobe Connect, Mediasite, and Panopto; video creation softwares (too many to list), and various apps and add-ons that have come and gone over the years: Zaption, Videoscribe, YellowDig—just to name a few.

What’s your favorite resource or tool that not many people know about?

I mentioned above how many different tools we’ve used to facilitate our courses over the years I’ve been here, but my favorite thing about our courses is how our students and faculty engage in them: sharing their experiences, supporting each other, and helping each other make meaning of course content and apply it to new and different contexts. The resources and tools used to deliver the course matter much less than the person delivering them, the people they’re delivered to, and how all of those things interact.

Tell us about something you’re passionate about.

I love creating things and planning events that reflect the personalities of the people they’re celebrating! The Distance Learning team are frequent beneficiaries of this—over the years, I’ve planned a Villain-themed grandpa shower in honor of Dr. David Noffs (a.k.a. Discussion Hero’s nemesis Dr. D. Shadow), a Very Hungry Caterpillar-themed baby shower in honor of Aaron Bannasch, who we can always count on to finish the leftovers at team lunches, and two different llamazing birthday parties for Dr. Reba-Anna Lee.

My favorite event that I’ve helped with is a beer mile in memory of my friend Allison McKey, who passed away in April 2020 after a multi-year battle with osteosarcoma. Allison was happiest when she was outside being active with people she loved, so the beer mile is a perfect way to bring people together to raise a glass to her. This year, the event expanded to three states as well as a virtual option. Allison planned amazing parties and had the best sense for detail, so we had custom shirts made and a special beer was brewed just for the race. The event raised over $7000 for the Sarcoma Foundation of America.

A series of people running a race, with Jackie leading, on a track through a cornfield.
Jackie (left) leading a group of runners during the latest beer mile event.


The Distance Learning team is part of the Northwestern School of Professional Studies (SPS). To keep up with news, staff spotlights, online education insights and more, subscribe to the DL newsletter (The DL Digest) and check out the rest of the Distance Learning blog!