2020 Innovators Awards Inductee Profile: Jared Riddle

February 5, 2021
Jared Riddle

Professor Jared Riddle rose to the unprecedented and immediate challenge of the coronavirus pandemic and dove headfirst into the waters of virtual teaching. Riddle has an extensive theatre background, and drawing on that experience, developed voice-over, custom graphics, and intro/exit music to create engaging and entertaining lectures.

Realizing the disconnect caused by emergency virtual teaching, Riddle created and followed a consistent course narrative and found success in intentionally allowing students to freely speak. From the use of gathering questions to a “what we’ve covered today review”, the pattern remains consistent and provides students in a virtual environment a feeling of calm connection and a sense of control over their own learning experience.

Riddle has since shared his methods beyond his own classroom, demonstrating his methods during a campus wide Ivy Tech Convocation. He was also selected by the Academy of Educational Excellence to present “Virtual Delight: Increasing Student Satisfaction and Engagement in Virtual Teaching Environments During the Coronavirus Pandemic” as a part of the “Good Teaching Symposium Series.”

Riddle’s teaching innovations have directly affected knowledge levels, attitudes, and even student behavior, which in turn directly affects the Indiana workforce. During this time of uncertainty, enrollment levels have seen nationwide reductions; however, enrollment in Riddle’s courses remains steady and retention has improved.

Additionally, Prof. Riddle’s approach to virtual classes was among the implemented ideas being recognized for innovation statewide by the “Ivy Tech Fostering Creativity and Innovation Strategy Team” calling Riddle’s work, “innovative,” “imagination,” “ingenious,” “clever” and “unique.”

What makes the programs you developed so innovative?

Faculty across the nation had to pivot to a virtual hybrid delivery with very short notice. And so reasonably, both teachers and students were a little bit weary and a little bit wary. However, I think where we’re at in education, isn’t going to go away.

Sure, we’re going to return to the classroom and eventually we’re going to see wearing of masks become less popular. But as far as this sort of virtual live recorded, synthesized teaching space, that’s going to be with us from here on out, and that’s a new thing. That’s a new space. So rather than merely adapting, I’m thinking of these new modalities as a completely new native space.

Many teachers are simply less familiar with ways to connect this new virtual space with our time-tested insights. If you are in a live classroom, the focus of attention is already established, and the teacher doesn’t have to do much about it. There’s the lectern, there’s the front of the room, there’s a white board. But now we’re looking at the screen and trying to keep attention, and the speaker is only one box out of many and doesn’t really have control over how that all plays and how to emphasize information.

Teaching and learning are first and foremost about relationships. Although education is not entertainment, my goal with this work is to take the tools we already know from television and from theater to keep your attention and embedding those into a familiar classroom narrative.

What does the future of education look like?

I think about that from a student’s point of view. If I were a student, what would I want? And why wouldn’t I want the ability to attend a class session live and get that one-on-one mentoring in addition to a streamed lecture? What if one my work schedules change, and I can’t make a class? Do I just miss out or can I at least watch the recording or attend online? Students are going to want all of these choices and as they become familiar with them, will demand them as an aspect of higher education.

What does it mean to you to have your work recognized by the Society of Innovators?

Exhilarating! I am beyond elated to be among the handful of individuals recognized this year for leading innovations in Northwest Indiana. Sure, being recognized for my teaching methods and instructional approach is nice, but being part of an ongoing collaboration with like-minded creative folk, I am gob smacked.

What is something you wish more people knew about Northwest Indiana?

This is a wonderful place to innovate and think about new possibilities. I can’t imagine making any other place my home. There are four things that Northwest Indiana really does for me. First, we’ve got world-class industry like MonoSol’s Tide Pods and those delicious Albanese gummy bears.

We have a world-class bio preserve with the Indiana Dunes, which is next to one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the entire world, the Great Lakes. And in our backyard, we have Chicago, a world-class city. There is almost nowhere else in the world that you have these four things in such a small footprint.

What does innovation mean to you?

Innovation is playing. It is collaborating with like-minded folk to think differently about anything. Innovation is about students and our community’s next generation. It is about finding success in new, better ways. Building on the foundation of the previous accomplishment, but discovering that continuous improvement we continue to reach for.

Why are the arts and creativity important when we talk about innovation?

If you love to experiment. If you want to do things, then you are an innovative person. And for me, that sort of creativity, that sort of innovation, that is my kindred, my tribe. Whether I’m hanging out with the theater folks at the Northwest Indiana Excellence In Theater Foundation or attending a Society of Innovators event, those are my people.

It’s like Harry Potter stepping into Hogwarts or the Wright brothers finding common purpose with Octave Chanute. It’s akin to the revolving door of creative superstars that hung out at Andy Warhol’s factory. Those are the people that can see the possibilities in the problems. The creative types, those are the folks who help all of us find better paths and improve our prospects.

What interesting new technology(s) are you paying attention to right now?

The pandemic has launched a technology race to create improved microphones, cameras, streaming services and more for home use. So, I expect many new innovations enabling us to better connect from our home spaces.

What are you excited about in 2021?

On January 1, 2021, works copyrighted for the past 75 years are entering the US public domain. Among others, books like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, songs by Gertrude “Ma” Rainey and silent films like Buster Keaton’s Go West are all free to use and modify. I am looking forward to seeing how adaptations and incarnations of these works ripple throughout our culture.

For me, it is an annual New Year’s Day tradition to visit the online home of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University School of Law. Just type “Public Domain Day” into any search engine.

What is something new you have learned during this period of COVID-19?

Thirty Second Dance Parties! I’ve learned that building in sporadic breaks to change positions has been enormously beneficial. I use them in my personal life, my team meetings, and my classroom. They are simple. They take very little time.

Several students shared with me that their families –when they heard dance party music– would run from all corners of their home to join in. One student revealed that this became an important and spontaneous form of family bonding for them during this difficult time.

Six quick questions

  • Coffee or tea? Seltzer
  • Reading: print or digital? Both. I love digital accessibility and the power to magnify, but there is nothing quite like the tactile experience of curling up with a book.
  • Books: Fiction or nonfiction? Good heavens! I’m an English professor. How could I choose? To be reasonable, I’ll agree to creative non-fiction.
  • Winter or summer? Summer
  • Snacks: sweet or savory? Savory
  • Zoom: wave at the end of a meeting or not? Unquestionably yes. I think it is friendlier than simply clicking off.


Jared Riddle, Professor of English and Department Chair at Ivy Tech Community College, was a 2020 individual inductee into the Society of Innovators at Purdue Northwest. A full list of 2020 inductees can be found here.