October 28, 2014

Fall 2014 Teaching Effectiveness Institute Focused on Effective Teaching and Cooperative Activities in the Classroom

Jeanette Rossetti presenting at TEIThe Two-Day Teaching Effectiveness Institute began on Thursday, August 14 with Fundamentals of Effective Teaching, an all-day event with sessions designed to introduce faculty to the basic principles of teaching, share information about teaching-related support resources available at NIU, and inform faculty on the ways they can address students’ learning needs. We greatly appreciate the time and commitment of the NIU faculty and staff members from a range of academic departments and support units offered who shared their expertise during the Institute.

Ten informative sessions focused on energizing the classroom experience, constructing a syllabus, assessing student learning, preparing successful writing assignments, and teaching and research support from the university libraries. Participants also learned about how to assist students with emotional and behavioral concerns and those with disabilities, as well as ways to manage academic integrity and difficult students. Participants left the Institute with a wealth of information on the fundamentals of teaching to help prepare them for the new semester ahead.

The second day of the Fall 2014 Teaching Effectiveness Institute on Friday, August 15, engaged participants in the workshop, Using Cooperative Activities to Foster Deep Learning and Critical Thinking, presented by Barbara J. Millis, Ph.D., former director of teaching centers at the University of Texas at San Antonio, The University of Nevada, Reno, and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Dr. Millis presented a highly interactive day-long workshop in which she demonstrated ways to sequence structured assignments and activities to foster students’ deep learning and critical thinking. The workshop was designed around three key learning principles by John D. Bransford and colleagues (2000) that support students’ motivation to learn: Prior Knowledge centers on how students construct new knowledge based on what they already know (or don’t know); Deep Foundational Knowledge states that students need a deep knowledge base and conceptual frameworks in which to learn new content; and Metacognition where students need to identify their own learning goals and monitor their progress toward achieving them.

Each of these learning principles can be addressed in the classroom through simple yet meaningful cooperative activities. Throughout the workshop, participants worked with partners and groups in orchestrated activities that can be immediately applied in many classroom situations. For example, students can use a deck of playing cards with hearts, diamonds, spades, and clubs to facilitate team roles and activities that rotate once a week. Another range of activities called Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs), can help students reflect on their own learning while informing the instructor of their progress and how well they understand the content. For example, students can write a type of Minute Paper in which they answer questions or complete sentences before handing in a paper or project:

  • “I’m most satisfied with…, I’m least satisfied with…, I’m having problems with…”
  • “In this paper, what did you learn that surprised you? When editing your paper, what were you unsure about?”
  • “This assignment is important to my role as a professional in this discipline because…”

In another activity, Think, Pair, Share, students are asked to personally reflect on a question or prompt, after which they turn to a partner and discuss their individual thoughts, preparing for a whole class response. The instructor then asks for feedback from just a few of the pairs as time allows.

As a final example, students can be assigned to complete a Jigsaw Graphic Organizer. Graphic Organizers are “visual depictions that suggests relationships and can help [students] structure homework assignments” (Millis, 2010). In a Jigsaw Graphic Organizer, each student in a heterogeneous team is responsible for completing a part of a complex assignment by using a partially completed graphic organizer in which they fill-in blank sections. Each student then becomes an “expert” in their assigned area of the assignment. When back in the classroom, students form “expert teams” made up of other students who had the same part of the assignment/graphic organizer. In their expert teams, students discuss, share notes, and prepare how they will present their information to their original groups. Back in their original groups, student experts will explain their new knowledge to others who did not complete that part of the assignment.

By the end of the second day of the Institute, workshop participants experienced the type of active and interactive learning experiences that can help students to become more motivated, energized, and accountable to both themselves and others in the classroom. Participants also received several resources that can be used when planning interactive learning experiences for deep learning and critical thinking throughout the semester.

Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.). (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education National Research Council. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Millis, B. J. (2010). Idea Paper #47. Promoting deep learning. The Idea Center. www.ideaedu/org/sites/default/files/IDEA_Paper_47.pdf

For further information on these topics and other teaching-related issues, contact Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at facdev@niu.edu or 815.753.0595.


September 16, 2014

EDUCAUSE 2014 Virtual Conference

Educause 2014 Annual Conference EDUCAUSE 2014, the annual conference for one of the premier organizations for teaching and technology, is coming! Again this year, the Division of Information Technology will be providing the opportunity to participate in select sessions online at no cost for all NIU Faculty and Staff!

Attend these sessions to:

  • Engage in interactive sessions and special topic discussions
  • Focus on content that’s important and relevant to you
  • Network with peers from around the world who share similar interests and challenges

When: Tuesday, September 30-Thursday, October 2nd

Where: NIU Wellness and Literacy Building
(Corner of Route 23 and Bethany)

Cost: Free to NIU Faculty and Staff

Session descriptions and times: http://niu.edu/doit/education/educause.shtml.

Light refreshments will be provided, but you may also bring food of your own. You and your team can learn and network with colleagues by attending the sessions together. Attend as many sessions as you would like.

Registration is recommended so that DoIT can anticipate the number of attendees. Register online here.

If you are unable to attend, EDUCAUSE will provide a link to all the recorded sessions (if a recording is available) and a link will become available after the conference (usually 4-8 weeks after the conference).

If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact erptraining@niu.edu.

September 15, 2014

IBM Academic Initiative Faculty Workshop

IMB Lego Logo

A representative from IBM will visit campus Wednesday, Sept. 17, to host a faculty workshop on the IBM Academic Initiative.

IBM’s Valinda Kennedy will lead the workshop from 1 to 4 p.m. in Altgeld Hall 315. All are welcome.

Faculty are encouraged to bring their tablets or laptops.

The IBM Academic Initiative is the main vehicle IBM uses to provide access to IBM assets at no charge for faculty to use for teaching and non-commercial research purposes at accredited higher education institutions.

In the IBM Academic Initiative, IBM provides access to industry studies, ebooks, white-papers, most of the catalogue of full-function software, courseware and more. The courseware in the IBM Academic Initiative includes in many cases: faculty guides, student guides, lab setup, lab exercises, datasets, student lab books and faculty lab books. The goal is to provide assets to help universities develop skills in critical areas which include big data, cyber security, commerce, social, mobile, analytics and other current and emerging areas.

At the conclusion of the workshop, faculty will be able to access and navigate the majority of the assets and understand how to incorporate the assets into new or enhanced current curriculum.

For more information, call (815) 753-9400 or email ewright1@niu.edu.


IBM Academic Initiative (No-Charge Access to IBM Resources for teaching and non-commercial research)

  • Enrollment and Renewal Steps
  • Teaching Topics Introduction
  • Business Analytics (Includes Predictive Analytics and Text Analytics)
  • Teaching Topic Materials
  • Knowledge Exchange Materials
  • Big Data
  • Teaching Topic Materials
  • Commerce, Marketing and Supply Chain Management
  • Teaching Topic Materials
  • Cyber Security and Information Assurance
  • Teaching Topic Materials
  • Knowledge Exchange Materials
  • New Teaching Topic Coming: Cognitive Computing/IBM Watson   http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/us/en/ibmwatson/


  • University of Arkansas Fayetteville Retail Datasets
  • City of Chicago Data Portal
  • University of California Machine Learning Datasets
  • Stanford Social Media Datasets      

IBM Research Studies

  • IBM Institute for Business Value
  • IBM Centre for Applied Insights


  • Understanding Big Data eBook
  • Harness the Power of Big Data eBook
  • 5 Keys to Business Analytics Program Success eBook

Academic Cloud Options

  • IBM Softlayer (data visualization and enterprise big data/enterprise Hadoop)
  • IBM Digital Analytics Software as a Service (marketing analytics)
  • IBM JazzHub (application development)


Faculty are encouraged to bring their tablets, laptops, etc and if they would like to walk through the IBM Academic Initiative please use the link below and enroll:



Photo by Alice Bartlett licensed under Creative Commons

August 26, 2014

Office 365 Available to Students Campus-wide!

Microsoft Office 365

Starting Fall 2014, all students will have a subscription to Microsoft’s Office 365 Suite, at no cost to the student!

From DoIT’s website:

Students have a subscription to Microsoft Office as long as they are enrolled. Install Office 365 on desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones.

Access your files stored in OneDrive or use Office Online to work from any device connected to the Internet.

You can use Office 365 offline, too. Connect at least once every 30 days to retain eligibility.

You can learn more about what is included in Office 365 by watching this video from Microsoft.

Be sure to share the news with your students! Having access to the industry-standard suite of programs is a great advantage to you in the classroom. Now all of your students have access to Microsoft Word, so there’s no excuse not to complete your writing assignments. Because they can all use the same software, you don’t have to manage converting between file formats! OneDrive will help students store their documents securely online, so they can access them and continue working from anywhere (with the Office Online versions of the most common Office programs). Students can easily share files with each other, as well, to make it easier for them to collaborate on group projects. OneNote, which is available for PC, is also a great way for students to take notes (if you allow devices in class) and organize their resources. And office productivity software is practically a must on resumes!

You can find more details, including which programs are available for which platforms, and how to access them, at http://0365.niu.edu

In early 2015, Office 365 will also be available to all faculty and staff, including a 1 terabyte (TB) OneDrive account for each user and Lync, an instant messaging tool that integrates with the NIU Address Book

August 25, 2014

Blackboard Open Labs August 25 – 29

Blackboard Open LabEvery day this week, August 25 – 29, the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center will be hosting a Blackboard Open Lab. This is an excellent opportunity for NIU faculty, staff, and TAs to ask specific questions about how to set up their courses in Blackboard. Whether you want to know how to communicative effectively with students to increase retention, add videos that stream flawlessly, set up your weighted grading formula in the Grade Center, or establish Groups to simplify collaboration, the staff from Faculty Development will be on hand to answer your questions individually.

The Open Lab is available Monday, August 25 through Friday, August 29, from 11 am to 1 pm every day in Adams Hall, Room 323. Feel free to drop in – no registration required! Unfortunately, we cannot provide a general overview of Blackboard at this session, but will be happy to answer specific questions about using Blackboard.