Spring 2014 Teaching Effectiveness Institute Focused on Creating Excitement in the Classroom

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Todd ZakrajsekThe first day of the Spring 2014 Teaching Effectiveness Institute brought together over 60 NIU faculty, instructors, and teaching staff in two workshops presented by Todd Zakrajsek, Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill.

Zakrajsek led two engaging half-day sessions: Critical Challenges in Teaching and Learning and How to Best Address those Challenges and Creating Excitement in the Classroom: Teaching for More Engaged Learning. In the morning, Zakrajsek discussed how to set a positive tone in the classroom and how to respond when problems arise. In the afternoon, he focused on how students learn and strategies faculty can use to increase student motivation and engagement to further student learning.

Participants practiced with Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) that are proven to facilitate meaningful teaching and learning. For example, faculty can ask students to write a one-minute paper at the end of the class period to further engage with content and check their understanding of material covered. Zakrajsek also stressed that expecting students to memorize content is not a particularly effective technique for moving content into long-term memory. Instead, he recommends helping students become more engaged with content through authentic and engaged learning activities. Examples of what he calls “significant learning” activities include students caring about and connecting with their feelings, interests, and values (as well as those of others); becoming self-directed learners (students taking responsibility of their own learning); and becoming life-long learners (where students develop an extrinsic sense of learning).

Zakrajsek further recommends building students’ self-esteem through real (substantive) feedback beyond using simple comments such as “good work” or “nice job.” In real life, he says, “everyone doesn’t get a trophy.” Real feedback should get students’ attention by offering them ways to improve and move forward. This type of feedback can help students realize that they shouldn’t focus on having lost but that they just haven’t won yet!

Many institute participants commented that the first-hand anecdotes and stories will help them implement more engaging and exciting classroom experiences, and they would have liked to have even more time at the institute in order to learn more strategies for creating an exciting classroom.

Dr. Todd Zakrajsek is an Associate Professor in the School of Medicine and the Department of Family Medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill. He has published and presented widely on the topic of student learning, including workshops and conference keynote addresses in 42 states and 6 countries.

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.


Center Staff Share Teaching Best Practices with Chinese Faculty Visiting NIU

In a partnership with the Division of International Affairs and the International Training Office, Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center staff offered two hands-on workshops for a delegation of eleven Chinese faculty from Chongqing University of Posts and Telecommunications and Shanxi Agricultural University who visited NIU February 23 – March 8, 2014 as part of the NIU Winter Camp 2014, Understanding American Culture and Higher Education. During their two-week visit, the faculty delegation along with thirty-eight Chinese students from their respective Chinese institutions were immersed in Midwestern culture, engaged with NIU faculty, staff, and administrators, and experienced a taste of higher education in the United States.

Chinese Faculty Delegation Spring 2014

Chinese faculty with Center staff following hands-on training workshop on February 28, 2014

During the hands-on workshops led by Center staff, the Chinese faculty explored teaching best practices using a learning management system as well as learned tips for searching for and incorporating open educational resources in their teaching. Faculty were introduced to free and easy-to-use Web-based tools that they could immediately incorporate into their teaching. Many of the faculty participants expressed their appreciation for the sessions, commenting on how helpful the sessions were in not only better understanding current American teaching practices but also in introducing new pedagogies and technologies that could benefit their students back in China.

Learn About Data-Driven Instruction

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Photo of Diane Ebert-MayNIU Faculty, Deans, and Department Chairs are invited to learn about developing and implementing learner-centered instructional materials, teaching strategies, and assessments by attending Driving Instruction with Data: Assessment on Thursday, November 7, 2013, from 10 a.m. to noon in the University Suites of the Holmes Student Center. In this seminar, Diane Ebert-May, a professor of plant biology at Michigan State University, will use the approach of scientific teaching to actively engage participants in using instructional methods shown to be effective in helping students learn better than they do in traditional lecture contexts. The program is applicable to both small- and large-enrollment courses.

Dr. Ebert-May is co-editor of Pathways to Scientific Teaching, a book that focuses on the pedagogical principles and methods of teaching that can engage students in the active learning and improve their higher-level thinking abilities. She also leads FIRST IV, an NSF-funded program that helps post-doctoral scholars design and teach their first introductory biology courses.

To attend, please RSVP to engage@niu.edu by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, November 1, 2013. For more information about the event, contact Michaela Holtz at (815) 753-8155 or mholtz@niu.edu.

The seminar is hosted by the Department of Biological Sciences, the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning, the Center for Secondary Science Education, and the Office of the Vice Provost.

Preparing to Teach Online – Self-Paced Online Modules

posted in: News, Teaching | 1

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Preparing to Teach Online
Self-Paced Online Modules

Online Kick-Off: Monday, June 3, 2-3pm
Online Wrap-up: Thursday, June 27, 2-3pm



Preparing to teach online logo

Are you planning to teach an online course, or just curious about online teaching and learning? Then you can be among the first to explore the new Preparing to Teach Online self-paced learning modules by participating in this pilot offering! As you complete the modules, you will learn about the practices and principles of online teaching and plan for applying them to a course you may want to teach online. The modules cover these foundational online teaching topics:

  • Best practices for online teaching
  • Methods and models for online teaching
  • Technology to communicate, collaborate, and assess
  • Communication strategies
  • Assessment techniques

Preparing to Teaching Online consists of 6 modules and may take 8-10 hours to complete. Because the modules are self-paced, you can complete the modules at any time before the wrap-up date and at your own speed. You have the flexibility to decide if you want to spread the material out over the entire 3.5 week period or complete them all in a week or even a single day! Each module includes a short narrated tutorial, suggested readings, and a quiz. Periodically, you will reflect on what you have learned thus far and how it will influence your course design. Throughout the modules, there are opportunities for you to work on the design for a course you plan to teach online. The modules are based on best practices in online teaching, were developed according to industry-standard quality rubrics, and have been reviewed fully by internal as well as external reviewers.

Module Topics

Module Topics
Overview of Online Teaching
Definition and components of an online course, benefits and misconceptions
Models of Online Course Delivery
Models of online instruction, tools to support each model
Deisgning an Online Course
Incorporating meaningful learning in an online course, best practices for online teaching
Encouraging Communication in Online Courses
Strategies for communication, effectiveness and appropriateness of communication tools
Technology Tools for Online Teaching and Learning
Formative and summative assessment in online learning, technology tools for assessment, effective and efficient grading strategies

While the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center has offered extensive training on online teaching, this is the first time the training is available for self-paced learning online. The modules and this pilot offering for a faculty cohort group are made possible by the partial funding received through NIU Foundation’s Venture Grants. Participants will be requested to provide feedback on the module design, content, and overall experience so that the modules can be enhanced further. Please note that the modules cover issues related to preparing to teaching online and do not include hands-on training that may be necessary to teach online.

Technology Requirements

Participants must have a computer running a browser compatible with Blackboard (more information is available at http://kb.blackboard.com/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=72810639). In addition, participants should have Java and Flash installed. For the kick-off and wrap-up sessions, speakers or a pair of headphones is necessary.

Alternatively, participants may also complete the modules from their iPhone, iPad, or Android phone or tablet. Mobile participants will need to download the free Blackboard Mobile Learn and Blackboard Collaborate Mobile apps.

Participants should have basic computer skills (internet browsing and file management) and prior experience with Blackboard.

Registration Information

This online course is open to all faculty, instructors, and teaching staff (SPS and Civil Service), but the registration will be limited to 25 participants for this piloe offering. Registered participants will receive access to the Preparing to Teach Online Blackboard course. Participants who complete all of the assessments by the wrap-up date will receive a certificate of participation. Advance registration is required.

Attendance at the online Kick-off and wrap-up sessions is strongly encouraged but not required for participation or completion. These sessions will be recorded and available for viewing after the event.

Registration Deadline: May 28, 2013. Due to the advance notice needed for ensuring access to the course and managing the cohort group, please register for this course online at http://facdevprograms.niu.edu/ERAP/Login.aspx?eID=254. Please register only if you plan to complete all of the self-paced modules by June 27, 2013.

After you register, if you are unable to attend, please cancel your registration by May 30, 2013 at http://j.mp/facdevprograms so that those on the waiting list may be given the opportunity to participate in this effort.


If you have any questions or need clarifications about this self-paced learning course, please contact the Center at 815-753-0595 or facdev@niu.edu.


Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center and NIU Foundation Venture Grants

Preparing to Teach Online

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Preparing to Teach Online: Online Teaching Certificate Program

The Challenges

NIU’s President John Peters, in his 2011 State of the University Address, mentioned that “We must pursue the working group recommendations to add up to 42 additional online degree programs and certificates – prioritized according to student demand.” Meeting President Peters and Vision 2020 goals to offer more online courses and online degree programs to give NIU a competitive edge will require training more faculty members quickly on online teaching and learning so that academic departments are able to schedule more course sections online.

Introducing “PTO” – Preparing to Teaching Online

Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, with the help of funding provided by a Venture Grant from the Northern Illinois University Foundation, will soon introduce self-paced training on online teaching at NIU. This project, known as “Preparing to Teach Online” (PTO), will result in a set of interactive learning modules focused on online teaching that participants can use to learn at their own pace and schedule. These modules are being designed and developed by Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center staff and will be based on the current online teaching training offered by the Center, and will be similar to training programs on online teaching offered by other providers such as Sloan-C and the Illinois Online Network (ION). The modules will eventually be the first of a 3-phase approach to preparing faculty to teach online. The other phases will include attending a number of hands-on workshops to become proficient with the technology tools available and receive follow-up consultations.

Benefits of the Self-Paced Model

PTO will be offered in a self-paced mode, allowing more flexibility for participants. Those who cannot attend face-to-face workshops for a variety of reasons including schedule conflicts or teaching off-campus will be able to benefit from introductory information provided by these modules and can get started quickly to accelerate their learning. PTO will also accommodate those with differing teaching and technology expertise so that they can pace their learning. This first phase will help faculty to get a glimpse of what is involved in teaching online and plan their online teaching preparation accordingly. The modules will require participants to complete a design document similar to a lesson planning template that will assist them in developing a quality online course. They can then use this design document to receive follow-up assistance on course-specific needs from the staff at Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center.

Core Topics

“Preparing to Teach Online” will consist of the following 6 core topics, all of which must be completed in sequence:

  1. Overview of Online Teaching and Learning
  2. Models of Online Course Delivery
  3. Designing an Online Course
  4. Encouraging Communication in Online Courses
  5. Technology Tools for Online Teaching
  6. Assessing Student Learning Online

Additionally, participants will have a choice of electives from which to choose including topics like social networking, mobile learning, advanced content and media, and web conferencing.

Features of “Preparing to Teach Online”

These interactive modules will be structured as a self-paced online course in Blackboard with module presentations specifically optimized for desktop and mobile devices for those on the go. Other components like supplementary readings, self-check quizzes, and discussion boards will accompany each module topic and the completion of these activities will automatically unlock new topics in the course. As mentioned earlier, the main culminating assessment for this self-paced course will be a design document which will be completed in segments throughout the modules or at the very end. Participants can then use this completed document to move forward in developing an online course or meet with the staff at the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center to seek additional help as necessary.

Long-term Benefits

The self-paced “Preparing to Teach Online” course is planned for a Spring 2013 launch, in which the first cohort of participants can begin. This cohort will hopefully be the first of many successful cohorts, as this entire project will certainly result in significant benefits to NIU, a few of which are listed below:

  • More faculty members will be quickly introduced to online teaching rather.
  • The self-paced learning modules will help faculty understand the time, effort and planning necessary to develop and deliver courses online compared to face-to-face delivery, and be better prepared.
  • Academic departments will be able to recommend the self-paced learning modules to faculty members who are scheduled to teach online.
  • Academic support units such as Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center with limited resources will be able to use their resources more efficiently by focusing on course-specific online teaching needs of faculty and help them meet their needs better.
  • The modules can be made available for a fee for those at other institutions and promote NIU, and also possibly generate funds to promote program and training sustainability as it is one of the goals of the Venture Grant.

Stay tuned for more updates in Spring 2013 regarding the status of “Preparing to Teach Online.” We envision this project to be a welcome addition to online teaching preparation at NIU and elsewhere, and we thank the NIU Foundation for its support of this effort.

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