Online Teaching Effectiveness Institute featured High Impact Practices and Portfolios


During the first day of the Spring 2015 Teaching Effectiveness Institute, faculty and staff participated in two one-half day professional development sessions offered in a fully online environment. 47 faculty from across 25 academic departments participated in the morning session High Impact Practices: Fostering Student Engagement, Success, and Retention, which featured presentations from NIU faculty and staff who currently use high impact practices to support teaching and learning. Speakers representing a range of departments including Julia Spears, Stephanie Zobac and Michaela Holtz of the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning; Denise Rode, First- and Second-Year Experience; Courtney Gallaher, Department of Geography/Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies; and Alicia Schatteman, Non-profit Management School of Public Administration & The Center for NGO Leadership and Development shared examples and lessons learned while using high impact practices at NIU.

22 faculty from across 14 academic departments participated in the afternoon session Portfolios for Student Career Success, which introduced faculty and staff to pedagogy, instructional design and career development concepts related to the effective use of portfolios. The institute developed and presented by Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center staff highlighted connections between pedagogical principles and portfolio design as well as the importance of collecting authentic artifacts of students’ best work to support development of portfolios that can be used throughout college and students’ careers. Workshop participants were also given a “sneak peak” at the Blackboard Portfolio tool that is currently under development.

BB_collaborate_apps_imageThe online sessions were hosted using Blackboard Collaborate to offer participants the opportunity to engage from the comfort of their home, office or other site using computers or mobile devices. The cross-platform strategy provided ease of access for all participants using a variety of IOS and Android devices and reduced the carbon footprint by eliminating the need for travel. An online Blackboard Learn community is also available for faculty to continue engaging with colleagues on best practices related to HIPs and portfolios.

Fast Facts:

The online institute provided significant savings potential for participants. Over 3,900 miles driven, 103 gallons of gasoline (cost savings of $394), and 3,293 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions were potentially saved by faculty participating online rather than driving to campus for the institutes. Faculty indicated that they would welcome the opportunity to attend online institutes in the future.

A snapshot of responses from participants indicated that the programs were well received. Comments include:

Presenters had great, concrete ideas for high impact learning practices.

Great program! Met the needs of a wide variety of faculty members. I also appreciate the ability to participate from home! 🙂

Portfolios may help students see connections among the different things they learn within a program curriculum.

Four Great Sessions for the Upcoming Spring 2015 Teaching Effectiveness Institute

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january calendar with 8 and 9 circledPlans are underway for the Spring 2015 Teaching Effectiveness Institute.

You are invited to attend the two-day Spring 2015 Teaching Effectiveness Institute which will be held on Thursday, January 8 and Friday, January 9, 2015.

Day one of the institute will be offered completely online by Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center staff and invited faculty who will share some of the high-impact practices they have implemented in their courses. From the comfort of your home, office, or other location, you can attend either or both of the workshops: High-Impact Practices: Fostering Student Engagement, Success, and Retention, 8:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. and Portfolios for Student Career Success, 12:30-4:00 p.m.

On the second day of the institute, Dr. Laurie Richlin, Professor and Chair of the Department of Medical Education at Western Michigan University, comes to NIU to present two workshops: Getting Credit for What You Do: Designing an Evidence-Based Course, 8:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. and Getting Credit for What You Do: Creating the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 12:30-4:00 p.m., both offered on Friday, January 9 in the Sky Room of Holmes Student Center.

Both days of the institute are for NIU faculty, instructors, and SPS & civil service staff. Learn more and register for each of the four sessions of the Spring 2015 Teaching Effectiveness Institute by clicking on the title of the session or by going to the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center website:

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

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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 or 815.753.0595.


How to Go Beyond the Textbook Using Open Educational Resources

Almost 30 participants braved the extremely cold weather on January 10, 2014 for the afternoon session of the second day of the Spring Teaching Effectiveness Institute on Beyond the Textbook: Using Open Educational Resources.

Tracy Miller, presenting
Tracy Miller, Online Teaching Coordinator, introduces Open Educational Resources at Teaching Effectiveness Institute

Creating educational resources for students can be time-consuming and potentially expensive. Open Educational Resources (OER) are free resources that can supplement teaching and learning needs. OER can include lesson plans, learning modules, videos, and interactives, just to name a few. However, Institute participants wanted to know: How do we find reliable resources, do we have permission to use them, and how do we add it to our courses?

The workshop began with a quick lesson on how to search, find, and evaluate open educational resources. Facilitator Tracy Miller suggested some search strategies, which can increase the likelihood of quick success. Every search should begin with your learning objectives in mind. Next, consider the type of resource you are looking for: an image, a lesson plan, a video. She offered some techniques to search for and find valuable OER to enhance courses. The first technique was to start at common places people search for resources such as Google or YouTube; however consider adding “scholar” or “education” to the search field or URL. Including such words can help refine and locate more reliable resources. But, always make sure you completely review the resource before sharing it with students.

Next, participants explored OER repositories such as OERCommons or Merlot. These repositories are designed to target searches and organize resources. Repositories are also a great place for faculty to share the learning objects and course materials they have created. Faculty who share their materials with the open community offer great recognition for themselves and their university.

Another option is to begin searching for OER by using Creative Commons (CC). Materials with a Creative Commons license are available for faculty to use, share, and adapt (depending on the specific CC license). Creative Commons allows individuals to use the work of others free of charge and provides clear guidelines on how the author prefers others to expand and share their original work. If you decide to share your materials with the open education community, Creative Commons can provide you with a license to copyright your work the way you choose.

Once you have found a potential open educational resource for your course, evaluate it carefully before sharing it with students. First, be sure that it aligns with learning objectives. Determine if the copyright or Creative Commons license allows the resource to be modified or shared. Check that the resource is accessible to all learners. When in doubt, ask colleagues for their opinion of the resource.

Participants also learned how to embed OERs into Blackboard Courses. Dan Cabrera provided best-practice methods for embedding videos and other popular resources. Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center staff can help you learn how to best incorporate OERs into your course. Doing so can be as easy as linking to the resource or embedding the resource within your Blackboard course.

The afternoon wrapped up with a discussion on incorporating OERs in active learning strategies. Here are some tips from Jason Rhode for introducing active learning activities to your students by using OER in your courses.

  • Keep your course objectives in mind
  • Identify activities and resources you currently use to create key learning moments
  • Look for activities or resources that will enhance the learning experience
  • Be explicit – Provide clear guidelines and expectations for students on assigned resources and activities
  • Help students realize why resources and assigned activities are not just “busy work”
  • Whenever possible select resources and activities that all of your students can access
  • If multiple resources or activities are available, let students choose the option that fits them best
  • Consider incorporating student-generated content for future classes


Incorporating Active Learning by Flipping the Classroom: Spring 2014 Teaching Effectiveness Institute

Stephanie Richter Presenting at Spring 2014 TEIThe second day of the Spring 2014 Teaching Effectiveness Institute opened with a half-day session on Incorporating Active Learning by Flipping the Classroom, but the participants had already begun learning about the Flipped Classroom model. To demonstrate the approach, those who registered were asked to watch a few short videos and read an article before coming to the workshop.

During the institute, participants reflected on how to apply the Flipped Classroom model to their own courses. They worked in teams to research, summarize, and present a model of active learning. Finally, each participant designed a course or lesson using the Flipped Classroom model and received feedback from their team.

In the flipped classroom model, in-class course lectures are replaced with active learning strategies, like problem-based or collaborative learning. Then, to prepare for these in-class activities, students learn new content by watching videos and tutorials, reading, or completing online simulations. These materials can be created by faculty, licensed from a publisher, or found as Open Education Resources. This video from the UT Austin Center for Teaching and Learning describes the Flipped Classroom in under one minute.

Because of its focus on active learning in the classroom, the Flipped Classroom model can strengthen student learning and increase engagement. It also provides students with more guidance from faculty and instructors when they work on applying the new information.

There are many resources available to learn more about Flipping the Classroom. For example, the Chronicle of Higher Education blog “Casting Out Nines” recently featured a series by Robert Talbert on how he flipped a calculus course. Another great resource is “7 Things You Should Know About Flipped Classrooms” from Educause. This quick read offers  highlights of the flipped classroom model and a brief case study on how it works in the classroom.

Finally, the Flipped Classroom model may not be appropriate for every course, or even every topic in a course. Faculty who want to try flipping their classroom can start small by flipping a single class session or topic and gradually work to flipping an entire course.

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