Faculty Development recognized with Effective Practice Award

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Jason Rhode, director of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, being presented with the award.
Jason Rhode, director of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, being presented with the award.

The NIU Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center was recently selected as a recipient of an Online Learning Consortium Effective Practice Award. The center’s Designing Personalized Online Teaching Professional Development Through Self-Assessment practice was recognized for its focus on the OLC’s five pillars of quality in online education: access, learning effectiveness, faculty satisfaction, student satisfaction and scale.

The Effective Practice Awards were established in 2002 to encourage members to share techniques, strategies, and practices to help make quality online education accessible and affordable for anyone, anywhere, at any time. Effective practice submissions are peer-reviewed by a selection committee of online education experts.

Jason Rhode, director of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, said, “We are proud of our work in supporting faculty who teach online and we felt now was the time to share our practice with the greater online community.” Rhode accepted the award, on behalf of all the center staff, at the OLC Accelerate conference in November 2017.

At NIU, the center developed an Online Teaching Readiness Self-Assessment for faculty who are developing or teaching courses in new online programs. The self-assessment instrument provides an opportunity for faculty to reflect on their readiness to develop or teach online courses. “We recognized that NIU faculty have a broad range of experience with online teaching,” said Stephanie Richter, assistant director of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. “A one-size-fits-all approach was not going to work.” Following the completion of the self-assessment, a personalized framework is sent to each faculty member who completes the self-assessment, based on their individual results.

The personalized frameworks are customized to the individual and contain suggestions for professional development and resources that support faculty in their development to deliver successful and engaging online courses. Richter said, “The personalized framework is just the start of a rich discussion with individual faculty about their development in online teaching.”

The Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center has administered the self-assessment to over 140 faculty from four colleges at NIU. The response from faculty has been very positive. One commented, “Because of this . . . I was able to be confident that my online course was following best practices and that what I planned was ‘do-able’.”

Story reposted from NIU Today, January 8, 2018

Seeking Examples of Innovative Technology Use in Teaching

man holding iphoneThere are so many innovative uses of technology in teaching occurring at Northern Illinois University, but not often a simple way for faculty to share their successes broadly with their NIU faculty colleagues. Simultaneously, if you are interested in using technology in teaching, it’s often most helpful to hear firsthand from fellow faculty on what tools and pedagogical approaches have been most successful.

The Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center strives to make it even easier for faculty to share instructional technology implementation successes with one another, by helping spread the word about innovative uses of technology in teaching. To that end, if you have a success story to share about your use of technology in your teaching, complete our brief survey at facdev.niu.edu/techsurvey to let us know about your innovative project.

Right now, we are just trying to gather information, but we may share this information with the NIU community in the future (with your permission, naturally). For example, your project could be an example that we share for using innovative technology in one of our workshops, or while discussing teaching with technology during a consultation with faculty. If you are ready to take it further, however, we may want to collaborate with you on a blog post, a newsletter article, or co-facilitating a workshop.

Let us know what you are doing that is exciting and innovative. Share it with a colleague, and encourage them to submit their work, as well!

Trends and Motivation for Blackboard Use at NIU

Supporting faculty and teaching staff’s use of instructional technologies at Northern Illinois University is one the major functions of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, which requires us to keep up with trends in their use on campus so we can provide better support. Last academic year, the center focused on understanding how and why faculty at NIU use Blackboard Learn to support their teaching.

Blackboard Tool Use

NIU adopted Blackboard in 2002. As of the 2016 fall semester95% of enrolled students at NIU use Blackboard for at least one course, and 88% of NIU faculty use Blackboard to teach at least one course. The majority (64%) of for-credit course sections have some presence in Blackboard (learn more on trends in Blackboard usage). In addition to an increase in overall usage, there has been an increase in the use of many of the individual tools. The figure below shows the trend in usage for the top 10 most-used tools. Some interesting trends:

  • All of the top tools are being used more, over time.
  • Most tools in Blackboard are used at higher rates during summer semesters (compared to both fall and spring). Much of that increase is due to a greater percentage of online courses being offered each summer, as online courses naturally tend to use more of the tools within Blackboard.
  • During the 2015 fall semester, the number of courses using several tools for posting content and collecting assignments electronically dramatically increased. We believe this was likely a response to university efforts to decrease the amount of printing on campus.


percentage of courses using a tool, per semester

Motivation for Using Blackboard

Since understanding motivations for using Blackboard could provide greater insight than looking at simple tool usage, we sent out a survey to faculty and teaching staff in fall 2016. Based on the expanded Technology Acceptance Model, to see why those new to the LMS are using it, and why long-term users continue to do so. Several things initially stood out to us, including:

  • Sentiment about Blackboard among NIU faculty is generally high:
    • 82% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “I feel confident using Blackboard features in general”
    • 66% agreed with the statement “I find Blackboard easy to use”
    • 72% agreed with the statement “Using Blackboard increases my efficiency”
  • 95% had adopted Blackboard. The top reasons were its perceived requirement (though the University doesn’t require use of Blackboard, some departments may, or respondents may feel that students expect it), the value it brings to their teaching, and its ease of use.
  • 5% had never adopted it, due to the perceived lack of need or because alternative tools are available.


  • As online course delivery grows at NIU, Blackboard will be used even more heavily, by more students and faculty.
  • Adoption is more than an initial decision to use Blackboard. It is an ongoing and continuous process of evaluating teaching needs and the wide array of tools available in Blackboard.
  • While the vast majority of faculty at NIU use Blackboard in some way (and many find it easy to use for their purposes), there still exists a need for high quality support.

These data will continue to inform the center’s decision-making for providing resources and support, to maintain responsiveness and a commitment to serving NIU’s faculty.

Using Lynda.com Courses in Your Teaching

NIU has an institutional license for Lynda.com, a leading online learning platform with courses in business, software, technology, and creative skills. All NIU students, faculty, and staff can access the courses to learn a new skill or explore a new interest. This makes them a valuable resource to include in your course design! Here are a few tips to help you go further.

click share then copy the link for use within your organization

Sharing Direct Links to a Course

Students must log in to Lynda.com in order to watch any of the videos. If you copy the URL for a Lynda.com video from your address bar to share the video with your students, Lynda.com will not know that they should log in via NIU, and students will eventually end up back at the Lynda.com home page. This is inconvenient, and makes it difficult for students to find the correct course to watch. Instead, click the Share button above the video, and copy the link to “Share this course within your organization”. When you post that link in Blackboard or send it to students, Lynda.com will know that the person who clicks that link needs to log in with NIU credentials, and will direct students to the course once they have logged in.


Create Playlists of Videos and Courses

You may want to have students watch specific videos, instead of an entire course, or to combine videos from several courses. In that case, you can create a playlist of videos (and courses) for your students. The playlist makes it easy for students to watch the specific videos you want, if there is no need for them to watch the rest of the course. For example, here is an Online Teaching playlist, with videos and courses which are relevant to online teaching. Learn more about Lynda.com playlists.


Have Students Submit Course Completion Certificates as Blackboard Assignments

If you have students complete an entire course (like this one on SPSS for Academic Research), they will receive a certificate of completion. Students can easily save their certificate as a PDF, and then submit that to an Assignment as evidence of completion.
To save a certificate as a PDF:

  1. Log in to Lynda.com at go.niu.edu/lynda
  2. Click your name in the upper right corner
  3. Click Certificates
  4. Click view/print for the certificate you want to save
  5. Click the Save as PDF button in the upper left corner

open menu, click certificates, click view/print, click save as pdf


Save Time with a Syllabus Review

Lynda.com can review your syllabus to determine which courses and videos would be appropriate resources for your course. This makes it much quicker for you to begin incorporating Lynda.com resources in your courses! To get started, send an email to Cindy Kozumplik at ckozumplik@niu.edu to request a Lynda.com syllabus review. The process will take a few weeks, so plan ahead if you want a review for a spring course.

Earn the Graduate Teaching Certificate this year!

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graduate teaching certificateThe Graduate Teaching Certificate recognizes graduate teaching assistants (GA/RA/TAs) for their participation in the development programs offered by the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. The certificate acknowledges these individuals’ commitment to effective teaching and can enhance their academic credentials.To qualify for this recognition, a graduate teaching assistant must attend the full-day TA Orientation and at least five (5) programs of shorter duration offered by Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. You can complete these requirements at any time during your studies

It is easy to apply for the Faculty Development & Instructional Design Center Graduate Teaching Certificate! Complete the online application form with the workshops you attended. If you need to review the workshops you attended, you can do so by logging into our registration system at facdev.niu.edu/myprograms. Log in with both your A-ID and Z-ID to see all of your programs (if you have used different IDs at different times).

Recipients have the option to have the recognition validated with a recommendation on their LinkedIn Profiles, to make it more visible. They will also be recognized at the Outstanding Graduate Student Recognition Reception.

Your certificate will be sent to your department so that the department chair, graduate coordinator, or faculty supervisor can acknowledge your commitment to effective teaching and present the certificate to you. If you need a few more workshops to qualify for the certificate, you should check the current schedule of TA programs.

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