Distinguished Faculty in Online Education
Leadership, Educational Psychology & Foundations
Bradley Hawk has been developing online courses for NIU’s School Business Management program for the past three years. Hawk came to NIU after retiring from his long-held position as a superintendent. “I see these classes as my legacy,” says Hawk. “After working in school management for so long, I wanted to give back to the field and help train the next generation of professionals.”
In the School Business Management program, many of the students are working professionals who are earning a graduate degree to prepare for a top-level administrative position or leadership role in a school district. Hawk says that his students really appreciate the convenience that online courses offer. Students can build their education around their work schedules. Teaching modules and lessons are online so that students can access them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
According to Hawk, one of the most exciting parts of creating and teaching online courses is that it expands his ability to reach students and help them gain a broader perspective. “Our ability to serve is not geographically restrictive,” says Hawk. Students from local school districts in northern Illinois participate in active dialog and discussions with students throughout the region and the state. “They gain new perspectives on how finance and policy affect rural, suburban, and urban districts. They get to share ideas and network. We’re really building a learning community in an online environment.”
Interactivity has always been an important piece of the online program. Students participate together in bi-weekly online classes. They also post responses to readings and provide feedback on other students’ responses every week. “We have a community of students who are very engaged because they connect with each other on a weekly basis,” says Hawk. “They really want to raise questions, challenge each other, and enter into a dialog. It’s no longer an issue that students are doing something just for a grade.”
That strong sense of collaboration can be seen in the development of online course content as well. Hawk worked with content experts like Michael Jacoby, executive director of the Illinois Association of School Business Officials and got extensive feedback from Todd Latham from NIU’s department of Leadership, Educational Psychology, and Foundations. Hawk also worked with experts like senior instructional designer Jason Underwood from NIU’s eLearning Services to make sure the online components of the courses was attractive, functional, and able to meet the learning objectives of the program.
According to Hawk, online learning is great for students with self-discipline and academic pride. “We develop planning guides and timelines to help people stay on track. Students who say, ‘I’m on schedule, I’m online, I have a lot of things going on but this is important to me,’ do very well. Students who put everything off until the end don’t get the full benefit of the program.”
Bradley Hawk is looking forward to continuing his successful online program. He considers himself, “very fortunate” to take the vision of others and make it a reality for NIU students throughout Illinois. “I’m proud to serve at NIU, an institution with the fortitude and willingness to overcome barriers to create the best online learning experiences for their students.”