Email Communications

Email communications to NIU faculty, teaching staff, and graduate teaching assistants from the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

Spring 2021

Survey on Graduate Teaching Assistant Support - 5/10/2021New

Department Chairs and School Directors:

Before we head into summer, I wanted to pass along a summary of a survey we conducted during the spring semester of graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) about their teaching and teaching with technology support needs. Our focus was primarily to learn what programs, services, resources, and recognition offered by CITL they found most useful.

1,040 GTAs  were invited to participate in the survey and 296 responded, for a response rate of 28%.  There were a few interesting takeaways:

  • 69% attended one of our large events, such as the Fall TA Institute, and 33% attended one or more of our teaching and teaching with technology workshops
  • When asked their preferred modalities for programs and services, 56% preferred online on-demand, followed by 48% online synchronous, and 32% face-to-face
  • Of those that didn’t attend any programs or services offered by CITL, 20% cited not being aware of the programs and services offered, with 4% responding that they attend programs offered by their department for GTAs.
  • When asked how meaningful they felt the various recognitions for GTAs offered by CITL, 82% reported the Outstanding GTA Award meaningful or very meaningful, along with 75% confirming the Graduate Teaching Certificate meaningful or very meaningful.

We’ve put together a disaggregated summary of the results with filters by college and department where you can drill down further if you wish to see a summary by college or department.

Best,

Jason Rhode
Executive Director

A request for guidance to help students press on through spring - 3/29/2021

Dear colleagues,

As you know, the semester’s midpoint is a time when the stress present in our lives can peak. Furthermore, these past 12 months have demonstrated an ongoing need so many of our Huskies have for mental-health advocacy, assistance with constructive coping mechanisms, and extra help meeting basic necessities — on top of plentiful educational resources.

Your role as a trusted facilitator of students’ growth gives you significant influence to illuminate the pathways they take, from the mindsets they adopt toward classroom success to their overall state of wellbeing.

During the second half of yet another unusual semester, we hope you might consider asking all of the Huskies you teach or advise the following questions:

  • Are you taking some proactive steps to ensure your success for the rest of the semester?
  • What is going well for you right now, and what is something you may need to work on?
  • How familiar are you with NIU’s campus resources for personal and academic support?

For your convenience, please feel free to consult and share our compiled list of student services:

Thank you for building upon your invaluable work in student mentorship with this partnership. We appreciate your steadfast presence as a force for positive progress in Huskies’ journeys.

Sincerely,

Kelly Wesener Michael, Ed.D.
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs

Omar Ghrayeb, Ph.D.
Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs

Jason Rhode, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

Do you teach a class with zero-cost or low-cost course materials?  - 3/10/2021

Dear Colleague:

In alignment with President Freeman’s goals regarding student recruitment, student success and student experience, academic excellence and curricular innovation, and diversity, equity and inclusion, the Course Material Affordability Task Force would like to better understand how course materials are chosen by faculty and the impact that course material costs have on students. We also want to celebrate and commend faculty who strive to keep their course materials affordable for students.

If you teach a class with no-cost or low-cost course materials, please let us know more about your affordable course material decisions and complete this brief (2-3 minute) survey at go.niu.edu/course-materials-survey by Friday, March 19th. We look forward to hearing from you soon!

Thank you!

Fred Barnhart
Dean, University Libraries
fbarnhart@niu.edu

Jason Rhode
Executive Director, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning
jrhode@niu.edu

Save the Dates: August 2021 Major Programs for NIU Faculty and Teaching Assistants - 3/2/2021

Deans and Associate Deans:
Department Chairs and School Directors:

With the snow quickly melting and spring right around the corner, it is time again to look ahead to planning for the fall startup programming. We wanted to share the details for our August Teaching Effectiveness programs to assist with your own planning for welcoming new and returning faculty, instructors and teaching assistants for the fall 2021 semester. The last year has taught us to be flexible, and we are trying to build in those plans as much as

We were fortunate enough to reschedule James Lang from last August to this coming fall, so we are excited to have the opportunity to feature such a well-known speaker for the Teaching Effectiveness Institute this year. While James Lang will be speaking on his other books, he is also the author of Life on the Tenure Track which has been provided for years to NIU new faculty. We are also thrilled to be planning for the institute to be held in-person, following all NIU and health department recommendations for safety, while simultaneously livestreaming for faculty who are unable or uncomfortable to attend in-person.

Teaching Effectiveness Institute
Friday, August 13, 2021, in-person and livestream
Speaker: James M. Lang, Director of the D’Amour Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College and author of Small Teaching, Life on the Tenure Track, and many others.
Topics: Small Teaching: From Minor Changes to Major Learning (AM) and Teaching Distracted Minds (PM)
Open to all NIU faculty, instructors, and staff

Teaching Assistant Institute
Monday, August 16 – Friday, August 20, 2021, virtual
Includes a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions
Open to all graduate teaching assistants

New Faculty Welcome
Details are still being finalized, more information to follow
Open to new faculty

Locations, additional details, and registration information for these programs will be available in the coming weeks and sent via email.

Where possible, please make every effort to avoid scheduling college meetings during these days/times so that faculty, instructors, and teaching assistants can attend.

Thank you,

Jason Rhode, Executive Director
Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

Vendor Demonstrations Scheduled for Learning Management System Review - 2/15/2021

Department Chairs and School Directors:

As we've shared previously, NIU is in the midst of a review of learning management systems. Since our last email to you, review criteria have been established along with a weighted scoring system that the technical team will use to evaluate vendors against the criteria. The review executive committee has also met with each vendor and the review technical committee is beginning their work reviewing the technical specifics of each platform.

A critical aspect of the review process is inviting vendors to provide demonstrations to our campus community. With "Blackboard Original" gradually being phased out, we have the opportunity to compare "Blackboard Ultra" with other platforms. Our goal is to provide everyone with an opportunity to see the capabilities and provide feedback as to which systems offer the functionality and user experience desired moving forward.

We have reached out to vendors of the leading higher education LMS platforms to learn more about their offerings: Blackboard (Learn Ultra), D2L (Brightspace), and Instructure (Canvas) and have scheduled demonstrations, available to all NIU faculty, staff, and students. Each vendor is providing two virtual demonstrations on the functionality of their system for teaching and learning. Demonstrations will be conducted online via Zoom and recorded for those who may be unable to join live. All demonstration participants will be asked to complete a follow-up survey to rate the system’s functionality.

View Campus Demonstration Schedule

Demonstration schedule details can also be found in the NIU Calendar.

We’re also asking each vendor to provide a separate virtual demonstration of shopping cart features for outside learners and external programming. Participants of these separate demonstrations will likewise complete follow-up surveys on shopping cart system functionality.

We hope you'll mark your calendar and be able to join the demonstrations or view the recordings to see the features available and product roadmaps and to share your important feedback. We've sent the above details to all faculty, instructors, and TAs.

Sincerely,

Jason Rhode
Executive Director
Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

Matthew Parks
Associate Vice President and Chief Information Officer
Division of Information Technology

Mark Your Calendar for Learning Management System Demonstrations - 2/15/2021

Dear Faculty Members and Graduate Teaching Assistants,

As you may have seen, NIU is in the midst of a review of learning management systems. A critical aspect of the review process is inviting vendors to provide demonstrations to our campus community of the leading learning management systems in higher education today. With "Blackboard Original" gradually being phased out, we have the opportunity to compare "Blackboard Ultra" with other vendors’ latest generation of their platforms. Our goal is to provide everyone with an opportunity to see the capabilities and provide feedback as to which systems offer the functionality and user experience desired moving forward.

We have reached out to vendors of the leading higher education LMS platforms to learn more about their offerings: Blackboard (Learn Ultra), D2L (Brightspace), and Instructure (Canvas) and have scheduled demonstrations, available to all NIU faculty, staff, and students. Each vendor is providing two virtual demonstrations on the functionality of their system for teaching and learning. Demonstrations will be conducted online via Zoom and recorded for those who may be unable to join live. All demonstration participants will be asked to complete a follow-up survey to rate the system’s functionality.

View Campus Demonstration Schedule

Demonstration schedule details can also be found in the NIU Calendar.

We hope you'll mark your calendar and be able to join the demonstrations or view the recordings to see the features available and product roadmaps and to share your important feedback. In the meantime, if you have further questions or comments, you can email them to lms-review@niu.edu.

Sincerely,

Jason Rhode
Executive Director
Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

Matthew Parks
Associate Vice President and Chief Information Officer
Division of Information Technology

Automatic Captions (Live Transcripts) in Zoom - 2/2/2021

Greetings,

If you are using Zoom in your teaching this semester, I wanted to make sure you were aware of a new feature in Zoom that allows for live auto-captioning (aka: “Live Transcription”) of Zoom sessions. It takes just a few steps for you to enable.

This does not replace having a human captioner for students who have a documented disability. There are advantages, however, to having the ability to provide captions for everyone, regardless of disability.

Make Automatic Captions Available in Zoom

To make auto-captions available for Zoom sessions you schedule:

  1. Login at niu-edu.zoom.us
  2. Go to Settings
  3. Go to In Meetings (Advanced)
  4. Click the toggle to enable Closed Captioning
  5. Click the checkbox to enable live transcription

After live transcription is enabled for your account, you can turn on auto-captions within a specific Zoom session that you schedule.

Enable Automatic Captions within a Zoom Session

To enable auto-captions within a session:

  1. Click the Live Transcription button in the toolbar at the bottom of the session (if you don’t see a button there, make sure you have enabled them in your account settings)
  2. Click the button to Enable Live-Transcription

Captions will automatically appear for the host and participants. Individual users can hide them by clicking the Live Transcription (the host should click the arrow in the Live Transcription button) and choosing Hide Transcription. From the same menu, you can also view the full transcript, which opens a side panel where you can download the transcript.

You and your students can also find these details on the DoIT Zoom support page at go.niu.edu/zoom.

Enjoy your day,

Jason Rhode
Executive Director

Excellence in Online Teaching Award - 1/29/2021

Dear Colleague:

I’m excited to announce a new institutional award to encourage and honor outstanding online and hybrid teaching at NIU. The Excellence in Online Teaching Award recognizes NIU faculty and instructors whose performance exemplifies a commitment to excellence in online teaching, course development and student engagement.

All those who teach online or hybrid courses (tenured and tenure-track faculty, instructors, and teaching staff) are eligible. There is no limit as to the number of nominees from any department/program or college. Self-nominations are allowed and encouraged.

Recipient(s) of this award will receive a plaque and a $2,000 one-time stipend.

This year’s nomination deadline is Friday, March 5th and more details are available at go.niu.edu/online-teaching-award

If you have any questions about the award or nomination process, please let me know. We look forward to recognizing the outstanding online educators amongst our Huskie community!

Enjoy your day,

Jason Rhode, Executive Director
Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

Call for Nominations for Outstanding TA Awards 2021 - 1/27/2021

Department Chairs and School Directors:

This is to announce the Call for Nominations for Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Awards for 2021. You can find the details and submission guidelines at go.niu.edu/outstanding-ta-award and please forward this email to your Director of Graduate Studies.

Each academic or academic support unit that employs graduate TAs for teaching and related activities is invited to nominate two (2) outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistants, one at the master’s level and the other at the doctoral level, from its department/school for the awards.

Nominations can be submitted to the department chair/school director or designee. Nominators must complete the nomination form (Word doc) for each nominee and email it with any supporting documents by Friday, March 5, 2021 to citl@niu.edu with the subject line “Nomination for 2021 Outstanding TA Awards”.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Thanks,

Jason Rhode, Executive Director
Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

New faculty learning communities launching for spring 2021 - 1/25/2021

Department Chairs and School Directors:

Just wanted to make sure you were aware that we’ve announced the launch of 5 new faculty learning communities (FLCs) available to faculty and instructors for spring 2021.

FLCs are small groups of faculty and instructors who meet regularly throughout the semester or year about a specific topic related to teaching and learning. They provide the opportunity to connect with colleagues from across the university by engaging in active, collaborative discussions about teaching and learning in a supportive environment. FLC members will learn about and implement innovative techniques that may even result in collaborative scholarship or research related to teaching and learning.

We are offering 5 FLCs for the spring 2021 semester:

  • Student Engagement: Creating a sense of community in an online course
  • In-Person Teaching During COVID: Flexible teaching, physical distancing and live streaming
  • Book Club: Small Teaching Online by Flower Darby and James Lang
  • Teaching Synchronous Online Courses
  • Teaching with Microsoft Teams

What to Expect

Each FLC will meet online 3-4 times during the spring 2021 semester (dates and times will be determined based on the availability of those who are participating). The communities will have a maximum of 12 members to allow for active conversations.

Registration Information

Anyone interested is asked to please register by January 29, 2021 at citl.niu.edu/flc-registration. The faculty learning communities are open to all NIU faculty, instructors, and teaching staff. Unfortunately, FLCs are not open to graduate teaching assistants at this time.

If you are aware of interest amongst your faculty for deeper conversation with colleagues among any of these topics, please remind them of this opportunity to going a FLC for spring.

Thanks,
Jason Rhode

Connect with colleagues in a new faculty learning community - 1/22/2021

We are excited to announce the launch of 5 NEW faculty learning communities (FLCs)!

FLCs are small groups of faculty and instructors who meet regularly throughout the semester or year about a specific topic related to teaching and learning. They provide the opportunity to connect with colleagues from across the university by engaging in active, collaborative discussions about teaching and learning in a supportive environment. FLC members will learn about and implement innovative techniques that may even result in collaborative scholarship or research related to teaching and learning.

We are offering 5 FLCs for the Spring 2021 semester:

  • Student Engagement: Creating a sense of community in an online course
  • In-Person Teaching During COVID: Flexible teaching, physical distancing and live streaming
  • Book Club: Small Teaching Online by Flower Darby and James Lang
  • Teaching Synchronous Online Courses
  • Teaching with Microsoft Teams

Learn More and Register!

What to Expect

Each FLC will meet online 3-4 times during the spring 2021 semester (dates and times will be determined based on the availability of those who are interested in participating). The communities will have a maximum of 12 members to allow for active conversations.

Registration Information

Please register by January 29, 2021 at citl.niu.edu/flc-registration. The faculty learning communities are open to all NIU faculty, instructors, and teaching staff. Unfortunately, FLCs are not open to graduate teaching assistants at this time

How to print CITL / Faculty Development program attendance report - 1/20/2021

As someone who has registered for at least one program this past year sponsored by the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL), formerly Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, you are able to login and print on demand an attendance report of the institutes, workshops, and other programs you’ve attended. If you ever need to generate a listing of the events you’ve attended, perhaps for a service report or award nomination, follow these steps:

  • Go to go.niu.edu/citl-programs
  • Log in with your NIU Account ID and password
  • Click the Print Attendance Report button
  • View/print the list of workshops attended

Steps for how to print an attendance report

For further assistance or answers to questions regarding attendance at Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning events, call 815-797-2477 or email citl@niu.edu.

Zoom integration with Blackboard; Breakout Rooms in Teams - 1/9/2021

Dear Colleague,

If you plan to use Zoom in your teaching this spring semester, you can now manage all your class Zoom sessions (and students can easily access your Zoom sessions) directly from your Blackboard course. This new Zoom integration in Blackboard includes separate links for faculty and students to access the Zoom scheduler. Be sure that you are using the correct link; faculty will receive an error if they try to access the student link.

This new Zoom integration is available in both Blackboard Original and Blackboard Ultra courses. You can find more details in the new Managing Class Sessions in Blackboard guide available at go.niu.edu/zoom-blackboard

If you are instead using Microsoft Teams for online meetings, be aware that you can now use breakout rooms in Teams for small group class discussions, more at go.niu.edu/teams-breakout-rooms

Have a great semester!

Jason Rhode, Executive Director
Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

Meeting Owl Pro - 1/8/2021

Greetings!

Since the end of the fall semester, DOIT has been working in classrooms to make updates and improvements to better support live-streaming. Most of these will be invisible to you, but there is a notable change we would like to highlight.

Many classrooms have been outfitted with a Meeting Owl Pro. The Meeting Owl Pro contains an array of cameras and microphones to provide intelligent 360-degree video and audio. The Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the Meeting Owl Pro uses its microphones to keep presenters in the view of the camera and provides panoramic view of the entire room. The Meeting Owl Pro also includes a high-quality speaker that can be used to provide sound in the classroom.

You can view the list of rooms that already have or are scheduled to receive a Meeting Owl Pro on the new guide to using a Meeting Owl Pro in a Hybrid/Streaming classroom. If you will be using the Meeting Owl Pro to live-stream your class for remote students, you may need to configure the microphone, camera, and speaker selections within the web conferencing tool you will be using (such as Blackboard Collaborate, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom). Instructions for configuring each of these tools are available on the same guide.

As always, let me or any of our CITL staff know if we can be of any further assistance to you in your teaching and teaching-related activities.

Have a great semester!

Jason Rhode, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

Engaging your students in the spring semester ahead - 1/8/2021

Colleagues,

Reflecting on the events of the past week and the challenges of 2020, now, more than ever, we recognize the importance of developing students and providing opportunities for engagement that facilitate civic responsibility and personal growth. In the fall semester, many of our students expressed a strong desire to connect with peers within the NIU community. This was particularly true of our new freshmen who were just beginning their college journey.

As we enter the spring semester, we want to bring to your attention the many co-curricular and extra-curricular opportunities available to help facilitate building community and enhancing critical thinking, civic and social responsibility. It is our hope that you will find ways to tie planned events to content in your courses. We hope you’ll consider including these activities in your syllabi to encourage students to connect both in and out of your classroom on topics that may align with what you are covering in class.

Thank you for the many ways in which you have sought to engage students through your courses thus far. As you continue to look for ways to promote increased engagement in your hybrid and online courses, we hope you’ll find these recommended course delivery practices shared by fellow NIU faculty and staff helpful.

Wishing you a wonderful semester.

Sincerely,


Renique Kersh, Ph.D.
Associate Vice Provost for Student Engagement and Success

Kelly Wesener Michael, Ed.D.
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs

Jason Rhode, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

Recommendations to increase student engagement in online courses - 1/6/2021

Department Chairs and School Directors:

I hope you enjoyed a refreshing holiday break. As you prepare for the spring semester ahead and will be meeting with your faculty, I wanted to make sure you are aware of a new resource that you can share with your faculty, instructors, and TAs with recommendations to increase student engagement in online courses, available at go.niu.edu/online-engagement

These suggestions have been shared by NIU faculty and staff as examples of highly recommended practices for promoting increased engagement in online courses and include the following:

1. Set Expectations and Model Engagement
  • Reach out to students prior to the start of the course
  • Clearly identify assignment due dates
  • Make the course available early in Blackboard
  • Set office hours and share them early
  • Post expectations and course policies in the syllabus and in the online course
2. Build Engagement and Motivation with Course Content and Activities
  • Provide students with a variety of content
  • Create a short introduction to each module
  • Provide clear guidance for completing course activities and gaining deeper understanding of course content
  • Send out homework due date reminders for each assignment
  • Encourage your students to ask questions
  • Allow students to share reflections on their learning
  • Support students’ ability to explore, edit and create
3. Initiate Interaction and Create Faculty Presence
  • Post information about yourself
  • Develop a communication plan
  • Provide frequent and interactive feedback on student work
  • Host virtual office hours
  • Use Teams to facilitate one-on-one text chats with students
  • Identify students who may be struggle or disengaged, and then act
  • Allow for flexibility and leniency
4. Foster Interaction between Students and Create a Learning Community
  • Encourage critical and reflective discussion
  • Use team projects
  • Set up help teams
  • Launch breakout rooms during synchronous sessions
  • Connect course content to campus activities, workshops, events, etc.
  • Propose the use of social media to create peer connections
5. Create an Inclusive Environment
  • Get to know your students
  • Highlight students’ individual experiences
  • Recognize the different life experiences of your students
  • Check your assumptions
  • Be conscious of accessibility concerns

Additional tips and resources for designing and developing courses that can be successfully in any mode of delivery are available niu.edu/flexteaching. Let me or any of my team at the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL) know if we can be of any further assistance as you and your faculty, instructors, and TAs prepare for the spring semester ahead.

Best,

Jason Rhode, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

Contact Us

Center for Innovative
Teaching and Learning

Phone: 815-797-2477
Email: citl@niu.edu

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