No chalk dust: NIU wins Blackboard awards

NIU Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center earns kudos for excellence in online professional development, teaching, learning

Jason Rhode, director of Distributed Learning at NIU, receives an award from Blackboard executives Stacey Fontenot, vice president of Product Marketing, and Ray Henderson,chief technology officer and president of Academic Platforms.

Jason Rhode, director of Distributed Learning at NIU, receives an award from Blackboard executives Stacey Fontenot, vice president of Product Marketing, and Ray Henderson,chief technology officer and president of Academic Platforms.

For the third consecutive year, NIU’s Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center has received major awards in recognition of excellence in offering faculty and staff development online.

The center recently received two Blackboard Catalyst Awards, honoring those who push the boundaries of their educational programs and technology in order to deliver innovative and effective learning experiences.

These awards from Blackboard Inc. recognize NIU for offering the first ever online teaching effectiveness institute at NIU in January 2013 that was completely mobile accessible.

The Blackboard Catalyst Awards program annually recognizes and honors innovation and excellence in the Blackboard global community of practice, where teachers and learners work every day to redefine what is possible when leveraging technology.

The awards NIU received include the “Blackboard Staff Development Catalyst Award” for excellence in online professional development, as well as the “Blackboard Teaching and Learning Catalyst Award” for innovative usage of the Blackboard Learn, Collaborate, and Mobile platforms. Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center staff accepted the awards alongside other winners during BbWorld®, Blackboard’s annual user conference held in July in Las Vegas.

The award-winning online institute, “Teaching in the Digital Classroom: Tools, Tips, and Strategies,” was offered Jan. 11, 2013. Fifth-seven faculty from across 26 different academic departments at NIU participated in the one-day online institute where they discussed how to engage students in the learning process through the use of best practices and readily-available technologies.

NIU Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center staff led the live online sessions using Blackboard Collaborate and developed an online community in Blackboard where they facilitated conversations, providing an opportunity for faculty participants to network and share ideas before, during, and after the institute.

Stephanie Richter, instructional technologies coordinator at NIU, receives an award from Blackboard executives Ray Henderson and Stacey Fontenot (left) and Maurice Heiblum, president and general manager of Blackboard Collaborate.

Stephanie Richter, instructional technologies coordinator at NIU, receives an award from Blackboard executives Ray Henderson and Stacey Fontenot (left) and Maurice Heiblum, president and general manager of Blackboard Collaborate.

Faculty were encouraged to participate from the comfort and convenience of their own home, office, or other location. The community in Blackboard was developed following best practices for accessibility and mobile participation via Blackboard Mobile and faculty with iOS mobile devices were encouraged to install the NIU Mobile, Blackboard Mobile Learn and Blackboard Collaborate apps. Some faculty chose to participate during the institute exclusively from their smart phone or tablet.

Faculty feedback indicated that they unanimously found this online institute effective as well as a model for how they can pattern their own cross-platform teaching strategy.

Feedback from faculty about the online institute included this praise:

  • “The online delivery of this subject matter was critical to my understanding of how it feels to be the learner as well as the design required from a faculty perspective.”
  • “It was really convenient to have this (institute) online, and I think it showed what Blackboard Collaborate can do. I learned a lot and have new ideas for the upcoming semester.”
  • “This was wonderful! The flow was easy to handle and I stayed engaged throughout the day. I LOVED being able to attend from home.”

From just this first cross-platform online institute, significant fiscal and environmental savings were made.

“A total of 2,598 transportation miles, 109 gallons of gasoline (cost savings of nearly $360), and 2,120 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions were potentially saved by faculty participating online instead of driving to campus before classes started for this 1-day online institute,” said Stephanie Richter, Instructional Technologies coordinator for the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. “We’ve already begun planning future online institutes to be offered using same online, cross-platform format.”

Blackboard Catalyst Award“Being recognized with a Blackboard Catalyst Award for a third consecutive year is an unprecedented honor and yet another testament to the excellent professional development opportunities available to NIU faculty,” said Jason Rhode, director of Distributed Learning. “NIU faculty are recognizing the potential for utilizing available online technology to create a truly open classroom that is now accessible anytime, anywhere.”

“Catalyst Award winners represent some of today’s finest examples of leveraging technology to improve the education experience,” said Ray Henderson, chief technology officer and president of Academic Platforms at Blackboard. “Each winner has established best-in-field approaches in critical areas including online learning, course development, school communication and mobile education. We congratulate the winners on their vision and their excellent work, and we celebrate this accomplishment with them.”

“Considering NIU is one of only seven institutions that received the Staff Development Award out of over 60 nominations, and one of only three institutions that received the prestigious Teaching and Learning Award out of nominations from hundreds of institutions worldwide is not only an acknowledgment of the good work our staff do but also a significant national and international recognition for NIU,” said Murali Krishnamurthi, associate provost for academic technologies and faculty development.

For more information about using Blackboard in a course and to view a schedule of upcoming programs about Blackboard, visit the Teaching with Blackboard website or contact the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at (815) 753-0595 or facdev@niu.edu.

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