NIU receives 2011 Blackboard Catalyst Award

NIU’s Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center has received a major award for its work with Blackboard.

This summer, the center received the 2011 Blackboard Catalyst Award for Outstanding Staff Development.

Given by Blackboard Inc., the award salutes NIU for putting the online learning system to innovative uses that have created global reaches. NIU received the award July 14 during the BbWorld conference, held in Nevada. Blackboard Catalyst Awards are given in five categories: committee’s choice, community collaboration, exemplary course program, innovative development and staff development.

Staff of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center
Staff of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center

“We are excited about this award,” said Jason Rhode, the center’s assistant director. “It recognizes the innovative steps NIU is taking in the use of online technologies to support teaching and learning.”

Through the use of Wimba Classroom, a web conferencing system integrated in Blackboard and available campus-wide, faculty, staff and teaching assistants learn strategies and techniques in workshops and conferences from wherever they have computers, whether in their offices, homes or businesses. A schedule of upcoming online workshops offered by the center is available online.

With video and audio-streaming, workshop participants are able to see and hear presenters and demonstrations. If their schedules do not allow them to view the sessions live or if they want to see them again, they can view archived sessions anytime. The center also has made the archives available as podcasts for mobile devices.

Blackboard CATALYST AWARD“We’re building an extensive and impressive online library of archived sessions on a wide range of instructional topics,” Rhode said. “We’ll be adding to it as we offer more sessions.”

Center staff members also will be adding to the number of worldwide partnerships they have developed between other universities. So far, they have reached university faculty in Great Britain, Alaska and Michigan with sessions that originated on NIU’s campuses.

“We are honored and humbled by receiving the award,” said Stephanie Richter, NIU’s instructional technologies coordinator. “It’s gratifying to be recognized for our innovative use of the system.”

Center staff members nominated NIU for the award because the university has become a crucial and permanent communication network for the higher education community, Rhode said.

NIU Provost Ray Alden agreed.

“Our Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center staff members should be applauded for the strides they have made with the Blackboard system,” Alden said. “Their work has provided another dimension to online learning so that it is intriguing, convenient and global. The Northern Illinois University community, and higher education in general, are the benefactors of the staff’s innovative work.”

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, call (815) 753-0595 or email facdev@niu.edu.

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