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NIU staff lauded for online teaching support

October 7, 2013
Stephanie Richter and Jason Rhode

Stephanie Richter and Jason Rhode

NIU’s Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center has been recognized yet again for being a leader in online teaching support.

Jason Rhode and Stephanie Richter were two of only six recipients of Blackboard’s inaugural Key to the Community Award.

This prestigious award recognizes Blackboard clients who go above and beyond the call of duty to support, share and contribute to the success of their peers and colleagues in their online teaching endeavors. Rhode and Richter were among 23 institutional online teaching support leaders from universities around the world nominated for the award.

Nominees were selected based on their involvement in Blackboard community programs and their willingness to share successes that benefited teaching and learning initiatives at other institutions. The final recipients of the awards were determined by popular vote from the worldwide community of Blackboard users.

Award winners were recognized at BbWorld®, Blackboard’s annual user conference held last July in Las Vegas.

Many NIU faculty and staff who have sought out online instructional assistance in the past have benefited from the assistance received by Rhode and Richter.

Jason Rhode

Jason Rhode

Since arriving at NIU in 2004, Rhode has served in a number of roles within the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, overseeing the development and offering of training programs and support for NIU faculty and teaching staff on teaching with technology and related topics, including teaching online with Blackboard.

Richter joined the center in 2008 and has become a trusted voice in the Blackboard support community, offering numerous programs and consultations for NIU faculty, staff and teaching assistants.

They both are active members of SLATE – Supporting Learning And Technology in Education, the Midwest Blackboard Users Group, Blackboard’s “Idea Exchange” and product advisory groups, and they enjoy sharing online instructional best practices with others.

“I was humbled to accept this new Blackboard support award, especially as it represents the value that both NIU faculty as well as those at other institutions place on the teaching with technology support our center offers” said Rhode, director of Distributed Learning. “It’s rewarding to know that NIU is recognized as a respected leader among those who support teaching using Blackboard.”

“We participate in the Blackboard community because of the value we gain here at NIU, not out of a desire for personal recognition,” added Richter, assistant director of the center. “I see the Key to the Community Award as validation of those efforts.”

Both Rhode and Richter stressed the benefits the community programs have for NIU.

Stephanie Richter

Stephanie Richter

The center collaborates with other Chicago and Midwest institutions through SLATE, and learns about best practices for online teaching and technology use from the other members. Through the Product Development Partnership, Rhode and Richter discuss feedback they receive from NIU faculty with Blackboard product developers to impact the evolution of Blackboard.

In addition to accepting the Blackboard Key to the Community Awards, Rhode and Richter gave two presentations at BbWorld® to share NIU’s award-winning online teaching and support initiatives, for which the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center was recognized with two Blackboard Catalyst Awards for Teaching and Learning and Staff Development.

Murali Krishnamurthi, associate provost for Academic Technologies and Faculty Development, said he was gratified by the recognitions but not surprised.

“Our center is committed to serving NIU and the broader higher education community. NIU has a long history of being recognized as a leader in teaching and technology support. The individual recognitions that Jason and Stephanie have received is also recognition for all those involved in supporting teaching and technology activities at NIU. ”

Each year, the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center offers more than 150 programs, many of which share tips and best practices in teaching using the Blackboard web course management system. In addition, the center maintains an extensive online support website for teaching with Blackboard and responds to faculty support requests involving online teaching approaches.

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 Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at (815) 753-0595 or [email protected].