During most summer sessions, the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology (CTLT) designs a robust slate of professional development offerings for course instructors. These offerings were expanded exponentially this summer in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the need to plan for a successful fall semester across a variety of different teaching modalities.

As a result, a record number of course instructors—over 700 individuals—participated in CTLT’s programming from May 1 to August 14 this year. A total of more than 3000 registrations were logged for all programming, indicating that most participants registered for multiple workshops or events. Importantly, 59 campus units (including all academic departments or schools) had one or more participants in professional development programming this summer.

“What this demonstrates is that, even during this challenging time, a large number of ISU’s course instructors have worked to create learning opportunities for students that are high-quality, accessible, and impactful,” said CTLT Interim Director Dr. Jennifer Friberg.

All professional development programming offered by CTLT this summer was structured around five evidence-informed, best practices in online and blended course instruction and was aligned with the Framework for Inclusive Teaching Excellence:

  1. Courses should be carefully designed and organized to ensure students know what expectations are, where content can be found, and what needs to be done to have a successful learning experience.
  2. Students are more successful if they are actively engaged as learners across all elements of the course.
  3. A positive and inclusive course climate should be cultivated in order to encourage communication, advocacy, and engagement.
  4. Assessment of student learning should happen often and in different ways to formatively and summatively measure student progress towards meeting the learning objectives of a course.
  5. All multimedia content should be accessible and accommodate individual and collective student needs.

With this focus, CTLT offered over 110 different professional development workshops during the summer of 2020, including course design cohorts, technology short courses, and programming in collaboration with campus partners such as Student Access and Accommodation Services, the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning, and the Office of Student Research. Added to these were customized workshops offered to each school/department on campus, facilitated by expert faculty on topics such as student engagement in asynchronous and synchronous courses and explorations of educational technologies to support teaching and learning.

An innovative series of 11 asynchronous DIY modules featuring content central to the design of accessible and engaging online courses were created and paired with 15 synchronous workshops facilitated by expert faculty from across campus to discuss the applications of each of the DIY topics to participants’ course planning efforts. Beyond this, 35 short courses related to teaching with ReggieNet and Zoom were offered for all course instructors. Terry Lowe, an instructional assistant professor from the Department of Management and Quantitative Methods, said: “While I was self-taught on the basics of Zoom, participating in CTLT’s Zoom workshops allowed me to learn and explore the more advanced functions. I’m now much more confident and utilizing the technology more effectively.”

In collaboration with the Graduate School, professional development programming was expanded to include a series of four workshops specifically attuned to the needs of graduate students with teaching assignments.

Summer wrapped up with a very successful Faculty Prep Week, with over a dozen workshops offered for ReggieNet, Zoom, and a four-part series of sessions to help course instructors with rapid transitions to online teaching. In addition to that programming, the New Faculty Orientation was held, with the majority of new faculty on campus taking part in multiple professional development opportunities.

While all these efforts have helped faculty, and in turn students, there is more work to be done, going forward. Professor of Sociology and Latin American and Latino/a Studies Dr. Maura Toro-Morn shared: “I used to call myself a ReggieNet minimalist, meaning that I only used it for its gradebook functions and to upload readings. As a result of COVID-19, all of this changed. I have taken many workshops and I have worked closely with CTLT staff, in particular (graduate assistant) Nada El Maliki, to upload and organize my classes onto ReggieNet. My confidence has increased.”

Fall programming at CTLT began last week and continues through the semester. Registration is open for all course instructors. Email CTLT@IllinoisState.edu with questions.