Reinvigorate Approaches to Teaching

Posted on Friday, January 27, 2017

On January 11 and 12, the Academic Technology Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) team held its 2017 Winter Institute, an opportunity for faculty to ask questions and learn strategies for refreshing and improving their variety of course modalities. Academic Technology offers a wide sampling of workshops and webinars throughout each academic semester.

Faculty working around a computer

The Academic Technology Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) team held its 2017 Winter Institute on January 11 and 12.  TLT institutes provide evidence-based pedagogical strategies for teaching and learning, along with ways to enhance and support these approaches with technology.  The faculty development institutes are one way faculty can ask questions and learn strategies for refreshing and improving their variety of course modalities.  Academic Technology also offers a wide sampling of workshops and webinars throughout each academic semester.  Workshops for Spring 2017 are listed below. 

Evolving Higher Education Landscape and Emphasis on Student Success 

There are many reasons why faculty might attend Academic Technology institutes, workshops, and webinars, which are held multiple times throughout the year.  For some new faculty, this time provides an opportunity to get up to speed on the iLearn learning management system and the ways in which it supports their pedagogical practices.  Additional faculty find that the institutes are places to bring questions and new ideas around refreshing existing courses or developing a face-to-face course into a hybrid, HyFlex, or online course.  Still more faculty come to the institutes with specific questions about one or more of the Academic Technology-supported programs, services, or technologies.  What all faculty agree on, however, is that the desire to see students succeed in the evolving landscape of higher education is the leading reason that faculty take time to gather with their colleagues from across the disciplines to ask questions, learn about strategies and relevant tools, and build and share their collective knowledge with each other.   

As higher education continues to evolve, student success continues to be a priority.  As noted by Kuh, Kinzie, Buckley, Bridges, and Hayek (2007), "Institutions that focus on student success and create a student-centered culture are better positioned to help their students attain their educational objectives" (p. x).  This is evident at SF State in many ways, including some of its teaching and learning initiatives, such as Academic Technology's Course Redesign with Technology and Quality Online Learning and Teaching (QOLT).  Both of these initiatives emphasize a development model that is meant to help faculty be the best they can be so they can also help their students achieve the highest success possible. This approach was taken through the two-day Winter Institute and is a foundational component of all institutes, workshops, and webinars.

In addition to a big picture discussion of the higher education landscape and importance of student success, the most recent Winter Institute covered an array of topics, from the iLearn course management system to lecture capture, as well as faculty and student perspectives on course design.  The institute emphasized content, assessment, and engagement.   

Thoughtful Content Leads to Greater Opportunities for Learning 

TLT's professional development events emphasize universal design. As Maggie Beers, Executive Director of Academic Technology, notes, this approach leverages many strategies, which improve faculty morale, relieve apprehension, develop efficiencies, and increase student understanding.  According to Deb Perry, an Instructional Designer with Academic Technology, designers emphasize the significant impact instructors can have on student success with simple strategies, such as thoughtful and consistent iLearn course design.  In hands-on break out groups, participants were able to apply these key points by using Labels, editing section Headings and learning how to best use features in iLearn's text editor in order to present course content in clear, organized, meaningful ways that can help their students succeed. 

Creating Dynamic Content and Activities for Student Engagement and Assessment 

A driving theme of the institute was the fundamental pedagogical concept that one should develop course activities and select technologies based on student learning objectives, and this was emphasized in the engagement and assessment sessions.  Engagement is a key to student success, and participants got to spend time learning some foundational aspects of engagement, as well as tools within the iLearn course management system that promote student engagement.  According to Heidi Fridriksson, Instructional Designer with Academic Technology, activities that are multi-modal, meaningful, memorable, and motivational can have a positive impact on student engagement, and tools such as Forums, Choices, Groups, and Lessons can help to facilitate engagement.  Additional Academic Technology-supported tools include iClickers and the Zoom web conferencing platform.  While engagement can be a difficult concept to measure, meaningful assessment is a critical component within the learning cycle and should happen through all stages of instruction and learning.  Some tools that were discussed and demonstrated included Assignments, Turnitin, Forums, iLearn Video, CourseStream, Gradebook, Quiz, Lessons, Zoom, and ePortfolio. 

Participants also received a hands-on lecture capture information session, featuring the Academic Technology-supported program, CourseStream.  According to Maggie Beers, Executive Director of Academic Technology, faculty may choose to use CourseStream to build a stronger sense of community within their classroom, inspire and motivate their students, reinforce course content, and gauge student understanding.  Additional benefits for instructors is that they can prerecord content, which can then free up their time to meet additional obligations or use class time for alternative activities.  Faculty can also use lecture capture to implement a flipped learning approach and give their students qualitative feedback.  All of this can work to provide functionality for students to revisit complex ideas and concepts, work at their own pace, take comprehensive notes, review for exams, and take classes they otherwise would not be able to get.  

Value of Institutes, Workshops, Webinars, and Beyond 

Faculty agree that they come away from the institutes with new ideas to implement within their curricula and classrooms, whether they are face-to-face, online, or a combination of both, and a feeling of confidence buoyed by the knowledge that Academic Technology is there to support them throughout their course development and teaching processes.  Andrea Goldfien, a faculty member in the Educational Doctoral Program, shares the value of the Winter Institute: 

The Institute provided a space for reflection and experimentation—reflection about my teaching and how I can increase student engagement; and experimentation with several technologies that may prove to be really useful to me—both for my face-to-face course, and my hybrid course...This institute was powerful in providing a safe place to experiment and, perhaps more importantly, introduced me to the friendly, energetic, and talented staff in Academic Technologies. Now I know I have a welcoming place to go with my questions. (A. Goldfien, personal communication, January, 20, 2017) 

With universal design being discussed throughout the institute, an additional key take away was the notion that there are many different modalities for content presentation and assessment that can be accessible for various learners.  Student learning can take many forms and happen both inside and outside of the classroom.  There is a level of social support that faculty provide to their students and that they provide to each other and to support units around campus.  Academic Technology works to provide support across all levels to faculty. 

Faculty and staff can set up a consultation or stop by the walk-in Faculty Studio, located in Library 240.  Additionally, faculty are invited to attend the numerous workshops and webinars that will be available in Spring 2017.  Visit the Academic Technology website to learn more and register for events.   

  • Zoom Webinar | Friday, February 3, 2017 | 12pm-1pm | Online Web Conference 
  • ePortfolio Webinar | Thursday, February 9, 2017 | 12pm-1pm | Online Web Conference 
  • Quality Online Learning and Teaching (QOLT) Workshop | Thursday, February 23, 2017 | 2pm-4pm | LIB 242 


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Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J., Buckley, J.A., Bridges, B.K., & Hayek, J.C. (2007). Piecing together the student success puzzle: Research, propositions, and recommendations. ASHE Higher Education Report: 32 (5).