Category: ETRA

Two ETRA graduate courses receive Exemplary Course distinction

computer.jpgTwo ETRA graduate courses—Advanced Instruction Media Design and Instructional Technology Program Development—which were designed and developed by ETRA/IT faculty, recently received Exemplary Course distinction from Blackboard Inc.

Jason Rhode, Ph.D., Director of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at NIU, who incorporated great ideas to the existing elements of the courses when offered the job to teach them, was recognized with two 2016 Exemplary Course Awards.

The Blackboard Exemplary Course Program recognizes faculty and course designers from schools, colleges and universities around the world who develop exciting and innovative courses that represent the very best in technology and learning.

Selom Assignon, M.S.Ed., ETRA alumnus and doctoral student, was also among Blackboard’s 2016 Exemplary Course winners for his expertise in developing a course titled Web Development I. “This is because I’m being taught by the best of the best and the results speak for themselves,” he said about ETRA’s influence on his teaching and course design.

The Blackboard Exemplary Course Award highlights technologically rich, engaging, well designed, and pedagogically sound courses that showcase best practices for the user community. Submissions were judged by peers and by experts on the following components: course design; interaction and collaboration; assessment; and learner support.

“It’s truly an honor, both for me personally as well as for NIU’s Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA) faculty in the College of Education who I’ve worked so closely with, to receive the Exemplary Course Awards,” Jason Rhode, Ph.D., Director of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at NIU, said.

Rhode collaborated closely with ETRA/IT faculty in designing the award-winning online courses, applying the high quality instructional design principles and online teaching techniques outlined in the Blackboard Exemplary Course Rubric as well as the online course design framework that ETRA/IT faculty developed and model throughout their nationally-ranked online graduate Instructional Technology program.

“For the past five years, faculty and instructors have met bi-weekly to collaborate on course design and instructional strategies to ensure continuous quality and consistency of the online program,” said

Wei-Chen Hung, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the ETRA Department. “Our learner-centered Blackboard course template and delivery format, as well as the integrated online pedagogy are a result of their collective effort.”

Rhode’s ETRA online courses were submitted for external review by a panel of online instructional design experts through a rigorous multi-phased, double-blind peer-review process and were among only a few selected internationally during the 2015-2016 academic year to receive this prestigious acclaim.

“I’m proud to recognize educators who are constantly finding new, innovative ways to inspire their students to learn,” said Bill Ballhaus, Chairman, CEO and President of Blackboard. “We congratulate the winners of the Exemplary Course Award, and we look forward to continuing to partner with these and other talented educators to bring their unique visions to life.”



Donor Tea Reception

Over 150 donors, students, faculty and staff gathered last Sunday afternoon at the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center for our annual Donor Tea event.  The event is held to thank our donors and friends for their support of the College of Education over the years.  Donors have the opportunity to meet their scholarship recipients and mingle with campus colleagues, faculty and staff while enjoying light refreshments and tea.  During a short program, Dean Elish-Piper welcomed everyone to the event and introduced a thank you video which featured several of our scholarship recipients sharing the impact scholarships and other opportunities have had on their lives.  John Sentovich, Chief Advancement Officer at the NIU Foundation, addressed the group and discussed the importance of planned giving and how much donor gifts can impact students, as evident from the recipients in the audience.  He encouraged all students to pay it forward in the future when they are in the position to give back and assist others.  Students David Carson (graduate student LEPF) and Jael Monteagudo (undergraduate student LEED) shared their personal stories of the impact that scholarships have had on their lives.  Carson explained what a positive mental boost it was to him to know that others believed in him.  Monteagudo shared how driven she was to help students succeed and how the scholarships were helping her lessen her financial burden.



Alumni Profile: Anwer Al-Zahrani

DeKalb winters can be difficult for anyone to get used to, but for Anwer Al-Zahrani, it was especially tough. In his home country, Saudi Arabia, temperatures rarely dip below freezing, even on the coldest of days.

Fortunately, Al-Zahrani arrived at NIU in 2010 by way of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he completed a master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). His time in the Keystone State helped him acclimate to what he would experience at Northern.

Despite the weather, Al-Zahrani’s decision to pursue his doctorate in instructional technology at NIU was, in the end, an easy one to make.

“It took me about nine months to research doctoral programs both in the United States and in other countries. I was accepted into a number of programs, but the reputation of Northern and especially of the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment [ETRA] was a strong factor for convincing me to come to DeKalb,” he said.

In addition to a master’s degree in TESOL, Al-Zahrani had previously earned a bachelor’s degree in English linguistics, literature and translation. By coming to NIU, he hoped to merge his knowledge of language learning with technology, ultimately to help his employer, the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu, Jubail Colleges and Institutes Sector (RCJY JCIS), integrate technology into its teaching, learning and training programs.

Anwer is now an assistant professor at RCJY JCIS, which includes five institutions of higher learning – three in Jubail Industrial City, located on the Arabian Gulf, and two in Yanbu Industrial City, located on the Red Sea. He is also a member of JCIS’s E-Learning Project Committee, which seeks to expand the country’s online teaching capabilities.

During his years at NIU – he graduated in summer 2015 with a doctorate in instructional technology – Anwer earned a reputation for hard work and participation in department initiatives such as ETRA’s annual Learn-IT Conference. Along the way he received a number of honors, including the University’s Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award and its Outstanding Student Contribution to International Education Award. He also found time to co-found NIU’s Saudi Student Association and was a member of both the Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars and the Golden Key International Honor Society.

“Anwer is one those rare leaders who is a model of reasoned discourse, compassion and purposeful action that improves the working relationship of his community,” said ETRA’s Wei-Chen Hung, who in addition to being department chair also sat on Al-Zahrani’s dissertation committee.

“He became fascinated with the problem of how technology may be used to support intercultural team learning and developed an impressive and deep understanding of the theory and necessary methodology to explore cross-cultural work. He is a nurturing facilitator among his fellow students, as well as a source of intelligent insights into the complications of cross-cultural team work.”

About 35 percent of ETRA’s students are international.

As a graduate teaching assistant, Al-Zahrani taught online courses for five years, an experience that he says helped crystalize his thoughts about how to share with his Saudi colleagues the knowledge and experiences he was gaining at NIU.

“Ever since joining the instructional technology program, I had envisioned future partnerships [between the CoE and JCIS] that would help foster learning and training processes in Saudi Arabia.”

During a visit last fall, in fact, Al-Zahrani and Hung discussed collaborative initiatives and identified several research and development opportunities that would be worth exploring. One immediate opportunity would be to have COE and RCJY CIS faculty collaborate on curriculum development for the RCJY CIS industry-training program. The goal is to promote technology-integrated yet cultural-relevant teaching pedagogies that can support students in acquiring occupational skills in a meaningful way.



Study education, culture in Japan

JapanProfessors Stephen Tonks (College of Education), Helen Nagata (College of Visual and Performing Arts), and John Bentley (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) will direct a Japanese culture, history, art and education study abroad program from May 16-29, 2016.

The program, which will take place in Western Japan using Yamaguchi City as a base, is open to NIU students of any major who are interested in Japanese language, culture, history, art and/or education. Through guided tours and lectures, students will visit numerous cities and sites including schools, universities, ancient temples, museums, Hagi (an old castle town) and Yuda Natural Hot Springs.

Interested students should visit the NIU Study Abroad Office (SAO) website and search for “Japan” to apply online. The deadline for applications is Feb. 29, 2016. The application process requires a $200 fee/deposit. The NIU program cost of the trip is $3,580. For more details, contact the SAO office at (815) 753-0700 or niuabroad@niu.edu.



College of Education online graduate program ranked No. 5

best-online-programsFor the fourth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report has ranked the NIU College of Education’s online graduate program among the country’s best.

The COE program was ranked No. 5 out of a field of 188 competing programs offered by institutions across the country, including 10 in Illinois.

Only one of those, the University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign, at No. 7, ranked among the top 50. Mid-America Conference schools listed include Ball State University at No. 11 and Central Michigan University at No. 17.

“For U.S. News to have ranked the College of Education’s online graduate programs in the top five every year for the last four is a significant achievement,” said Laurie Elish-Piper, acting chair of the NIU College of Education. “It’s gratifying to have our online program recognized for its excellence. It affirms the high quality of our faculty, staff and curriculum, and highlights the career success our students go on to have.”



Against All Odds

by Angela M. Johansson, M.A. ’05
Originally appeared in Northern Now

North Lawndale is one of the toughest neighborhoods on Chicago’s West Side. Its streets are plagued by poverty and gang violence. Each morning, workers in reflective orange vests are stationed at every corner to keep children safe as they walk to school.

Amid the drug deals and occasional gunfire, the streets of North Lawndale seem an unlikely path to a better life. But near the intersection of Sacramento Boulevard and Lexington Street, there’s an innovative new school that has become a beacon of enlightenment, learning, and hope: Altus Academy.

Open the door to Altus and dozens of wide-eyed, smiling students will line up to shake your hand. Walk in and you enter a world that seems a million miles from the harsh reality of its surroundings.

Welcome to Altus

The Sanchez brothers - Justin, Junior, and Andrew - with John Heybach.

The Sanchez brothers – Justin, Junior, and Andrew – with John Heybach.

In their neatly pressed navy blazers, orange neckties, and gray Altus sweater vests, the Sanchez brothers – Andrew, Justin, and Junior – look like they could be students at any prestigious academy in the country.

Seated side by side on a couch in the community room, the three discuss history, math, and Greek mythology. Junior says that Justin is a “math genius,” and Andrew describes Justin’s impressive progress in reading.

The brothers are part of a growing family at Altus, an independent not-for-profit school that enrolls forty-six students from the second through the eighth grades. Founded by a group of NIU alumni led by John Heybach, ’72, Ph.D. ’76, it’s the only school of its kind in the area.

The academy meets a growing need by providing college prep opportunities to children from low-income minority households. While a growing number of inner-city kids dream of packing their bags for college, only 14 percent of students in Chicago Public Schools go on to earn a college degree, according to the Chicago Consortium on School Research.

With the help of their alma mater, Heybach and his colleagues plan to change that.

Altus Academy opened its doors in 2011 in the basement of a Chicago convent with sixteen students, one teacher, and a boiler room that doubled as a cafeteria. The small facilities didn’t stop Altus founders from dreaming big as they set out to provide intensive college preparatory academics and character development through the deliberate learning and practice of human virtue.

Heybach and his colleagues knew they’d need help with this ambitious venture. So they turned to the school that had prepared them for success: NIU.

From the beginning, Altus teachers worked with faculty in the NIU College of Education to create their curriculum. They spent a week at the DeKalb campus, where they learned to incorporate problem-based learning and technology into their lesson plans.

A partnership made in heaven

15-Altus-10-22-GT-123

Nadia Rodriguez with her LEGO robot.

Altus eighth grader Nadia Rodriguez spins a tire on her LEGO robot while calculating how many degrees it will turn on its journey to the end of the table. She’s a star on the robotics team, Altubots, one of several student clubs created in collaboration with staff and students from NIU. Last fall, representatives from NIU STEM Outreach traveled to Altus to help Rodriguez and her teammates prepare their robots for competition.

NIU faculty, staff, students, and alumni have brought a variety of hands-on programs to North Lawndale, including a week-long percussion workshop through the College of Visual and Performing Arts, a digital storytelling class by the NIU Center for P-20 Engagement, and a plate tectonic research activity giving Altus students the chance to present their research at NIU.

This spring, students and faculty from the NIU psychology program will help Altus staff assess students for learning disabilities and create lesson plans to accommodate them.

“We’ve been there since the beginning,” says Laurie Elish-Piper, acting dean of the College of Education. “They are great partners who are always interested in working with us and willing to try new things.”

Making the grade

Altus fourth graders Isaiah Nickerson and Javier Saldivar

Altus fourth graders Isaiah Nickerson and Javier Saldivar.

Altus students study virtue with the same rigor they apply to their academics. “We want kids to develop strong character, serve others, and contribute to society,” says Heybach.

Each week, students create a goal for themselves. Rodriguez’s goal was to create a distraction-free environment by turning off the TV and Facebook while she studies. At the end of the week, students grade themselves on two questions: 1. How well did you do? 2. How hard did you try? Nadia gave herself a four out of five.

“We have high expectations,” says Heybach. “So we make sure the support is there. The kids like that.”

All three Sanchez brothers have come to appreciate that support. “To tell you the truth, we were troublemakers when we first came here,” says Andrew, the eldest. “We’ve done a lot of things we aren’t proud of.”

The three brothers agree that the school has turned them around. They talk about perseverance, fortitude, and respect. Justin says that he’s learned that “if I never give up, I will learn math.” He’s currently studying fractions.

“If you show respect, people will trust you,” Junior adds.

The academy has become a place where NIU students can complete internships, student teachers can teach, and faculty and students can conduct research to measure the impact of the school’s unique practices.

“Altus is becoming a model school for teacher educators,” says Marilyn Bellert, associate director of the Center for P-20 Engagement. “It puts NIU students in touch with the realities of teaching students in a developing community.”

One last hurdle

15-Altus-10-22-GT-053Academics are not the only obstacle on the path to college. Students become aware of the difficulty of financing a higher education at a very young age.

“When our second and third graders tell us they won’t be able to afford college, I tell them that’s the last thing we need to worry about,” Heybach says. “Let’s get you prepared academically, physically, and emotionally. I believe the money will come.”

He’s right. Some of that money will come from NIU donors Thomas Dee, ’85, and his wife, Mary Jane, ’85, who have created a scholarship endowment through the NIU Foundation.

“We want to support bright, motivated students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds who are committed to learning,” they explain. “Sending these young people to Northern will help them, the university, and the community.”

Heybach’s eyes well up when he reports that ten eighth graders will graduate this year. Rodriguez and Andrew Sanchez are among them.

“We will be there every step of the way,” says Heybach. His wife, Sue, ’73, a placement counselor at Chicago’s Sacred Heart Schools, meets with each of the graduating students’ families to create a plan. The goal is to get all Altus graduates into a college prep high school.

Rodriguez has her sights set on Whitney Young, one of the top college prep high schools in the country. Her chances of acceptance are excellent.

Andrew plans to go to boarding school. He says Lake Forest Academy is at the top of his list because of the approachable faculty, something treasured at Altus.

“When I visited Lake Forest, the teachers were always close by … having coffee and talking to students. I like that,” he says. Both students plan to come back often as volunteers and mentors.

“Alumni like John and Sue Heybach and Thomas and Mary Jane Dee represent the backbone of leadership we have across the Chicago area in business, government, and education,” says NIU President Doug Baker. “We are inspired by their vision and leadership, as well as the opportunities for student career success they bring to NIU.”

15-Altus-10-22-GT-042Heybach says NIU is an integral part of the Altus family. He calls the partnership priceless.

“Even if I could afford it, I could never buy it,” he says.

Altus and NIU share a passion for creating a better future. “That’s really what we’re after at Altus – helping kids become adults with the curiosity and the drive to change their local community and the world,” Heybach says.

Altus development director Vanessa Avalos, ’06, agrees. “We want people to know they can believe in education again,” she says. “I really want people to know all the wonderful things we’re doing to help kids succeed and become successful students and kind, caring, responsible citizens.”

As Rodriguez finishes up her robot programming for the day, she pauses and shares some advice for future students: “Just walk into Altus and you’ll find a friend.”

Rodriguez is hoping to help the Altubots repeat last year’s success at the FIRST LEGO League championship in Chicago. After competing against much larger, more prestigious college prep schools, they exceeded everyone’s expectations when they took fourth place.

Fittingly, the robotics team also earned the “Against All Odds” Award, a distinction these kids will likely earn again and again as they overcome challenges in their lives, led by what they’ve learned from John Heybach and his partners at NIU.



College of Education AWARDS

award-ribbon-printable-award-ribbon-clipartfree-award-ribbon-clip-art-htun1iwsDo you know someone in the College of Education who is deserving of special recognition for their efforts over the past year? The College of Education Awards have been reinstated this year, and the information for the awards as well as the nomination packets are now available online.

There are eight award categories with specific criteria for each award. To make a nomination, the nominator should fill out the form as well as be prepared to download their own nominator’s letter as well as two to three supportive letters. The maximum number of support letters is three per nomination.

The award categories are:

  • Excellence in Teaching Award for Faculty/Clinical Faculty 2016
  • Excellence in Research & Artistry Award for Faculty 2016
  • Excellence in Service Award for Faculty 2016
  • Exceptional Contributions by Instructors 2016
  • Exceptional Contributions by Civil Service Staff 2016
  • Exceptional Contributions by Supportive Professional Staff 2016
  • Excellence in Outreach/Community Service Award 2016
  • Exceptional Contributions in Diversity/Social Justice Award 2016

Deadline for all nominations is March 18, 2016, at 4 p.m. Questions or comments, contact Pat Wielert at pwielert@niu.edu.



Holiday Book Drive!

HolidayBookListGive the gift of literacy to a child in need this holiday season.  Students, faculty and staff in the College of Education are teaming up for a holiday book drive to benefit Neighbor’s House reading and tutoring program, a non-profit organization that serves DeKalb County. Children’s books (preferably for grades K-8) that are new or like new condition are needed.  Please drop off your donations to Graham Hall 225 any time through Wednesday, Dec. 2.  This effort is being sponsored by NIU’s KDP International Honor Society in Education.  Please direct any questions to Beth Wilkins (ewilkins@niu.edu) or Christina Poe (z1765903@students.niu.edu).  Collectively, our college can make literacy come alive for children!  We hope you’ll be part of that effort!



College of Education offers two new Ph.D. programs

The NIU College of Education recently has been approved to begin offering two new Ph.D. programs. The first, the Ph.D. degree in Instructional Technology, is offered through the college’s Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA); the second, the Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision, is offered through the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education (CAHE).

diploma-309947_1280Both Ph.D. degrees replace existing Ed.D. degrees in their respective disciplines.

“The reason we decided to offer the Ph.D. in Instructional Technology is to further strengthen ETRA’s position as a leader in instructional technology, research and scholarship,” said Wei-Chen Hung, ETRA’s chair.

“Our Ed.D. degree was already heavily focused on research, and as the national trend in instructional technology is toward research, we felt the Ph.D. would be more beneficial to our students,” he said, adding that the addition of the Ph.D. will help improve the research, theoretical, and practical preparation of the graduates, especially those seeking future careers in academia, public education, government, and in the business and not-for-profit sectors

The decision to convert to a Ph.D. degree in counselor education and supervision was driven by the desire for the degree that better reflects the curriculum. The doctoral program was redesigned several years ago to integrate a stronger research component, which is more reflective of the Ph.D. degree, according to CAHE Chair Suzanne Degges-White. “A CACREP-accredited Ph.D. is now the gold standard in the field,” she said. “In fact, we look for the Ph.D. here in CAHE when we are looking to hire new faculty.”

Like ETRA’s new degree, the Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision was years in the making, involving the department’s entire faculty. “It took a lot of people – and a lot of time – to get to where we are now,” Degges-White said, “but our Ph.D. is an extremely rigorous degree that reflects much more than a traditional Ed.D. Our students, when they leave here, will be well prepared to become leaders in the field, effective supervisors and educators, and excellent researchers.”

For more information about the Ph.D. degree in Instructional Technology, please contact ETRA’s academic advisor Karen Wentworth-Roman at kwoodworth@niu.edu or 815-753-9321.

For more information about the Ph.D. degree in Counselor Education and Supervision, please contact Jane Rheineck at jrheineck@niu.edu or 815-753-8722

 

 



ETRA doctoral student launches Saudi academic journal

Adel QAdel Qahmash, a NIU doctoral candidate in instructional technology, has launched The Saudi Journal of Educational Technology, the first Saudi research journal in the field. The quarterly online journal is accredited by the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Culture and Information. It specializes in peer-reviewed studies and reviews articles that are related to technology integration and educational computing and research. Read more