Tag: Wei-Chen Hung

U.S. News extols College of Ed online grad programs – again

laptop-keysAnother January, another celebration of a Top 5 ranking from U.S. News & World Report for the NIU College of Education’s online graduate programs.

NIU is tied for fifth with the University of Houston and Utah State University this year, bringing the Top 5 streak to six consecutive years. The College of Education also made the “honor roll” in 2012, the first year that U.S. News began collecting data on online graduate education programs.

Dean Laurie Elish-Piper is proud, but not surprised, that NIU tops all other Illinois and Mid-American Conference colleagues.

“Being ranked in the Top 5 for the last six years really affirms the quality and consistency of our NIU College of Education online graduate programs,” Elish-Piper says.

diploma“One aspect of the ranking that I’m most proud of is the ranking for faculty qualifications,” the dean adds. “Our faculty and staff are on the cutting edge of online learning, and it’s exciting to see their great work being consistently honored.”

Indeed, NIU scored 94 out of 100 in the Faculty Credentials and Training category. The college also earned high marks for Student Engagement (89 out of 100) and in Student Services and Technology (79 out of 100).

Meanwhile, the college earned a Peer Assessment score of 3 on a scale of 1 to 5.

U.S. News creates and offers its list of Best Online Graduate Education Programs to inform those teachers who aspire to grow their careers.

The NIU College of Education offers three online master’s degrees within the departments of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA) and Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations (LEPF).

Wei-Chen Hung

Wei-Chen Hung

ETRA Chair Wei-Chen Hung, who is quick to credit faculty members for their continued dedication to excellence in online education, reports that his department has achieved a desirable milestone.

“Some of our students say they feel no difference between face-to-face and online because they feel that the dynamics of the interaction is always there between students and faculty,” Hung says.

“Our students receive the best instruction and learning opportunities in online environments, and most students are not surprised by that. They say, ‘Of course!’ That’s the first reaction they have,” he adds. “I believe this is due to the faculty’s high qualifications to teach these courses online and their incorporation of innovative teaching methods.”

Faculty in ETRA strive to retain the U.S. News ranking by participating in professional development to stay up to date on their skills, he says.

Naturally, he adds, the professors and instructors also care deeply about fostering student success and doing what is needed to ensure that.

“Last year, we were very purposeful to initiate a quality measures training,” Hung says. “As a result, every faculty member who teaches online was also certified to teach and to design and develop online courses. Some even went on to become certified reviewers of online courses to support other faculty members who want to develop online courses.”

Carolyn Pluim (Vander Schee)

Carolyn Pluim (Vander Schee)

Carolyn Pluim, chair of LEPF, calls the latest ranking “a clear reflection of the expertise that we have teaching in the program area.”

“We have a really nice blend of faculty members and instructors who’ve had years of experience in the field,” Pluim says, “and there is a strong commitment to making the online program very applicable to the needs of working students. Our flexible online program enables students who would otherwise not be able to take two years out their professional lives to participate.”

She credits the department’s close and strong relationship with the Illinois Association of School Business Officials (IASBO) for recruiting top students and faculty to NIU.

Between 20 and 25 new students begin the program every other semester, she says, with at least three cohorts progressing through the curriculum simultaneously.

“I have yet to see an end of people who want this degree, to be honest,” Pluim says.

“We adhere to routine course updates to remain relevant and to reflect current best practices that are very applicable to that the students are going to be facing in the field,” she adds. “We’ve also got people in the program who are often grappling with the same kinds of questions that our courses are asking them to problem-solve around. The blend of theoretical knowledge and practical applications makes for a richer classroom dialogue.”

Other Illinois schools ranked include the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (25), the University of St. Francis (36), Concordia (88), McKendree University (107) Roosevelt University (125) and the University of Illinois at Springfield (131).

Mid-American Conference schools in the rankings include Buffalo (15), Ohio (18), Ball State (36), Central Michigan (46), Bowling Green (88), Kent State (107), Toledo (107), Eastern Michigan (148) and Western Michigan (150).



Kyung Kim brings ‘knowledge structure’ research work to NIU

Kyung Kim

Kyung Kim

Accolades are mounting quickly for Kyung Kim, the newly hired research assistant professor in NIU’s Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment.

Kim received two prestigious awards from Association for Educational Communications and Technology during his trip earlier this month to the organization’s international convention in Jacksonville, Fla.

  • Distance Education Best Practice Award (lead investigator), Division of Distance Learning
  • McJulien Scholar Best Paper Award (lead investigator), Culture, Learning, and Technology Division

What demands the recognition of the IBM Fellow’s peers is his groundbreaking work in knowledge structure – his visual analytics tools are used in a half-dozen countries and languages – as well as his development of a knowledge structure visualization system called Graphical Interface of Knowledge Structure (GIKS).

Potential applications are limitless, including an exploration of the relationship between what readers pay attention to when reading and how their visual behavior relates to the knowledge structure reflected in their writing – something never examined before.

“My research focuses on the intersection of visualization, knowledge structure and design. I study how the visualization of knowledge structure, can support teachers’ practice and scaffold students’ learning,” Kim says.

The knowledge structure visualization supports “the design of instructional strategies that target individual learning problems in deriving better outcomes,” he adds.

His development of GIKS, with support from a Penn State grant worth $50,000, can capture, visually represent and compare knowledge structure inherent in a text.

aect-logo“I’ve applied the GIKS to English Language Learners to explore the effects of knowledge structure visualization on their science reading comprehension; for example, to identify an optimal use of first language in second language science reading,” Kim says.

“The GIKS also has been applied to diverse STEM online courses; for example, to explore the effects of real-time knowledge structure formative feedback in high school online physics courses,” he says, “to visualize discussion forum interaction in college-level geography online courses and to score weekly writing assignments in college-level statistics online courses.”

Research findings indicate that the formative feedback regarding the structure of one’s own knowledge boosted the understanding, and reduced the misunderstanding, of online learners – something unique compared to other traditional feedback systems that only serve to improve comprehension and fail to lower misconceptions.

Better yet, Kim adds, is that GIKS “is not language-dependent, so it can be applied in any language context and for cross-language comparison and analytics.”

Students with visual disabilities also are potential benefactors.

“If further supported, the GIKS and its visual analytics can be quite promising for learning and teaching for sighted learners, but not for learners who are visually impaired,” he says. “Research suggests that learners who are blind need to extract the structure of content from a quite chaotic audio babble from their screen reader device, and this structure needs to be revealed to students who are blind in explicit ways.”

Of images, sound, text and interaction – all of which help to convey information – it’s images that most help to clarify and simplify information.

assistive-technologyConsequently, Kim says, “visual material scan be very helpful for reading, writing and learning for learners who are blind if a visual artifact is accessible to the blind.”

With second round of funding from a Penn State grant worth $50,000, Kim developed an accessible version of GIKS that can automatically convert “viewable” knowledge structure content to “touchable” on touch-sensitive tablets or swell-touch paper.

This GIKS also can convert any two-dimensional graphed data such as statistical graphs into tactile graphs, allowing for navigation with the fingers.

“I’m now planning pilot-testing of the GIKS with NIU and DeKalb-area local students who are blind, especially in the STEM disciplines,” Kim says, “and will pursue additional grants in collaboration with NIU scholars.”

He’s also working the GIKS with a braille device developed in Michigan that allows on-screen display of multiple lines of text but cannot convert visual data to braille.

“We plan to integrate the two systems to make it possible for the visually impaired learners to read and touch both textual data and visual data on their touchpad immediately as sighted people do. This integrating technology could give people who are visually impaired an opportunity to gain literacy skills and new levels of learning independence,” he says.

Wei-Chen Hung

Wei-Chen Hung

Other upcoming projects include the pursuit of additional funding for his ongoing research projects, including a grant application to the National Science Foundation to design and develop a computer-based scaffolding systems using GIKS.

The tool would automatically identify specific areas of strength and weakness, understanding and/or misunderstanding of online learners based on their writing assignments or online discussion interactions. It then would immediately provide specific, individualized remedial instructional feedback and materials, including videos, exercises, games and texts.

Kim, who chose NIU based on the respectful and supportive environment he found in Chair Wei-Chen Hung and his ETRA colleagues, believes his work will promote the active engagement of students in their own learning. It also will help educators to understand the thinking and knowledge structure of those they teach, he adds, and ultimately lead to better pedagogy and individualized instructional strategies.

“I hope that my knowledge structure approach and its visual analytics and technologies can contribute to the reputation of ETRA, especially in online learning, for diverse students.”



LEARN-IT conference exposes educators to instructional tech

learn-it-2

LEARN-IT 2017

Advances in technology come so quickly and frequently that it’s nearly impossible to stay on top of the latest innovations and applications.

Yet for teachers, and for IT professionals who work in schools, the integration of technology to enhance learning carries a great responsibility and significance: Students deserve the best education possible, and outdated equipment and programs hinders that.

NIU’s annual LEARN-IT conference, always held on the first Saturday in May, invites educators and school-based tech specialists on a weekend day for keynote presentations, breakout sessions and research roundtables that allow them to improve their knowledge and to better accomplish their objectives.

The goal is simple: to help educators transform the teaching-and-learning environment with “low- cost, high-impact” technologies that facilitate meaningful learning.

“Our overall theme for LEARN-IT has always been a focus on ‘low-cost, high-impact’ instructional technology,” said Wei-Chen Hung, chair of the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA), which hosts the conference in the Learning Center of Gabel Hall.

“In many ways, our theme has been prophetic. Today we see more and more teachers using free or low-cost and highly accessible instructional technology tools,” Hung added. “And more than ever, we need to know how to use these tools effectively. I like to think of our LEARN-IT conference as a community of learners, where dedicated educators gather to share and learn from each other.”

Wei-Chen Hung

Wei-Chen Hung

More than 120 people attended the May 6 event, said Judy Puskar, who helped to organize the day with Gail Hayenga, conference and event coordinator in the College of Education’s Office of External and Global Programs.

Professional Development Hours or graduate credit (ETT 592: Special Topics in Instructional Technology) were available.

“LEARN-IT is a day when they’re given instruction instead of giving instruction,” said Puskar, academic program advisor in ETRA.

“With technology changing so fast, people in the classroom often don’t have the time to get exposed to new technologies. This is a chance to explore the tools, learn strategies and practice with new tools,” she added. “A lot of times, we’ll hear, ‘Oh, I haven’t heard of this before’ – and now they want to use them in their classrooms or look more into them.”

Keynote speakers included two new ETRA faculty, both of whom will join the department this fall.

Dongho Kim, who comes to NIU from the University of Georgia, Athens, presented “What Gets Measured, Gets Managed: Data Analytics and Technologies for Teachers.”

Growing use of digital devices in and out of the classroom produces large amounts of data regarding the learning processes of students, Kim said, which in turn creates great potential in K-12 classrooms from data-driven decision-making.

“Educators’ ability to utilize that kind of data enables them to assess various aspects of their students’ learning in a timely manner,” Kim said. “For example, students’ log data in the flipped classroom context reveals students’ engagement with learning content and allows teachers to provide ongoing supports.”

learn-it-logoFatih Demir, joining NIU from the University of Missouri, Columbia, spoke on “EnhancED Teaching and Learning: User eXperience (UX) Research and Design to Enhance Teaching and Learning.”

He challenged his audience of teachers: “Are your learning plans based on your research, insights, trends and innovative concepts or are they generic for all students? Do you fully understand the needs and expectations of each individual student?”

“Teachers as everyday designers are designing curriculum, course plans, in-class activities, presentations and many other forms of materials for a diverse population,” Demir said. “Knowing well about the target audience and understanding their needs and expectations are key in design.”

Both professors call LEARN-IT participants “engaged and interested,” a group that also includes NIU undergraduates, graduate students and members of the Technology Specialist cohorts.

“Many students found the topic very interesting,” Demir said, “and appreciated that User Experience and Human Computer Interaction courses will be offered at the ETRA Department. Some of them indicated that they would like to apply such methods to their dissertations.”

Other presenters were:

  • Andrew Tawfik, “Evaluating EdTech: Evaluating, Designing, and Prototyping”
  • Kristin Brynteson, “Telling Stories with Technology”
  • Jason Underwood, “Effective Use of Video Tools and Strategies in the Classroom”
  • Colleen Cannon-Ruffo, “LEGO Education: WeDoSTEM 2.0” and “LEGO Education: STEM Robotics with Mindstorms EV3.”

Former ETRA Chair Lara M. Luetkehans launched LEARN-IT several years ago through the sponsorship of Bob and Mary English, friends of the College of Education. The conference always welcomes recipients of the Mary F. English Technology Award as honored guests.

LEARN-IT 2017

LEARN-IT 2017

The English family believes in the importance of educators having the tools they need to help all learners achieve their potential – and, Puskar said, it’s a belief that the educators who attend LEARN-IT share with the conference’s benefactors.

“Many of our districts are finding that technology is helpful in delivering content to students,” she said, “and in helping students to become self-directed learners.”

It begins when LEARN-IT participants leave the conference with “new skills, ideas and plans for enhancing learning,” Hung agreed.

“The high-impact strategies and technologies that the ETRA faculty and alums provide,” Hung said, “can enhance your work in assessing learners, engaging learners, producing media and putting the technologies in the students’ hands.”

Next year’s conference takes place Saturday, May 5.



College of Ed working to offer ‘double-degrees’ with NUTN

NUTNNIU and the National University of Tainan (NUTN) expect to launch a program articulation agreement this fall or next spring.

Students who participate in the program will earn two master’s degrees in educational research assessment – one from NIU and one from NUTN – as well as an immersion in a foreign culture that improves their marketability.

Matching NIU courses directly to corresponding NUTN courses is the next step before finalizing the curriculum and signing a Memorandum of Agreement, says Wei-Chen Hung, chair of the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment.

“The program will take two years – 33 to 36 credit hours,” Hung says. “Students will either start at NIU one year and go the NUTN for the second year, or vice versa.”

Hung already knows many NIU College of Education students who are excited about the program.

“International experience is one reason why,” Hung says. “Second is the opportunity to get involved with different types of research projects, and also having the opportunity to understand the system in Taiwan. This broadens the scope in terms of education and in research assessment.”

The two universities became sister schools about five years ago. Discussions began then about a 1+1 program articulation at that time, Hung says, but an agreement never materialized.

After a new NUTN president took office last year, however, talks resumed.

Last November’s trip to Taiwan, which included Dean Laurie Elish-Piper and Associate Dean David Walker in the delegation, further fueled the conversations.

Some of the newest faculty at NUTN hold degrees from U.S. universities, Elish-Piper says, and speak English: “They get us,” she says.

Wei-Chen Hung

Wei-Chen Hung

“We both agreed we want to do something like this. Tainan has a strong education department. Every course they offer, we offer too,” Hung says. “What makes this beneficial is that we can show that the students had been working with diverse classmates and faculty, and we can broaden the scope of our program.”

Doing so underlines the college’s value of inclusion; the NIU College of Education cultivates a diverse learning community of people, ideas and points of view in which all can learn and grow.

“This unique 1+1 double-degree initiative is curricular innovation that we are employing to enhance one of our college priorities of intentional growth,” Walker said.

Meanwhile, double-degrees are not uncommon at NIU.

Business students, for example, can enroll in the Fast-Trak MBA Program to earn master’s degrees in international management. Students spend two three-week sessions at either the Bordeaux University School of Management in France or the ENAE School of Business in Murcia, Spain.

Graduate students in public administration can pursue double degrees through an agreement with the School of Public Administration and Policy, part of Renmin University of China.

Terry Borg, director of the NIU College of Education’s Office of External and Global Programs, envisions that list growing longer in the college. “We’ve opened the door,” Borg says.

For more information, call (815) 753-9339 or email etra@niu.edu.



CoE online graduate programs earn high U.S. News rankings for fifth consecutive year

Laptop and coffeeOnline graduate programs in the NIU College of Education continue to perform near the top of the country, according to new rankings released today by U.S. News & World Report.

NIU places fourth (tied with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln) in the current honor roll of 200 schools, earning a fifth consecutive spot among the nation’s Top 5 and its sixth nod overall.

Among the nine other Illinois schools ranked, only the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (tied for 10th) and the University of St. Francis (tied for 29th) are in the Top 50. Ten universities in the Mid-American Conference are ranked, including Buffalo and Ohio, which are among the five institutions tied for 10th.

Dean Laurie Elish-Piper considers the college’s annual recognition as “evidence of our high-quality online graduate programs.”

“Our faculty are at the cutting-edge of designing and delivering online education that is rigorous, engaging and interactive,” Elish-Piper said. “Our faculty, advisers and support staff are available to assist students in our online programs every step of the way so they can be successful in their programs and in their professions.”

The NIU College of Education offers three online master’s degrees within the departments of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA) and Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations (LEPF).

•    Educational Research and Evaluation (ETRA)
•    Instructional Technology (ETRA)
•    School Business Management (LEPF)

ETRA Chair Wei-Chen Hung heralds a continued and collective effort “attributed to faculty credentials, both academic and specifically for teaching online courses, and student engagement.”

Wei-Chen Hung and Carolyn Pluim (Vander Schee)

Wei-Chen Hung and Carolyn Pluim (Vander Schee)

“One particular highlight this year is that we further enhanced our assessment approach by working closely with Research and Assessment faculty to develop assessment instruments and rubric that help us better prepare our students for job markets,” Hung said.

“We are also in the process of updating our curriculum to integrating emerging practices and technologies in the field.”

Acting LEPF Chair Carolyn Pluim (Vander Schee) calls the six-year streak of U.S. News recognition a “nice salute” to the hard work of students as well as talented faculty, including Patrick Roberts, who chaired the department from 2013 to 2016, and full-time professors and adjunct instructors who bring decades of diverse and practical experience.

“We’re committed to continually improving our modes of delivery, to making sure that our course content is relevant and current and to engaging students in what they need to know as school business officials,” Pluim said. “We also have a fabulous relationship with the Illinois Association of School Business Officials that helps us to recruit top students to the program.”

U.S. News & World Report began collecting data on online programs in 2012 – NIU made the “honor roll” that first year – on the belief that “online learning is becoming integral to all types of education, including higher education, and that consumers are hungry for information related to online degrees.”

Its rankings make no distinction between not-for-profit and for-profit sectors.

Rankings are based on five categories, which are weighted: student engagement (35 percent), student services and technology (20 percent), admissions selectivity (15 percent), faculty credentials and training (15 percent) and peer reputation (15 percent).



NIU delegation to speak, present at Asian educational research conference

Laurie Elish-Piper and David Walker

Laurie Elish-Piper and David Walker

A delegation of scholars from the NIU College of Education will travel in November to Taiwan for APERA-TERA 2016, a biannual conference of the Asia-Pacific and Taiwan educational research associations.

NIU and the Mid-Western Educational Research Association (MWERA) are co-sponsors of the conference, which draws thousands of scholars eager for academic discussions and opportunities for collaboration.

Dean Laurie Elish-Piper and Associate Dean David Walker, who will deliver keynote addresses Friday, Nov. 11, lead the NIU contingent that also includes Wei-Chen Hung, chair of the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, and ETRA professors Laura Ruth Johnson, Isti Sanga and Tom Smith.

Scheduled from Wednesday, Nov. 9, through Saturday, Nov. 12, the conference takes place at National Sun Yat-sen University in Koahsiung.

Walker, a former president of MWERA, called for that organization to expand its international partnerships during his 2014 speech to the annual conference. In attendance that year were academic colleagues from China and Taiwan.

“Our relationship grew,” said Walker, who also is a professor of educational research.

Meanwhile, Hung enjoys a long camaraderie with National Sun Yat-sen University.

“I asked if we could co-sponsor the conference with them,” Hung said. “It’s a great opportunity for our faculty to engage in scholarship with them – they’re one of the Top 100 universities in the world, with a great amount of innovative research – and I do see a synergy between our two universities.”

Elish-Piper will speak on “Examining the Relationship Between Instructional Coaching for Teachers and Student Reading Gains in Grades K-3 in Elementary Schools in the U.S.” while Walker will speak on “Opportunities for International Education Advancement: Developments from the United States, Asia, and Oceania.”

Top: Wei-Chen Hung and Laura Ruth Johnson. Bottom: Isti Sanga and Tom Smith.

Top: Wei-Chen Hung and Laura Ruth Johnson.
Bottom: Isti Sanga and Tom Smith.

Potential topics will include human mobility, learning hubs, joint programs, on-site extensions of universities and changes in technology, including modern methods of course delivery, such as Massive Open Online Courses.

Hung, Johnson, Sanga, Smith and Walker also will lead a conference symposium on “Diverse Research Methodologies for Diverse Settings” along with Fahad Al-Shahrani from Jubail Colleges & Institutes in Saudi Arabia.

They will address how distinct methodological approaches and strategies have been applied in research situations involving diverse populations and settings, offering their unique experiences conducting research in varied cultural contexts.

“Understanding that NIU is looking for different types of partnerships, I think that having faculty integrated in this type of collaboration might be able to bring this partnership further. We could engage in student research, professional development or faculty exchanges.” Hung said.

“That places NIU on a more international platform, and also could help us in terms of recruitment and retention,” he added. “Allowing researchers and educators from different regions to know about NIU, to know about our programs and to know about the research we’re doing broadens our presence in a global context.”

Walker agrees.

“ETRA has many international students, and we’re continuing that relationship when they go home,” he said.

“For MWERA,” he added, “it’s good to grow the organization and bring diversity to it through an international experience, such as study abroad, scholar exchanges, grants and research in international affairs, and it’s also good for the graduate students we’re mentoring.”



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.”



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 collaborates to boost Saudi colleges’ online teaching skills

Wei Hung-DB-13_624x938

Wei-Chen Hung

The College of Education’s Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA) this summer provided an intensive, two-week workshop to faculty and staff of the Royal Commission of Jubail, Colleges and Institutes Sector (JCIS), a group of three institutions of higher education located in Jubail Industrial City in the eastern part of Saudi Arabia on the Arabian Gulf.

The program, “Online Teaching and Development,” was designed to boost confidence and hone skills necessary for JCIS to successfully integrate online technology into its teaching practices. The workshop was held at Jubail Industrial College and attracted some 30 participants. The participants were all faculty from different departments from the JCIS institutions who were chosen to be trained to become trainers.

The eLearning Project Committee, led by Fahad Al-Shahrani, a 2014 graduate of ETRA’s doctoral program in instructional technology, and now a JCIS faculty member and chairman of the organization’s E-learning Project, were leading the effort. After identifying skills gaps that prevented the JCIS faculty from teaching online most effectively, Al-Shahrani approached Wei-Chen Hung, chair of ETRA department, about creating a partnership to eliminate those gaps. The two organizations collaborated to identify the best training approach and best time to deliver the training.

Isti Sanga

Isti Sanga

The two-week training program was organized into three main theme topics, instructional strategies, technology integration, and blended course delivery, to provide faculty participants with needed skills and knowledge on eLearning pedagogies, technology, and teaching strategies. These skills and knowledge aimed to make online teaching and course development more efficient and effective and to make learning more productive. The goal was to help these 30 faculty participants assume critical roles such as eLearning coordinators and trainers in the JCIS’s online education initiative.

Dr. Isti Sanga, an ETRA instructor, worked with ETRA faculty to design the curriculum and course materials for the training and co-taught the face-to-face lessons with Hung in Saudi Arabia. Participants credit Sanga and Hung’s preparation and knowledge as the foundation for the workshop’s success.

“The training was delivered to an excellent, relatable standard,” said Mubeen Ahmed, one of the workshop participants and a faculty member at Jubail University College. “The elements that impressed me the most were their dynamic attitudes, zeal and ability to motivate us. I think I can speak on behalf of all my colleagues who attended the workshop that we were truly in great company for the entire two weeks.”

DSC_4294

The JCIS faculty trainees

Hung said the objective of the training was to provide JCIS faculty with a series of hands-on instructional activities on eLearning and a better understanding of online teaching methodology, instructional development, assessment, and media development.

In measuring the training’s effectiveness, professor David Walker, the project’s principal investigator, and his colleagues Todd Reeves and Tom Smith, both of ETRA, sought first to “assess changes in the participants’ belief in their ability to design and implement online courses” over the two-week time frame.

To do so they developed a survey, for participants to take at the beginning of the two-week training course, and then after each of the course’s seven sections (for a total of eight times). According to Reeves, the participants not only reported that they gained confidence in their abilities, they did so at an accelerating rate.

Tom Smith, Todd Reeves, David Walker

Tom Smith, Todd Reeves, David Walker

Walker added that while the data show that the participants’ confidence in their ability to create and deliver online course grew, the real test is yet to come. The researchers plan to return to Saudi Arabia next spring to assess how well the faculty have been able to put their new knowledge of online instruction in practice. With that information, the team will be able to modify the training program to reduce gaps in performance.

ETRA will continue to provide online consulting and support to the program for the next year. Hung hopes the training and ongoing consulting will result in the transfer of knowledge to faculty throughout the JCIS.

“We are aligning ourselves with the spirit of NIU’s mission to collaborate internationally with other institutions in the areas of research, artistry, and development,” Hung said. “My goal [for the department] is to expand our partnerships internationally and work with one institution at a time to help students, faculty and staff succeed with implementing the best practices for eLearning.”