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.”


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.”


Study Abroad program in Japan in the works

JapanThe College of Education is teaming up with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Visual and Performing Arts for a two-week learning experience in Japan May 16 – 29, 2016. Participants will learn about western Japan, experiencing and learning about both modern and ancient culture through guided tours, lectures and independent research. Education students will spend time in schools, working with students and teachers, and also visit with students and faculty at Yamaguchi Prefectural University (where CAHE doctoral student Robert Schalkoff is a professor). Highlights of the program included Yamaguchi City, Hagi, Hiroshima, Akiyoshidai and Miyajima. For more information, contact Professor Steven Tonks at or NIU’s Study Abroad office at 815-753-0700.

CAHE seminars scheduled

Emily photo for NIU

Emily F. Henderson to visit COE Nov. 10 – 11

The College of Education’s Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education (CAHE) is proud to present Emily F. Henderson, assistant professor of International Education and Development in the Centre for Education Studies at the University of Warwick, U.K., who will conduct seminars on Nov. 10 and Nov. 11. Everyone is welcome to attend. (Descriptions of seminar topics are given below.)

What: “Teaching and Learning in a Shifting Terrain: Towards a Critical Higher Education Pedagogy”*

Date: Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015

Time:  Noon – 1 p.m.

Where: Gabel 146


What: “Gender and Education Research: an International, Intersectional Approach”**

Date:  Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015

Time:  Noon – 1 p.m.

Where: Gabel 146

For more information, contact Z Nicolazzo at 815-753-9373 or

* The higher education sector internationally is shifting in a number of different ways. Student mobility is growing and the map of destinations is changing. The purpose of higher education changes as employers demand more professionally oriented graduates and students conduct cost-benefit analyses of the time and money spent studying. Within this shifting terrain, questions of pedagogy arise. While ‘loss narratives’ of higher education abound which bemoan the conditions of teaching and learning in higher education, and the changes in students’ profiles and motivations, this seminar argues that there is potential for a critical higher education pedagogy in today’s university classrooms. The seminar is based on some of the findings presented in Henderson’s book “Gender Pedagogy: Teaching, Learning and Tracing Gender in Higher Education” (Palgrave, 2015).

** When we say we are conducting research on gender in the field of education studies, what do we mean? Is it a given that we will divide our research participants into two supposedly dichotomous groups (i.e., men/women), or that we will select one group from the many diverse genders that exist? How do understandings of gender differ across international contexts? This seminar presents a critical analysis of the concept of gender as it is employed in educational research, with a particular focus on higher education. Based on doctoral fieldwork in the United Kingdom, the United States and India, as well as institutional visits to France and South Africa, this seminar aims to push at the boundaries of the basic concept of gender that is used in education research.

Literacy & Elementary Education offers new reading cohort in Grayslake

Northern Illinois University’s Department of Literacy and Elementary Education (LEED) will offer a new cohort leading to a Master of Science degree in literacy education with a focus on reading beginning in 2016 at University Center-Lake County (UC-LC) in Grayslake.

The program includes one or two classes per semester and is ideal for classroom teachers who are interested in earning either the Reading Teacher Endorsement (24 credits) or Reading Specialist Endorsement K-12 (33 credits).

Interested individuals can learn more about this program by attending an information session on Tuesday, Oct. 27 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the University Center-Lake County, 1200 University Center Drive, Grayslake, Ill. This event precedes an UC-LC open house and provides an opportunity for prospective students to learn about program requirements and ask questions. For information and reservations, contact Gail Schumacher, academic advisor, at or 815-753-7948.

As a competency-based program, this master’s degree features a course sequence in which each course builds on the previous one, and all courses are aligned with the standards for reading professionals developed by the International Literacy Association. All courses are taught by skilled and knowledgeable faculty members, many with national recognition for their teaching, research and service to the field of reading. Full-time reading faculty members include Susan L’Allier, associate professor and reading program coordinator; Corrine Wickens, associate professor; and Michael Manderino, assistant professor. For information on the faculty, visit the Department of Literacy and Elementary Education website.

Northern Illinois University also plans to offers the Master of Science degree in literacy education with a focus on reading at the NIU-Naperville campus in 2016.

NIU also offers a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education, a Master of Science in literacy education with a focus on ESL/bilingual education, a Master of Arts degree in teaching (initial elementary education license), and a Doctor of Education degree in curriculum and instruction with specialization in literacy education. In addition, classes are available for those interested in coursework toward ESL and bilingual endorsements, the Reading Teacher Endorsement and the Certificate of Graduate Studies in Postsecondary Developmental Literacy and Language Instruction. For more information visit the LEED website.

Meet a COE Northern Lights Ambassador: Bernadette Chatman

Bernadette 2

Bernadette Chatman

“I have two ultimate goals in life: the first, to stay content and the second, to inspire someone to be a better them,” says Bernadette Chatman. “Both of these goals lead me to want to be an educator, more specifically an educator for those who are differently abled.”

Bernadette is a senior in special education as well as one of four COE Northern Lights Ambassadors.

As a Northern Light Ambassador, Bernadette says she wants to serve as a voice for the students. She believes students should be aware of all of the great opportunities that Northern, as well as the College of Education, has to offer.

“Our college has provided me with a few opportunities that I never saw myself doing. Teaching in Houston for a week is an example. The program, Educate U.S., gave me and 19 other NIU students the opportunity to teach in the Aldine School district. Unlike other institutions that send their students to the same program, NIU paid for our flight, ensured we were satisfied with our placements as well as the environment in which we lived in, and even took us out to explore Houston. I left Texas with a job offer and a greater appreciation for my college.”

Panel discussion to address tough issues facing local schools, teachers and students

Douglas Moeller, Steven Koch, Erika Schlichter

The NIU College of Education’s ongoing Community Learning Series continues Thursday, Oct. 22 when the college welcomes back three distinguished alumni to share their experiences as educators and school administrators and provide insights into what it takes to be successful in today’s classrooms.

The guests will also provide an “on-the-ground” look at some of the pressing issues facing local schools and school districts, including the impact of the Illinois budget crisis, Common Core and student testing.

Dr. Brad Hawk, assistant professor in the COE’s Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Leadership as well as a former school superintendent himself, will moderate the panel, which includes:

  • Douglas Moeller, superintendent, DeKalb School District 428
  • Erika Schlichter, chief academic officer, District 158
  • Steven Koch, principal, Prairie Ridge High School

“All of our guests have been highly successful teachers who have moved up through the system, through a variety of jobs at a variety of districts,” Hawk said. “Their comments will be valuable to anyone seeking a career as a teacher but also for teachers – prospective or veteran – who are interested in taking on administrative roles.”

The discussion will also appeal to parents and others who are interested in critical issues facing local schools and districts.

“The chance to talk with such highly placed and influential leaders in education will give us a clear view into what’s really happening in our schools,” he said.

“Dr. Moeller, for example, will discuss financial issues that are now affecting local districts here and around the state,” he said, adding that Schlichter is an expert on Common Core standards and high-stakes testing, while Koch’s Prairie Ridge High School has become the model for student performance in recent years. The discussion will include an extensive question and answer session.

What: Community Learning Series: Leadership in the Classroom

Where: Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center, 231 N. Annie Glidden Road, DeKalb, IL

Date: Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015

Time: 5 p.m. – 6 p.m.: Networking reception with light hors d’oeuvres; 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.: Panel discussion and Q&A

The event is free and open to the public. Free parking is available for all attendees in the lot adjacent to the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center. Please RSVP to Paul Baker at or 815-753-8434.


Meet our distinguished panelists:

Dr. Steven Koch joined District 155 in 2001 as a Prairie Ridge English teacher. He served as English department chairman from 2005 until 2008, when he assumed his role as the district’s director of staff development. He returned to Prairie Ridge as the school’s fourth principal in July 2013. Dr. Koch received both a B.A. degree in secondary English education with a minor in rhetoric and a M.A. degree in English literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has both an Educational Specialist degree and a Type 75 certification from Northern Illinois University. Koch earned his Ed.D. degree from NIU for his work concentrating on public school officials’ authority over student cyberspeech. Koch’s wife, Katie, is a member of the District 155 math faculty, and together they have three children.

Dr. Douglas J. Moeller is the superintendent of schools for DeKalb Community Unit School District (CUSD) 428. The day after graduating from Elgin High School, in Elgin Ill., he left home to begin six years of service in the United States Marine Corps. Upon completing his military service, Dr. Moeller attended Northern Illinois University and earned a B.S. degree in mathematics and economics. He immediately found employment as a corporate actuary, and spent nine years working for both Kemper Corporation and Allstate Insurance Company’s International Reinsurance Division. Although this profession was monetarily rewarding, it was not personally fulfilling. His wife, Christine, was an elementary school teacher, and seeing the positive impact she was having on the lives of children, Dr. Moeller made a career change to teach.

He began his career in education as a mathematics teacher at Gifford Street High School, an alternative high school located in Elgin School District U-46. During this time, Dr. Moeller also worked as an adjunct instructor for Elgin Community College teaching Calculus, Differential Equations, and Probability & Statistics. He then served as a dean of students and chair of the special education department at Elgin High School. His last position in U-46 was as the school district’s director for mathematics and science.

Dr. Moeller joined DeKalb CUSD 428 in 2009 as the principal of DeKalb High School. While serving in this position he worked on the construction of, and opened, the new DeKalb High School in the fall of 2011. Before assuming his current position, Dr. Moeller was the assistant superintendent for curriculum and student services in DeKalb. He holds a Ph.D. degree in educational organization and leadership from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Now in her 19th year as an educator, Dr. Erika Schlichter is beginning her second year as the chief academic officer for Huntley Community School District 158, a large unit district in McHenry County. In this role she collaborates to provide leadership in all aspects of teaching and learning for the district. She comes to this position having served in curriculum leadership, human resources leadership, high school building administration, and high school teaching roles in several large unit districts in the greater Chicago area.

Dr. Schlichter is a graduate of NIU and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After receiving a B.A. degree in history and Spanish from UW-Madison, she went on to a career in education and simultaneously pursued graduate work at NIU. She holds multiple degrees from NIU, including an M.S.Ed. degree in curriculum and instruction-secondary education, an M.S.Ed. degree in education administration, and an Ed.D. degree in education administration.

College of Education welcomes high school students from Taiwan


Open Imagination participants

Open Imagination participants

In early September, Northern Illinois University and DeKalb High School, as well as high schools in St. Charles and the Illinois Math and Science Academy (IMSA) in Aurora, welcomed nine high school students from western Taiwan, who spent three weeks immersed in American-style education and culture.

The 11th- and 12th-graders lived with DeKalb High School families during their stay. They are the second group of students from Taiwan’s Miaoli County to visit NIU and DeKalb in the past two years as part of a program called Open Imagination.

“Open Imagination was really a team effort,” said Terry Borg, director of the College of Education’s Office of External and Global Programs, which helped plan the visit. “The Education Bureau of Miaoli came to us with this grand idea about opening their students’ minds to a different way of learning.”

The students spent four days at DeKalb High School, three in St. Charles and another two days at IMSA shadowing students and attending classes. They also spent a week at NIU participating in classes that align with their career goals — law, science and medicine, diplomacy, and marketing, to name just a few.

According to Borg, the Taiwanese students are not the only ones to benefit from the experience. “Open Imagination is just as important to our host students,” he said. “This has provided them one-on-one personal experiences with their peers from halfway around the world. It makes the world a little smaller.”

“Open Imagination is extremely important to our students,” said Tamra Ropeter, principal at DeKalb High School. “Getting to know other cultures, what other countries’ educational systems are like – it’s invaluable.”


The students’ experiences were not confined to the classroom. Another Open Imagination supporter, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Chicago, feted the Taiwanese students and their DeKalb hosts to a day of Chinese and American culture on Sept. 12 with a reception featuring an orientation to Chicago, lunch and a song and dance program that evening at the Taipei Cultural Center.

The students visited the Museum of Science and Industry and the Field Museum. They also toured Wheaton’s Cantigny Park, home to both a museum that documents the history of the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division and the Robert R. McCormick Museum.

Borg said he hopes that this year’s Open Imagination Project can be expanded to include a reciprocal visit from DeKalb High School students this spring.

Alumni profile: Meet Mina Blazy


Mina Blazy

If you had asked Mina Blazy if she aspired to be a teacher back while she was a student at Proviso East High School, she would have told you “no.”

But the fond memories of a 10th grade chemistry teacher at that high school continue to inspire her hands-on approach to teaching – teaching science especially — today.
“You’d go by his class and he’d be lighting something on fire,” she said. “We made candy from a chemical equation in his class. I had the most fun in that classroom. He made science come alive.”

When that teacher retired and learned that Blazy (B.S. Ed. Elementary Education ’99) was teaching, he sent her all of his lessons.

Earlier this year Blazy opened the Gus Franklin Jr. STEM Academy, in Victorville, Calif., where she is currently principal.

“The academy is a huge success,” she said of its launch. “We have students from kindergarten through sixth grade learning and exploring engineering concepts through project-based learning.”

Blazy’s passion for teaching and learning through science is infused into every aspect of the school. Her students are learning about flight in space in third grade, and how to use software in fifth and sixth grades, plus the elementary school has engineering and science labs. This year, the school will launch a new project where students will manipulate a radio telescope as part of the Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope (GAVRT) Program. The project is a partnership between the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Lewis Center for Educational Research. In addition, they will look at space for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. The data they study will be part of the Juno Project, which is named for a satellite that was launched towards Jupiter and will go live next summer.

“It’s another hands-on science project, where they will get to manipulate it from the school site,” she said.

Blazy’s path to becoming a classroom innovator didn’t happen overnight. After growing up in Broadview, Ill., she attended the University of Dubuque and learned to be a pilot.

“I flew planes for a while, got married, had kids, and just decided to go into education,” she said. “My husband was actually the one who pointed out to me that I had a natural ability to teach.”

Blazy’s mother – a registered nurse – and uncle had attended NIU, so she applied. A counselor told her that she should focus on teaching science or math, so she minored in biology.

After graduation, she taught high school science in the Chicago suburbs for a few years, before moving to Ohio and then California to continue her career. Soon, Blazy will begin pursuing her doctoral degree in STEM education.

“Science helps you think about your thinking,” she said. “That’s why I decided I wanted to focus on STEM.”

Throughout her career, Blazy said she has worked with and observed educators at all skill levels.

“What I have learned is that NIU gave me a true foundation in the education arena, and the necessary skills to help guide teachers to become extremely successful,” she said.