Throughout the summer months, the University of Illinois hosted three rigorous Online Teaching Academy sessions in preparation for the Fall 2020 semester. Teaching faculty joined experts from the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, Tech Services and college-level educational technology units to workshop their pedagogical approaches. The OTA was originally designed and led by Dawn Bohn (Teaching Assistant Professor; Director, Online Masters of Science in Food Science Program in the College of Agriculture, Consumer & Environmental Sciences) and Kostas Yfantis (Assistant Director, Teaching and Learning with Technology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences). Sarah Eichhorn (Assistant Provost of Educational Innovation), Staci Provezis (Associate Provost for Academic Effectiveness), and Robert Baird (Senior Associate Director; The Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning) provided additional leadership for the program.
Our team at CITL joined in the preparation for Fall 2020 with excitement and a singular purpose: to ensure academic rigor while prioritizing our community’s health. We were thrilled to help lead this unprecedented faculty development program.
During the Academy’s four weeks, faculty designed their online and hybrid Fall courses in a community of fellow instructors. Nine CITL staff appeared as presenters, providing guidance across several topics.
In the program’s first week, Ava Wolf, Amy Merkley, and Emelie Mies spoke on design principles. Attendees learned about key principles of online learning and best practices for hybrid course design. Specialists in eLearning, instructional design, and technology support, these three CITL presenters were instrumental in helping faculty understand our novel online learning environment.
Later sessions in Week One focused on assessments, accessibility, and copyright. Copyright Specialist Andrew Jiang and Assistant Director for Teaching and Learning Experiences Marc Thompson shared their expertise. Attendees were pushed to reimagine traditional assessments from their face-to-face courses in a new virtual context.
Our exploration of alternative assessments continued in Week Two with the guidance of Cheelan Bo-Linn, Senior Specialist in Education. These sessions included discussion of how to best engage students through active learning in a synchronous online session.
Later Week Two presentations focused on video as a tool of engagement. Instructional Media Production Manager Eric Schumacher and Instructional Resources Systems Specialist Liam Moran provided guidance in video communication. CITL Senior Associate Director Robert Baird and Teaching and Learning Specialist David Favre also offered their knowledge in the field. With the support of these CITL experts, faculty began creating video content and communication plans for their courses.
Favre furthered the discussion on engagement in the program’s third week alongside Assistant Instructional Designer Erin Creuz. Favre and Creuz spoke on creating a sense of community in the virtual classroom, as well as facilitating active collaboration between students. These sessions culminated in attendees outlining expectations for student-to-student communication in their course shells—an uncommon step in face-to-face course planning. Indeed, the Academy pushed teaching faculty to be imaginative and thorough in their Fall 2020 preparation.
OTA sessions will continue in an asynchronous format this fall, under the management of CITL. As the landscape of college teaching changes and grows, the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning is excited to continue pioneering creative pedagogical approaches at the University of Illinois.