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Innovative teaching approaches of Niagara University faculty highlighted in forthcoming book

by jmaloni

Press release

Thu, Jan 24th 2013 04:00 pm

Niagara University will be well represented in a new resource intended to illustrate best practices for incorporating learning technologies into higher education instruction.

The first chapter of "Research Perspectives and Best Practices in Educational Technology Integration," set to be released in February, features six case studies of professors who have effectively integrated the use of technology into their classrooms to promote student learning and encourage collaboration. Four of the case studies spotlight the innovative teaching methods of Niagara University faculty:

  • Christopher Aquino, assistant professor of accounting, incorporated the use of the Glo-Bus online simulation game into an undergraduate managerial accounting course. Glo-Bus is an online exercise that places teams of students in head-to-head competition against companies run by other class members.
  • Dr. Mustafa Gökçek, assistant professor of history, involved the use of the social networking website Twitter in his freshman-level course in U.S. history. To help students learn the major themes, political ideologies, foreign policies and major changes in U.S. society and politics since 1945, Gökçek supported Twitter usage with a poster exhibition, additional discussion via Facebook and in-class dialogue.
  • Dr. Douglas Tewksbury, assistant professor of communication studies, utilized a wiki for collaborative test creation in an undergraduate course on communication for social justice. Tewksbury chose the wikis because students perceived the exam positively, the process is "very democratic," and the approach encourages students to learn by revisiting the text to research their exam questions.
  • Thomas Korcok, lecturer in religious studies, assimilated into his classroom a student response system (SRS) called TurningPoint, also known as "clickers." The clickers were employed as a means of stimulating engagement and critical thinking among students in an introductory religion course.

"This is more evidence that Niagara University professors are using new and innovative methods to integrate technology into their teaching," stated Dr. Tim Downs, vice president for academic affairs. "It really speaks to how the university, as a whole, is embracing the many ways that today's students prefer to learn. Higher education is changing and it is imperative that we recognize and cultivate pedagogical approaches that are most effective in this educational environment."

The book, which lists Dr. Jared Keengwe of the University of North Dakota as its editor, can be pre-ordered for $175.

Institutional and individual names are not used in the book. However, two Niagara University staff members will be recognized as contributors.

The book's first chapter is coauthored by Niagara's Jennifer Herman, Ph.D., and Danyelle Moore, along with Dr. Karen Skibba of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Beginning in January 2011, the trio spent approximately four months obtaining approval from the institutional review board, identifying and researching candidates, visiting classrooms, conducting interviews and drafting the case studies.

It was a significantly abbreviated timeframe, but Herman and Moore saw an opportunity to promote the excellence of the faculty they work with.

"I learned a lot more about our faculty and their dedication to really good teaching," Herman said. "They want to be better teachers and make sure that our students are learning. I don't feel like our professors are coming to work just because it's a job. A lot of them are doing really amazing things."

Accordingly, the pair said the feedback from the students was positive across the board.

"It almost didn't matter what the technology was," Moore noted, "it was just that it was something different than coming to class and sitting at their desks."

During their interview, Herman and Moore recalled that they were so intent on doing justice to the professors' quality of work that the final draft they and Skibba submitted to the publisher exceeded the page limit by 10.

"But," laughed Herman, "they still made ours the first chapter in the book."

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