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Partnership marks 10 years of supporting instructors


ITS Teaching & Learning and the Center for Faculty Excellence are celebrating 10 years of working together to support instructors at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Teaching & Learning and the Center for Faculty Excellence (CFE) have worked closely over the past decade to innovate and experiment with new technology-supported approaches in the classroom.

Bob Henshaw
Bob Henshaw

The CFE guides and supports instructors in all career stages, including graduate students. The center rebranded in 2008 to aid the development of research, leadership and mentoring in addition to teaching and learning.

Innovation feeds more innovation

The most beneficial part of the partnership between Teaching & Learning and the CFE has been the notable improvement in instructional support for UNC-Chapel Hill faculty, said Bob Henshaw, ITS Liaison to the CFE. “When instructors have easy access to all teaching options, students stand to benefit the most,” he said.

This partnership effectively enables teachers to use technology as a learning tool because it is driven by clearly defined goals and evidence-based teaching, Henshaw said. “The CFE helps provide a goals-focused context for the use of ITS-supported technologies,” he said.

One success story from this partnership is the Poll Everywhere student polling platform, which began as a pilot project between the CFE and Teaching & Learning. Professors now widely use Poll Everywhere to track student progress, engagement and attendance.

Partnership expected to expand

Cowell standing in front of white board
Glynis Cowell, Teaching Professor in Romance Studies, works with students using whiteboard walls in flexible classroom Dey 205. Photo: Lars Sahl

Looking ahead, Henshaw expects this partnership to grow to accomplish bigger and better things.

One project the partnership is working on is the My Course Analytics Dashboard. The dashboard is a web-based application that makes it easy for instructors to learn more about the diverse needs of students enrolled in their courses.

One of the largest projects the CFE and Teaching & Learning have collaborated on is the Master Plan for Modernizing Carolina Classrooms. The plan calls for the University to modernize the technology in as many as 50 general-purpose classrooms, including several large lecture halls, between 2018 and 2025.

By further integrating technology into the classroom, Carolina can leverage new educational technologies and accommodate a wider range of teaching methods. Updates include shared writing surfaces, a new generation of mobile furniture, better classroom acoustics and additional digital technology.

Enhances student understanding

Carribeth Bliem
Carribeth Bliem

Carribeth Bliem, Teaching Assistant Professor with the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Chemistry, uses such classroom technology as wireless laptop display and individual response systems.

Using this classroom technology, she said, “supports pedagogical efforts to encourage meaningful collaboration among students and engage them with course content on a deeper level than lecture.”

The technology-centered redesign of bringing evidence-based practice to undergraduate, typically large-enrollment classrooms, is an effort that Bliem spearheaded for first-year general chemistry courses. A CFE grant funded the original course redesign, and CFE helps sustain it.

“I continue to think critically about how to best use technology in the classroom to increase student understanding,” she said.

Bliem relies on classroom technology and ITS’ assistance with that technology.

“ITS staff play a critical role in helping my class meetings run smoothly using technology,” she said.

Dedication to faculty support pays off

Suzanne Cadwell
Suzanne Cadwell

Suzanne Cadwell spent six years as a liaison between ITS and the CFE before serving in her current role as Director of Teaching & Learning.

Cadwell said that the CFE’s holistic approach to faculty work influenced her approach to faculty support. It also helped her appreciate the complementary nature of the two units’ support for the University’s instructional mission.

“Thanks to our partnership with the CFE, all of our staff have a greater awareness of faculty work and culture, which informs our customer service practices,” Cadwell said.

The partnership between Teaching & Learning and CFE has enriched the experience and efficacy of instructors and IT professionals, spurred innovation and experimentation with new technology-supported approaches and enabled instructors to provide a richer learning experience for students. Teaching & Learning and CFE are a winning combination and one with far-reaching benefits across the campus community.


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