Collaborative Partners for World-Class Teaching
Celebrating Excellence in Online Learning
University of Illinois Springfield celebrated 25 years of online learning during 2022-23 AY. Dr. Michele Gribbins, Director of COLRS, traced the evolution of online teaching and learning at UIS in a column for the State Journal-Register. The university was also listed as one of Forbes' Best Affordable Online Colleges for 2023.
The 2022-23 AY brought several new faces to the COLRS team, including eLearning Specialist Taylor Lester and Dr. Carey Applegate, Associate Director. Accessibility Specialist Alana Gomoll moved to the System Office to continue her work with accessibility.
Enhancing the Online Teaching & Learning Experience
COLRS has supported course quality efforts through several initiatives. COLRS updated and facilitated the Building Digital Community (BDC) faculty training course. 26 faculty completed the course in the 2022-2023 AY. The BDC underwent an extensive revision process, and COLRS will release the new version in September 2023. The COLRS blog was also moved to Canvas, where it has become a Canvas Support for Instructors resource with tips about building a Canvas Course, assessing learners, multimedia and technology integration, synchronous learning, teaching effectiveness, copyright, open education resources, and other valuable areas.
Quality course reviews for online and blended learning formats were provided for several departments. Over the 2022 summer, 7 faculty submitted Hyflex syllabi and lesson plans for 12 classes. The COLRS team trained these faculty in workshops and reviewed their syllabi and lesson plans submissions. COLRS also revised the Quality Assurance Rubric to better accommodate different modalities, including Hyflex.
As part of our ongoing course quality improvement efforts, COLRS staff supported the continued integration of three learning and reporting tools used to help faculty create engaging and visually appealing courses. Harmonize, by 42Lines, is a tool designed to enhance online discussions by modeling its functionality on popular social media platforms. Integrating images, video (with auto-captions), audio, and surveys into discussions, as well as intermediate deadlines with reminders, keeps students engaged. ReadyGo by Cidilabs, a course readiness reporting tool, allows staff to identify courses that are missing content like syllabi prior to a semester's launch. DesignPlus by Cidilabs offers a variety of tools that allow instructors to stylize the appearance and customize the content of Canvas pages, assignments, syllabi, discussions, and quizzes.
Providing Faculty Development Opportunities
COLRS staff continued supporting faculty with their efforts to convert courses to the Canvas learning management system. In addition to providing the Canvas faculty training course site and tutorial videos, COLRS staff delivered 10 workshops related to teaching online during the 2022-23 AY. COLRS also presented a session on Harmonize and Accessibility for the UIS New Faculty Teaching and Learning Academy.
COLRS also collaborated with the Center for Faculty Excellence to lead a series of open discussions about ChatGPT with UIS faculty and staff. Topics included how to talk to students about ChatGPT, how to use it in classes, implications of ChatGPT beyond education, issues created by ChatCPT and how to respond to them, and more. Recordings of several of these sessions are available through the Center for Faculty Excellence Canvas site.
Improving Digital Accessibility
The Digital Accessibility Remediation Team (DART) included eight undergraduate students and one graduate student worker this year. They represented a variety of different majors from across UIS, and most specialized in either closed captioning or document remediation.
DART helped ensure the accessibility of 686 course materials during the 2022-23 Academic Year, including nearly 5,000 pages of PDFs, over 3000 presentation slides, and 97 hours of video. Two key partners in making course materials accessible were the College of Business and Management and the Brookens Library, whose Course Reserves process makes use of our services to provide accessible PDFs for courses across the institution.
COLRS representatives Alana Gomoll, Carrie Levin, and Carey Applegate served on the Digital Accessibility Policy Committee and several system-wide working groups planning the future of accessibility for the three Universities and the System Office. The focus of these working groups is two-fold: design accessibility training that can be used across the System and identify strengths and weaknesses of each university and to provide context in deciding which areas warrant the most urgent action. These initiatives will help the System move toward greater compliance with the ADA and Sections 504 and 508, both minimizing the risks posed by noncompliance and proactively making digital content accessible to a wider audience.
Delivering Personal Attention
Supporting Online, Blended, & HyFlex Educators
65.9% of students at UIS took one or more online or blended courses during the 2022-23 AY. COLRS staff hosted twice-daily Zoom office hours during the fall and spring semesters (and once daily during the summer term) to support the many faculty teaching online. 325 faculty members sought assistance from COLRS during the 2022-23 AY. From August 2022 to July 2023, August, September, and January were the peak months for faculty requesting support.
Supporting a Winter Intersession
During the 2022-23 winter break, UIS offered its third intersession term. Seventeen online intersession courses were offered between December 12 and mid-January 2023. COLRS staff supported faculty in adapting courses to the shortened timeframe. COLRS also coordinated and designed a Canvas Commons module that was added to all intersession courses. The module detailed the support services available to students during holiday closures. COLRS also offered faculty support by phone, email, and Zoom office hours during the break, including days that the campus was closed for holidays, to ensure courses ran smoothly.
Saluting Our Online Graduates
For the fourth year, UIS celebrated online graduates through an Online Graduate Salute. Nearly 500 online graduates were honored through the salute in May 2023. COLRS staff, along with the UIS web services team, faculty, online program coordinators, and administrators, collaborated in creating a virtual celebration of our graduates. COLRS staff also greeted online graduates who attended the commencement ceremonies in person. 34 online graduates and 20 faculty and staff attended the Online Graduate Recognition Event on the morning of commencement.
Welcoming Students to Campus
eLearning Specialist Emily Boles assisted with the development of a new Online Student Orientation. She helped to plan and coordinate content for online modules introducing new students to various campus resources. The goal of the orientation was to make students feel welcome and supported, with the orientation site serving as a resource rather than a hurdle to jump over before joining campus. All students, no matter their modality (online, blended, on campus) or level of student (first year, transfer, graduate), have access to the materials. Content is customized based on the needs of each category of new students. A new series of videos called UIS I Never were developed for the project. They feature a diverse cast of current students who explore campus completing a series of tasks.
Enriching the Scholarship of Teaching
Five UIS faculty completed year one of the inaugural OPEL Faculty Fellows class of 2022-24: Anne-Marie Hanson, José Luis Irizarry, Yu-Sheng Lee, Jennifer Martin, and Livia Woods. They joined the returning COLRS Faculty Fellows class of 2021-23: Serkan Karadas, Beth Ribarsky, and Junfeng Wang. Each of their projects delves into an area of interest related to online teaching and learning and promotes faculty and/or organizational development.
The new 2023-25 OPEL Faculty Fellows are Hei-Chi Chan, Amy Dunning, Matthew Geras, Betsy Goulet, Liang Kong, and Neat Singh. The inaugural Chancellor's Faculty Fellow is Cheng-Chia "Brian" Chen.
Providing Online Leadership to the UIS Community
COLRS continues to work closely with our Information Technology Services (ITS) partners to oversee the efficient operation of Canvas platform and related technologies. Several processes have been automated to improve faculty and student experiences with Canvas. For example, the mandatory FERPA training has been moved to Canvas, and tracking is automated and integrated into other processes. Another initiative to improve student experience is the creation of digital i-cards for online students. COLRS staff have been collaborating with the System office to develop a process for delivering i-cards to online students.
COLRS provides university leadership for compliance with the requirements of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), which allows UIS to offer online learning to students residing in other states. COLRS staff coordinate the reporting of data and the resolution of complaints received through the mandated online course complaint form. This year, there were changes to the Federal Licensure Reporting requirements by the Department of Veteran Affairs, and COLRS collaborated closely with departments offering licensure programs to update the website in order to reflect those shifts.
COLRS participates in various university committees related to online learning, including the Academic Technology Committee, UIS AI Investigation Committee, and the AI Taskforce for the University of Illinois System. COLRS also works closely with Institutional Research and academic units at UIS to create reports that inform decisions about enrollments and course offerings. COLRS also hosts semesterly meetings between Online Program Coordinators and key university units to disseminate information and share ideas for better serving online students.
Serving UIS and the Profession
COLRS staff served the profession and the university in many capacities throughout the year, often in leadership positions. Externally, COLRS staff were involved in UPCEA's Online Administration Network, UPCEA's Central Region, and the Faculty Summer Institute Planning Committee. At UIS, COLRS staff were involved in:
- Campus Senate
- UIS Representative, University Professional Personnel Advisory Committee to University of Illinois System President
- Vice Chair, UIS Academic Professional Advisory Committee
- UIS Campus Senate Committee on the Library
- UIS Faculty-Staff Campaign Advisory Committee
- CAPE/CARE Awards Breakfast Planning Committee
- Safe Zone
- ENS/MPH Graduate Program Coordinator
- Search Committees: Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs/Provost, Director of Institutional Research (Search Chair), Director of Admissions Processing, Finance Faculty, Executive Adviser Finance and Operations for the Office of Enrollment and Retention Management, Associate Director of COLRS, and eLearning Specialist
COLRS staff also delivered multiple presentations for external audiences:
- Emily Boles. "ChatGPT: Teaching and Learning in the Age of AI." COPLAC Panel. February 2, 2023.
- Emily Boles. “ChatGPT: How to Talk with Students about and Use Conversational Artificial Intelligence in Classes.” Illinois Association of Teachers of English 4th Quarter Matters Conference Presentation. Millikin University. March 4, 2023.
- Emily Boles. “Instructional Design Basics.” Support for the Creation of Open Educational Resources (SCOERs) in Illinois grant for the Consortium of Academic Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI). March 9, 2023.
- Michele Gribbins. "Examining Online Proctoring: Assumptions, Ethics, and Alternatives." Teaching in the CTEI Podcast. Rush University. March 22, 2023.
- Emily Boles, with Sarah Collins, Dylan Blaum, and Layne Morsch. “ChatGPT: AI as a Tool, Not a Solution.” Faculty Summer Institute. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. May 23, 2023.
- Emily Boles. "H5P Interactive Activities." Support for the Creation of Open Educational Resources (SCOERs) in Illinois grant for the Consortium of Academic Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI). June 15, 2023.
- Carey Applegate, with Jessica Martinez, Jillian Manzer, and Larissa Rodionov. "Ready Student Go: Designing Authentic Assessments to Improve Transfer between Academic and Real-World Contexts." Distance Teaching and Learning Conference. Madison, WI. July 25, 2023.
- Michele Gribbins, Emily Boles, and Layne Morsch. "AI, AI, Oh! Strategies for Engaging Learners with Artificial Intelligence While Promoting Academic Integrity." Distance Teaching and Learning Conference. Madison, WI. July 26, 2023.
Liberal Arts Skilled
Producing Multimedia Content
COLRS staff produced promotional videos for several UIS departments, units, and events, including Public Affairs, Education, Office of Engaged Learning - Internships, Continuing and Professional Education (CAPE), Online, Professional, and Engaged Learning (OPEL), and the Online Graduate Salute.
Multimedia Communications Specialist Scott Moomaw edited many longer recorded lectures into shorter, pedagogically sound clips for UIS classes across campus. He also produced a series of teaching tips centered on multimedia best practices for the online classroom.
Supporting the Illinois Online Network
COLRS staff continued to support the operations of the Illinois Online Network (ION) by administering the learning management system and providing support for students. ION faculty support for Moodle course development continued, as did development projects in the SLATE CMS. COLRS staff also assisted with the onboarding of ION's new Coordinator of Professional Programs, Russ Stoup.