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.
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.”
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.
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.”