FSI cover art

Illinois Institutions and Beyond Come Together for “Strengthening Student Experiences during COVID-19”

FSI: At the Intersection of Teaching, Learning, and Technology is an annual conference that brings educators and instructional-technology professionals together each May at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Northern Illinois University’s Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL) has been a part of the Faculty Summer Institute’s evolution from the beginning. For over 20 years, the Center has been able to send a handful of faculty to the conference in Urbana-Champaign by funding registration and travel expenses. Members of our NIU community have been participants, presenters, and even Keynote speakers at this annual conference.

Like the architects of many other events and conferences, FSI steering committee members decided to roll up their sleeves and host a virtual conference this year for free. The theme was Strengthening Student Experiences during COVID-19 and included three engaging sessions lead by the following facilitators: Robert (Paul) Malchow (University of Illinois at Chicago), Cathering Polydore (Eastern Illinois University), Barbara Hancin-Bhatt, Murillo Soranso (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), and Justin Hodgson (Indiana University Bloomington). The virtual delivery of the conference also allowed for a greater number of the NIU community to attend.

Blackboard Collaborate video chat

Over 160 participants attended each session. Sessions began with a 15-20 minute presentation, which featured an equally engaging text chat. In the second part of each session, participants were divided into breakout rooms of about 8-10 people. “The breakouts were the best part,” said one participant. “I was able to have a real and meaningful conversation with colleagues around the State.” Finally, the large group came back together to share and ask questions.

The follow-up survey asked participants what they thought of the format of this year’s virtual conference. Results are incoming, but the steering committee will have a lot to think about. The success of the virtual conference will inform how FSI adapts in the future, and the future looks bright!

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