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Conference on Faculty Excellence Showcases High Interest Higher Ed Topics

Conference on Faculty Excellence

Faculty, postdocs and professional staff from NC State and area colleges and universities got a first-hand look at Think and Do in action at the second annual Conference on Faculty Excellence. With a theme of “Stronger Together: Collaborating for Faculty Excellence,” the event welcomed representatives from NC State, Meredith College, Saint Augustine’s University, Shaw University, Wake Tech Community College and William Peace University to campus for a day of professional development and networking. 

Campus Collaboration

The Office for Faculty Excellence (OFE), Digital Education and Learning Technology Applications (DELTA), and the NC State University Libraries came together to invest in faculty excellence through workshops focused on mentoring and career mapping, creative and critical thinking, the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, online and hybrid education, and library support of teaching and learning. Event sponsors included Panopto, Tego, Top Hat, PlayPosit, Gradescope, Zoom, Dell and Epiphan Video.

“We’re moving into a new era in higher education in terms of inclusion and technological innovation, especially when it comes to faculty engagement with artificial intelligence (AI),” said Diane Chapman, executive director and associate vice provost for faculty development in the Office for Faculty Excellence. “This year’s Conference on Faculty Excellence demonstrated how we at NC State want to be at the forefront in equipping faculty for their professional future by helping increase their technological literacy and encouraging a host of skills that will prove useful across a variety of disciplines.”

Featured presentations included:

  • Perspectives on Promotion: Developing a Firm Foundation for Review
  • Speed-Geeking with DELTA Instructional Technology Specialists
  • AI (Artificial Intelligence) for AI (Augmented Instruction)
  • Embracing Low-Fidelity Making: The Power of Prototyping in Instruction
  • Active Learning in the Online and In-Person Classroom: Faculty Fellows Panel
  • AI Powered Citation Management

There were also interactive sessions ranging from Alternatives to the Traditional Textbook: How to Get Started; to Cultivating Inclusive Learning: Navigating the Intersection of Equity, Context, and Engagement in Course Design and more.

Poster Presentations

Attendees were also treated to a virtual poster session, where each presenter utilized their laptop in lieu of the traditional paper poster format. A QR code was printed on a plaque to allow for attendees to view the posters on their own devices.

Remi Ham, assistant teaching professor in the Department of Horticultural Science, received the judges’ Outstanding Poster Award for her poster, Student Engagement and Learning: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Digital Discussion Tools. Two posters earned an honorable mention. They were: Emily Cartwright and Melissa Srougi’s poster Effects of Transcriptomic Tools Practice on Student Perceptions of Bioinformatics; and Caitlin Reynolds, Dana Kotter-Grühn, Cate Humphreys, Lauren Sneed, Kathryn Swaim and Daniel Grühn’s poster Exploring Teaching Approaches to Combat Ageism.

“As faculty, we understand peer-to-peer engagement is an impactful way to enrich student learning and the teaching experience. But how do we do this successfully in an online asynchronous course?” said Ham. “While varied online discussion platforms are more readily available to help increase participation and student learning, more information is still needed to evaluate whether these platforms enhance engaged learning”. 

Ham’s study compared two online discussion platforms, Packback and Yellowdig, used in sequential years for the asynchronous course Home Food Production – quantifying students’ recorded level of participation, engagement with their classmates, and effort put into discussion posts.  Data showed that Yellowdig, a digital tool that helps to create vibrant, connected learning communities, significantly enhanced student engagement and peer-to-peer learning in this course, more so than Packback. It gives students the agency to discuss course topics that are important to them and is also an excellent way for students to interact with their instructor and with each other. The interface design is very similar to popular social platforms, and this familiarity with the design helps students engage more intuitively. 

Additionally, the seamless integration into Moodle makes it highly accessible for student use. In Yellowdig, students select their topics of interest, share pictures and videos, take polls, or share exciting links. These organic exchanges, rather than teacher-led discussion prompts, proved to build a more robust online community while supporting diverse student expression. Students performed above average in the number of student connections, number of discussion posts, peer-to-peer responses, and multimedia shared. Many even exceeded the minimum participation requirement, suggesting that students found this form of communication meaningful enough to participate in or highly enjoyable. 

Looking Ahead

In order to prepare for next year’s Conference on Faculty Excellence, organizers sent an evaluation form to participants to gather feedback and help in ongoing planning efforts. With the momentum gained from this year’s success, the future of faculty excellence at NC State looks strong and promising.

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