Two Centers Join Forces to Connect Colleagues

Posted: January 28, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Michelle Nery

For the last year and a half, the Center for Teaching Excellence and the Instructional Resource Center (IRC) have hosted faculty showcases on a variety of topics connected by the theme of using technology to enhance education. The workshops give faculty and staff the opportunity to use their expertise to help their colleagues in the day-to-day challenges of work life.

“We’ve gotten terrific reviews on what’s happening,” says Laurie Fathe, director of the Center for Teaching Excellence. “Faculty and staff love hearing the information from their colleagues, and it’s great to learn about the subjects in real life applications rather than just theoretically.”

The IRC approached Fathe with the idea when she first came to George Mason. “They had been conducting similar workshops on a one-on-one basis and thought it would be much more cost effective to conduct them on a larger scale. We combined efforts and have been pleased with the outcome,” she says.

“At other universities, my office and Laurie’s are often in staged combat,” says Star Muir, Division of Instructional and Technology Support Services director, “but I think the collaboration between our offices has been that hallmark that defines the way that George Mason approaches and fosters teaching technology and teaching excellence. I’ve been very proud of what we’ve accomplished with the help of Eugene Lord, who coordinates the classes with Laurie’s office.”

This fall, the centers hosted four faculty showcase workshops: Structure for Online Discussions, Engaging Students in Large Classrooms, Cheating and Plagiarism, and Using Screen Capture for Instruction. Instructors for the workshops numbered both faculty and staff from offices and departments across the university, including the Graduate School of Education, Anthropology, English, Management, and more.

Nada Dabbagh, Graduate School of Education assistant professor, conducted the

Structure for Grading Online Discussions workshop in September. “Different faculty members are using technology in different ways to support teaching and learning. The more we know about what each of us is doing, the better prepared we will be to embrace new learning technologies and inform our departments of our technology needs.”

Rosemary Chase, university copyright officer, was contacted by the IRC and the Center for Teaching Excellence to help organize the session on Cheating and Plagiarism. In addition to Chase, Ruth Fischer, English; Melissa Martin, Management; and Todd LaPorte, International Commerce and Policy, helped conduct and plan the workshop.

“The session was well attended and, in fact, we ran overtime because of the audience participation and discussion,” says Chase. “Hearing firsthand experience, whether it’s good or bad, is invaluable.”

The topics for the showcases are culled both from hot issues on campus to interesting work conducted by faculty or staff members. “There are so many faculty members doing so many interesting things,” says Fathe, “and because we are a large institution, people don’t tend to talk across interdisciplinary lines. We have this intrinsic structure in place to allows people to do so.”

The faculty showcases for the spring semester are: Using Learning to Engage Students with Course Content–and Each Other by Andrew Finn, Communication; Online Video Conferencing Tools by Mark Pullen, Computer Science; Pedagogical Reflections of WebCT: Perspectives of Faculty and Students by Merry Sleigh, Psychology; Christina Villafana, Modern and Classical Languages; and Anna Schneider, student; and Online Tutorials by Steven Weinberger, Ken Thompson, and others from the English department.

For more information or to sign up, contact Fathe at (703) 993-8652 or lfathe@gmu.

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