June 20, 2024

SIU earns D2L award for inclusive excellence

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — SIU Carbondale is being recognized for its work at improving the initial encounters and onboarding experiences for international students and teaching assistants.

d2lexcellencebadge-062024-sm.jpgThe Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) recently received a 2024 D2L Excellence Award “for fostering inclusive excellence within its community” from the online learning platform. SIU Carbondale is one of seven universities and business-related firms to receive the award.

Craig Engstrom, CTE director, said it’s “incredibly exciting to receive recognition for our work.”

“We wanted to give our international students with assistantships a positive first impression of the university upon arrival,” he said. “This project aligns with the Imagine 2030 pillars of student success and diversity, equity and inclusion. Moreover, an award like this is the ultimate validation for all the CTE staff and graduate assistants who contributed their expertise to make this project a success; this award allows them to see others value their efforts.”

Engstrom noted that SIU Carbondale “has always prioritized investment in learning technology,” and through D2L Brightspace and Bongo, CTE “managed to automate the entire interviewing process while significantly enhancing the quality of the experience and the reviews.”

Engstrom said further improvements are planned.

CTE has aligned the international teaching assistant (ITA) oral proficiency requirements with peer institutions and improved administrative processes to reduce paperwork and increase feedback for international students — which Engstrom said includes “better remediation for those who do not score well on the interview, which will also enhance undergraduate classroom instruction overall.” CTE has also introduced a system for academic units to track their ITAs’ progress and reduced emails and paperwork for everyone involved.

Engstrom added that with the support of Sheryl A. Tucker, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, the Center for English as a Second Language (CESL) will offer an intensive 8-week immersive English course for ITAs who are identified as needing it.

“With the time we've saved, the CTE team can now offer more engaging workshops before the semester starts,” Engstrom said. “This year, all graduate teaching assistants can choose to attend a simulation workshop that models the cultural experience of the SIU classroom. They will learn techniques for inclusive communication before meeting the undergraduate students they will teach or assist. We hope this will contribute to SIU’s goal of undergraduate student retention.”