Dr. Denice Robertson is a Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences and co-Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning.
Despite the restrictions of social distancing, Dr. Robertson led a successful Ecology Lab course during Fall 2020.
Dr. Robertson uses a drone to help survey a "no-mow" zone on the NKU campus.
With a strong interest in globalization, Dr. Robertson developed and co-teaches a course on the Biology and Geology of Coral Reefs in Belize.
The abrupt switch to online and hybrid learning during the COVID-19 pandemic brought an unexpected challenge for Dr. Denice Robertson, Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences and co-director of NKU’s new Center for Teaching and Learning. How could the center redirect its focus and energy to support the many faculty whose only teaching experience had been in live classrooms and labs? The answer was collaboration and coordination with multiple units across campus, including both faculty and staff.
A major initiative developed in a remarkably short period of time was the Summer Online Faculty Institute (SOFI) which brought hundreds of NKU faculty together in June, including 16 from Biological Sciences. “I really appreciated all the presenters and the work they put into the various session,” said Dr. Emily Shifley.
“The amount of topics covered and wealth of information was impressive!” said Dr. Kristy Hopfensperger, Director of the Environmental Sciences Program. “I found myself going back to watch recordings, and I learned several techniques that will improve my teaching overall in the future both in the classroom and online. What an awesome thing NKU put together for faculty in such a great time of need. I do not think this was common at other institutions.”
The Provost who created the center, Sue Ott Rowlands, highlighted the CTL’s efforts to maintain high quality instruction despite the obstacles imposed by COVID-19. “They have responded to the pandemic by ramping up opportunities for faculty to learn and connect with one other.”
Dr. Robertson and the other Center co-director Dr. Ellen Maddin also coordinated a weekly Faculty Workshop series in Zoom during Fall Semester to keep faculty informed of evidence-based practices and how to effectively incorporate new technologies into their courses.
But Dr. Robertson hasn’t lost sight of her long-term goals for the CTL. “One goal in particular is to develop the CTL as a training hub. Another goal is to continue to develop the ELCs (Educator Learning Communities) as we
feel strongly that prolonged engagement with a topic rather than a short workshop is truly the way to develop excellence in teaching and engaging with students.”
With 20 years of experience at NKU including service as Assistant Director for CINSAM, Dr. Robertson has been a leader introducing evidence-based practices into her teaching and in the transdisciplinary courses she created. She has attended the National AAC&U and Project Kaleidoscope Summer Leadership Institute for STEM Faculty, created a Teaching Practices Inventory, and received a major grant from the National Science Foundation to improve STEM teaching and learning. Still, she admits trying something new is difficult, which is why it’s so important for faculty to share their experiences.
“One of the most important things is to be open to sharing with others. I think my most challenging courses have always been whenever I introduced a new way of teaching. It was particularly challenging when I was introducing a team-based learning approach as very few of us were using this technique, and it was a big adjustment for the students.
“We, as teachers, are curious, always striving to get better and so it makes it easy to talk about what I’ve learned in casual conversation as well as developing workshops based on those conversations.”
Like most NKU faculty, Dr. Robertson looks forward to being back on campus full-time when the Center can reopen its doors for one-on-one mentoring and more interpersonal interaction. She’s already planning for an expanded Norse Educator Summit, which she called one of the center’s most important early successes.
“We are particularly proud of our first effort at running the summit and making it welcoming and applicable. Once we are back face to face, we hope to include a poster session around the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, research and other successes. We are working this year to not only build on the success of last year, but also to reflect the different times and use them as a way to remain connected.”