When we think of universities as centers of learning, we mostly picture undergraduate and graduate students poring over a pile of books. However, the students are far from the only people on campus learning something new.
In partnership with Ivy Tech-Lake County, IU Northwest is taking lifelong learning seriously. About 30 STEM faculty members from both institutions have joined the first joint faculty cohort participating in a course on effective teaching practices. It’s offered through the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE).
“We’re doing modules that promote equity in education, active learning styles and teaching students in the best way possible,” Kristin Huysken, Associate Dean in IU Northwest’s College of Arts and Sciences, said.
The course consists of 25 modules spread out across two semesters. In that time, faculty participants have the chance to implement new techniques in their courses. As they try out different strategies, they bounce ideas off others in the cohort and reflect on how the new approach worked in their classrooms.
“Right now, STEM faculty use modern pedagogies in their courses to varying degrees,” Huysken said. “But this is an opportunity to have an entire library of evidence-based practices at our fingertips.” She said the ACUE courses offers further guidance and support to participants as they incorporate new strategies into their classrooms.
On the Ivy Tech side of things, Associate Professor and Science Program Chair Carlos Hernandez said that student success starts with the faculty.
“Everything starts with the instructor,” he said. “It’s essential for faculty to be well prepared and know what needs to be done to provide the best educational experience to students and have for them an appropriate environment for learning.”
Huysken said that IU Northwest also recognizes faculty for having a huge influence on student success, and she was heartened that so many participants in the ACUE course were enthusiastic about collaborating across institutions.
It’s a win-win
Hernandez and Huysken agree that when IU Northwest and Ivy Tech partner up to enhance faculty preparation, everyone wins. Instructors boost their teaching skills, and students learn better as a result. And it helps that both schools are just across the street from each other.
“The idea with Ivy Tech STEM programs is to allow students to eventually transfer to four-year institutions,” Hernandez said. “It's very important for us to have institutions that are accessible to the students.”
On IU Northwest’s end, Huysken said it’s a priority to make the transition into a four-year school simple.
“We’re not always cognizant of what our incoming students know and don’t know,” Huysken said. “This partnership really provides us an opportunity to look critically at the way that students access the information we give them—where are the stumbling blocks and what can we do then to make it better?”
The ACUE cohort was made possible by a grant from the US Department of Education HSI STEM and Articulation Program allocated to TRIUNFOS, an IU Northwest program dedicated to increasing the number of STEM graduates with a special focus on Hispanic and low-income students. Funds from the Department of Education totaled $5 million.
In light of the ACUE course’s benefits to both faculty and students, the grant money is going to good use.
“We see students coming to Ivy Tech with goals, but they need support, and we are here to help them,” Hernandez said. “The plan for many students is to transfer to a four-year institution—what better than to have an option right across the street? In the end, the students will benefit most.”
For Huysken, it’s especially inspiring to see faculty members so committed to student success that they invest in their own development. This ACUE course is more than just watching a few slideshows—it’s a heavy lift.
“Faculty are putting in a tremendous amount of time and effort into this course, and then implementing it into their own courses. They seem so eager to connect with their Ivy Tech colleagues,” she said. “Only good can come from this.”
Thanks to immense dedication from faculty and generous grant funding allocated to TRIUNFOS, there’s a bright future ahead for STEM students in Northwest Indiana.