Center for Teaching Excellence
Frequently Asked Questions
- How can it benefit me?
If your mission at USMA is teaching cadets, the CTE can help you discover the best methods for teaching your discipline. College teaching today is far more than simply delivering information. The technological advances of the twentieth century have shown that today's learners need to know how to learn, to develop critical thinking skills, and to be adept at information literacy. At the same time, nationally, we are finding students arriving at college less able to function as independent learners than their counterparts a generation ago. Instructional methods that worked well in the past often are ineffective with today's learners. The CTE can help you meet the challenge of challenging your cadets.
- How does it work?
Participation in CTE events is voluntary. You will receive information about CTE offerings either through the CTE website or e-mail messages. Every faculty member is cordially invited to take advantage of these opportunities to share ideas with faculty members from other departments. The CTE also responds to individuals. Through a phone call or e-mail message, you can personally request a consultation with the CTE to help you with your teaching in any way (you may have a question you'd like to pose about classroom management or leading discussions, for example). We will also visit your class on request and provide an assessment of your teaching. ALL individual consultations are confidential.
- I have heard that time is a precious commodity at USMA. How will I find time for CTE events?
As far as possible, the CTE tries to schedule multiple sessions of its activities to accommodate faculty schedules, but the finite nature of time will always be an issue. That's why we make an effort to reach out to USMA faculty members through multiple means. We maintain an extensive public website, and we are continually developing both it and our internal Sharepoint® site to provide services as well as current information for faculty members that they can access at any time.
- I am used to being successful in what I do. Why would I need help with teaching?
The most successful teachers are those who are always learning. Sharing ideas with colleagues, developing new techniques, and learning about learning are a continual process for teachers. The CTE tries to make it easier for faculty members to share instructional experiences and ideas with colleagues throughout the Academy.
- Is there anything that the CTE does not do related to teaching?
The CTE does not get involved in rating instructors in any way. Our work is designed to be formative, not evaluative. All faculty consultations are confidential.
- Will any of this help me in my career as a military officer?
Yes! Senior officers have indicated that the skills and competencies of a good instructor are also those of a good field grade officer—i.e., the ability to assess the level of the learner, to design and implement a course of instruction and to assess learning. By developing these competencies at USMA, you will be better prepared for your future work in the Army.
- How do I contact the CTE?
E-mail is the fastest and easiest way. Click here to e-mail the CTE Director , Dr. Mark Evans. You can also phone him at x5502.
- What are the teaching and learning benefits of Blackboard?
A powerful educational benefit of Blackboard is its ability to increase Faculty/Cadet and Cadet/Cadet communications. Studies have shown that increased interaction results in better learning. Blackboard tools such as discussion boards, chat rooms, exams, surveys, etc. provide many opportunities for this type of interaction. Another educational benefit of Blackboard is that instructors can set-up courses with content in a variety of formats, from text to video. This enables Cadets with different learning styles the opportunity to view a variety of material and therefore, maximize their learning potential. As a final example (although there are many others), Blackboard greatly reduces time spent on course “administrivia” - copying course materials, answering questions repeatedly, making course announcements, grading multiple choice quizzes, etc.
- Is Blackboard very difficult to learn?
The wonderful thing about Blackboard is that it is a very easy program to learn and to use. If you use email, can find files on your computer, and can browse the Internet, you have all the computer skills you need to use Blackboard.
- Will developing a Blackboard course take a lot of time?
Because Blackboard has so many great features, the amount of time you invest in developing a course in Blackboard is entirely up to you. You may choose to use only a limited number of features in Blackboard, in which case the development time will be minimal. Adding a lot of content or using many features may take more time. However, many Faculty who use Blackboard feel that the investment of time is worth it because Blackboard saves them significant time overall. For example you can very easily place existing content, like syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, etc. in any format (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) in Blackboard for 24/7 Cadet access. This saves you significant time copying materials and makes it easy to continually update documents at your discretion. Other Blackboard features such as the on-line assessment tools can provide significant time savings by auto-grading quizzes and exams.
- Now that Blackboard is being adapted by USMA, am I required to use it in my course?
Blackboard is priority initiative at USMA and a major investment for the Academy. Because of its many benefits, USMA Faculty are strongly encouraged to learn more about Blackboard and become more familiar with its potential as a teaching and learning tool. That said, as with any instructional tool, it is up course instructor to decide if or how they will use Blackboard in their course.
- Will Blackboard replace the instructional methods I have employed so successfully over the years?
Faculty who have used Blackboard have found that using the Blackboard toolset can offer significant educational benefits as well as time savings for both Faculty and Cadets. Because every course and instructional circumstance is unique, some Blackboard features may work well to support existing instructional methods, while other features may not be appropriate. As the course instructor, it is up to you to decide to what extent you would like to use Blackboard. Exploration and experimentation with Blackboard is strongly encouraged. Staff at the Center for Faculty Excellence are available to assist you as you consider how you might use Blackboard in your course.
- Besides the CFE staff, what resources are available to me to assist me in adopting and using Blackboard for my course?
Clicking this link will take you to the Blackboard Resources page on the CTE Web site, where you will find links to instruction sheets, user's manuals, and online tutorials that will help you in activating your Blackboard course from AMS and in creating and managing your course in the Blackboard.com system. At USMA we are currently using Blackboard Learn, version 9.1.
- Do you have a question not answered here?
Click here to send an email; someone will contact you with a response.