“IMPACT…exposes you to new ideas and faculty who are doing great things”

Professor Nicole Hands stands in front of her classroom, teaching, in the Wilmeth Active Learning Center. Nicole Hands, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Computer and Information Technology, teaching the next generation of cyber security experts.

When Nicole Hands arrived at Purdue to help build a cybersecurity curriculum, she brought significant teaching experience and a strong sense of how she wanted her courses to run – but she didn't know if she could find the resources necessary to pull it off.

Hands, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Computer and Information Technology, joined the department in 2016 as it prepared to start its cybersecurity major, a program whose popularity now means classrooms with 150 students or more.

“I had never taught a course that large, and I was worried that the size was going to keep me from Nicole Hands works with students at their desk.teaching the way I wanted to teach,” says Hands.

Three years later, Hands’ courses are thriving even more than she had originally envisioned – thanks to help from Purdue’s Innovative Learning team, an on-campus resource hub for all things teaching and learning at Purdue.

To help her with course design, Hands joined the IMPACT (Instruction Matters: Purdue Academic Course Transformation) program, a University-wide initiative in which faculty redesign foundational courses around active, participatory student-centered teaching and learning. Enrolled faculty members work with support staff from the Innovative Learning teams and Purdue's Libraries and School of Information Studies to develop a new framework for their courses with the goal of increasing student engagement.

“IMPACT was so beneficial, not only because it shows you what kind of resources are available, but it exposes you to new ideas and faculty who are doing great things,” says Hands.

One of the tools Hands learned about during IMPACT was Gradescope, a Purdue-supported online grading tool, which makes it feasible to administer free-response exam questions in large lecture courses.

“I didn't want to use Scantron tests,” says Hands, “so finding out about Gradescope really allowed me to use authentic assessment and give quality feedback, even with large class sizes.. I use it to assess labs as well as for exams.”

Hands says the relationship she developed with Innovative Learning Team – made up of the Center for Instructional Excellence, Purdue Online Learning and Teaching and Learning Technologies – continued after she completed the IMPACT program and gave her the peace of mind that if she couldn't find an answer to one of her questions, she knew someone who could.

“As an instructor, I try to build inquiry into all of my courses, so that students have to ask questions and learn how to find the answers,” says Hands. “And that’s an important part of teaching as well, continuing to ask yourself questions and finding out ways to become even better.”

Writer: Dave Stephens, technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue, 765-496-7998, steph103@purdue.edu