Educator Stories: Nick Noel

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Educator Stories: Nick Noel

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Author :
Kristen Surla
Educator Stories: Nick Noel

KS Contact profile image
Author :
Kristen Surla

This week, we are featuring, Nick Noel, Interim Manager of the Instructional Technology and Development Team, within the Department of Academic Technology in IT Services at MSU. Nick was recognized via's Thank and Educator Initiative! We encourage MSU community members to nominate high-impact Spartan educators (via our Thank an Educator form) regularly!

Read more about Nick’s perspectives below. #iteachmsu's questions are bolded below, followed by his responses! 

Man wearing a red sweater and glasses looking at the camera

You were recognized via the Thank an Educator Initiative. In one word, what does being an educator mean to you?  

It's difficult to pick a single word, but if I had to choose I'd say empowerment.

Share with me what this word/quality looks like in your practice?

I want teachers to feel that they are able to design and implement their courses in the way that they find the most effective. I want students to feel empowered by the course to contribute to the goals of the course, and make connections to their lives and interests.

Have your ideas on this changed over time? if so how?

Over time, I have increasingly advocated for greater student agency and collaboration. Basically, I have realized that while it is possible to design a course that anticipates all of the variations in backgrounds, interest, skills, and abilities of the students, it is a lot easier to just ask students what they want to get out of the course, what their goals are, and be flexible in how they demonstrate their knowledge, then build the norms of the course with them.

Tell me more about your educational “setting.” This can include, but not limited to departmental affiliations, community connections, co-instructors, and students. (Aka, where do you work?)

I am the Interim Manager of the Instructional Technology and Development Team, within the Department of Academic Technology in IT Services. We are a team of 8, with 5 postdoc positions and 4 Information Technologists positions. We all have different areas that we specialize in, but for the most part, we work on similar projects.

What is a challenge you experience in your educator role?

There are a few challenges I face, the one that comes up often when we’re consulting on a course is the balance of flexibility for students, without making it overwhelming for instructors. So we will often be in the role of advocating for student agency, while also anticipating potential bottlenecks that will lead to the instructors getting burned out during the course. We have a lot of dedicated and hardworking educators at MSU, and they often want to do really amazing things. So it can be a little strange to subtly advocate for their emotional and physical health while designing a course. However, we trust that the people we work with know their limits, and we’re also here to support them if they need to make changes during the course.

Any particular “solutions” or “best practices” you’ve found that help you support student success at the university despite/in the face of this? What are practices you utilize that help you feel successful as an educator?

In terms of best practices, implementing learning  authentic experiences, whenever possible, is really useful. That means trying to create an environment as close to what students experience outside of the course. So allowing for flexibility, student input, and even access to reference materials, when an exam is necessary, can all lead to more authentic and effective learning experiences.

What topics or ideas about teaching and learning would you like to see discussed on the platform? Why do you think this conversation is needed at msu?

Student-focused vs instructor-focused courses is a common discussion in my work. But I would love to see a conversation around the unification of the student and instructor experience so that the course becomes exciting and interesting for everyone involved.

At various times throughout many courses, students and instructors are teaching and learning from each other, so though it might be difficult at times, it’s important to make that an intentional part of the experience.

What are you looking forward to (or excited to be a part of) next semester?

I’m new to my role, so it’s been interesting to see how the people and the dynamics of my team have changed over time. It’s been really awesome to see. So, in general, I’m excited to see that process continue.

Specifically, we are thinking of ways to provide opportunities for instructors to create things and engage in meaningful conversations around the tools and practices that we teach. I’m really excited to experiment with it and see how it works out.

flyer of educator storiesDon't forget to celebrate individuals you see making a difference in teaching, learning, or student success at MSU with #iteachmsu's Thank an Educator initiative. You might just see them appear in the next feature! Follow the MSU Hub Twitter account to see other great content from the #iteachmsu Commons as well as educators featured every week during #ThankfulThursdays.