Online Teaching

Open SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador 2016 – Albany: Jianwei Zhang

Jianwei Zhang

Jianwei Zhang

Dr. Jianwei Zhang is the Department Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice at the University at Albany, State University of New York.

As a learning scientist, Dr. Zhang has been focusing his research and teaching on enabling collaborative knowledge-creating processes among students using technology. In his research funded by National Science Foundation, Dr. Zhang created the Idea Thread Mapper (ITM) (with Dr. Mei-Hwa Chen), a collaborative online discourse-structuring tool. Using ITM, students can trace their collective progress of knowledge in extended online discourse based on knowledge analytics and formulate deeper directions and goals to drive their inquiry and collaboration. The global space for idea thread networking supports students to work across schools and countries to build shared knowledge about issues of global importance, such as climate change and human health (see more info at

In his teaching, Dr. Zhang has been offering online courses for the Curriculum Development and Instructional Technology (CDIT) Masters program, which is ranked among the top online curriculum and instruction degree programs by and ranked 14th in the nation by US News and World Report. He has also taught blended courses in the Curriculum and Instruction doctoral program. He designs his online courses around complex, authentic challenges that drive students’ semester-long efforts to engage in sustained, idea-centered discourse and generate knowledge-intensive products. Their efforts are supported by core ideas from readings, critical analysis of related cases, and ongoing feedback and input from peers and the instructor, who work together as a learning community. For example, In ETAP 623 Systematic Design of Instruction, students worked on a semester-long instructional design project in a Wiki-based open knowledge space: the Knowledge Network for Innovations in Learning and Teaching (KNILT) ( They applied their instructional design knowledge to the design of online mini-courses that can help teachers understand new pedagogy, assessment, and technology. More than 400 mini-courses have been created and become a widely used open education resource for pre-service and in-service teachers.


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