January Staff Spotlight: David Noffs

by Loren Guay

Happy 2023! Let’s kick off the new year with a spotlight on Senior Learning Designer and IDS faculty member Dr. David Noffs! Read on for David’s “Day in the Life”, his favorite superhero-inspired teaching tool, and his (maybe surprising) undergrad major. 

How long have you worked here? How did you come to join the DL team / get involved in distance education?

I have worked at SPS since 2015 as a faculty member and since 2017 as a Learning Designer. I have been teaching for over 20 years and first began working as an online teaching specialist in 2005, after being identified as an early adopter of fully online teaching at Columbia College in Chicago.

As part of a Title III Federal Grant, my role was to advocate for the use of online learning systems and to train faculty, students, and staff to use online learning management systems and how to leverage online learning technologies. Before coming to Northwestern in 2015, I was the lead learning designer and LMS administrator at Columbia College Chicago.

Describe your typical “Day in the Life.”

I arise early and grab a cup of coffee to go over a course I’m working on with a faculty developer based in Dubai. With the time difference, it is easier if our weekly Zoom check-ins are at 8 or 9 AM CT, as it is already dinnertime in Dubai. We go over the course and check course reserves and emails with our content specialists and the library. We need to wait on some video requests before we move our sandbox contents to the course shell (from our offline site to the real thing).

Then I catch up on some emails and check in on a Capstone course I’m teaching to make sure there are no urgent student needs. It is nearing the end of the course, and students are anxious, asking for my help reviewing drafts of their final papers and presentations. It is stressful for all, but I remind them to keep calm and carry on and, most of all, trust the process. It is good advice!

I meet with a team member at 10:30 on Zoom and hear about her challenges and progress with her own courses. We talk about new ways of viewing our relationships with faculty members—a great discussion that we pledge to bring up at our full team meeting. I then have another Zoom meeting at noon, with a project team designing Portfolio guidelines for the new undergraduate program. We are trying to come up with a name for the portfolio site. We share a document using Figma to draw up our plans—a mockup of the site in a Figjam (what Figma calls their collaborative sites).

David looking thoughtfully at the camera from his SPS workspace. Background photos of family and jars of candy.
David at his desk in Abbott Hall (spot the candy jar in the back!)

Next, I check the Student Leadership Council Slack Channel. As the Faculty Advisor to the IDS Student Leadership Council, I need to stay in touch with the students, who are looking for a restaurant in Streeterville to meet at after the Symposium (I suggest D4, and everyone loves it). I share a site that has all sorts of discounts for Northwestern students, and the channel really fires up. Cool; I feel good helping the students have a good time while they are here.

I get some grading done before dinner, then watch the news a little (bad idea) before my next Zoom meeting at 7 PM. These are the Capstone students; excited, nervous, asking for final tips and assurances. I offer advice, but I like to have them help each other. By the end of the call, they have supported one another and feel confident that their work is special and will be noticed. And it is always special. With those thoughts as I end my day, I feel inspired to do it all over again.

What’s something about your job that might surprise readers?

I wear multiple hats here at SPS. I am an adjunct professor, senior learning designer, and faculty developer from time to time. I feel that these various roles keep my work relevant and real.

What’s your favorite resource or tool that not many people know about?

My favorite tool is a gamified discussion board we created right here in DL called Discussion Hero. I use it in two classes I teach. Jacob Guerra-Martinez, another senior learning designer, came up with the idea back in 2016. Together we applied for a grant and developed the program that is now available across campus and even at schools other than Northwestern. I am very proud to have helped develop this from scratch!

Tell us something you’re passionate about.

I am passionate about writing and playing music. I actually did my undergrad degree in Music, and I still play and compose when I get the chance. I play guitar and keyboards and used to play clarinet and sax before I let my chops go.


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