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The Language of Learning: International Law Scholar Taps Instructional Design, Part 1

Dilafruz Nazarova headshot

Part 1: Creating An Online Course from Scratch

Dilafruz Nazarova was an accomplished scholar and advocate in human rights law when she arrived at Rutgers in 2010 to pursue a doctorate in political science. Born in Tajikistan and fluent in four languages, Nazarova had earned her law degree and worked for her government and international organizations focusing on international law.

She wanted to dive into yet another field—teaching online—but lacked experience and expertise.

But she’s now an enthusiastic and attentive online learning instructor—crediting the Rutgers Online Learning Conference (#RUOnlineCon), the instructional design teams available at Rutgers, and her political science department for her takeoff into the world of online instruction.

Rutgers hosts the 7th RUOnlineCon event January 11-12, 2016—an event that will spawn future successes for faculty and staff who want to create enhanced learning environments using online and hybrid instructional resources.

Nazarova attended RUOnlineCon 2015 to learn skills and tools to convert her undergraduate international law course to a hybrid course—a course that combines online and face-to-face settings—for the new RU At the Shore program for summer 2015.

“I realized how much I had to learn, and how I needed to know about different aspects of teaching,” Nazarova said. The conference “provides a really good opportunity” to higher education faculty who are new to the online and hybrid learning environments. It taught “different aspects starting from ethics, to information technology, instructional technology, and to legal aspects even.”

“I was terrified in the beginning. Now I feel much better.”

Nazarova remains both a student and teacher today. She is pursuing her Ph.D., which started with scholarship support from the Open Society Institute. “For the first two or three years” as a doctoral candidate said Nazarova (for whom English is a fourth language), “I had to cope with the amount of readings, the assignments, family, and everything.

“So I even didn't think of teaching, because study in itself is not easy. Although there were plenty of opportunities, in our program at political science we are not required to teach.”

“But when I was done with the coursework and my comprehensive exams, I decided to try,” Nazarova said. “ Today, her teaching percolates in an online environment. ”The more I do it, the more I like it,” she noted.

Nazarova—who already earned degrees in law from Tajik State National University in Dushanbe (the capital and largest city of Tajikistan, the former Soviet bloc country) and from the University of Essex in the United Kingdom—needed to acquire a new language of learning.

She turned to the Rutgers Online Learning Conference in 2015, which she called “a really great event that everyone who is somehow related to teaching, or can potentially teach, needs to attend and learn from,” said Nazarova. She is already one of the pioneers of online and hybrid learning at Rutgers, even if just a year ago she was new to the practice.

More in part 2: Read how this lecturer collaborated with an instructional design specialist to produce an online learning environment for her graduate students.

About Rutgers Center for Online & Hybrid Learning and Instructional Technology: COHLIT supports Rutgers academic units University-wide in creating and delivering hybrid and fully online courses, supporting credit and non-credit course development. Contact: Sharla Sava, Senior Instructional Designer (


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