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Faculty members honored for service to online education

Award winners include Mary Frances Hanline, Linda Schrader and Jennifer Blalock from FSU’s College of Education.
Award winners include Mary Frances Hanline, Linda Schrader and Jennifer Blalock from FSU’s College of Education.

The Florida State University Office of Distance Learning celebrated faculty and mentors for their contributions to online education during the 2015–2016 Distance Learning Awards held Nov. 16 at the Alumni Center Ballroom.

The fourth annual event recognized the outstanding work by the university’s distance learning community to promote effective practices for distance learning across all disciplines. Quality course design, exceptional online teaching and superior mentoring support were the focus of achievement.

“The Distance Learning Awards are a great opportunity to celebrate the success of FSU’s online instructors and mentors,” said Robert Fuselier, interim director of the Office of Distance Learning. “Every year we enjoy learning about their innovative ideas and passion for teaching students from all over the world.”

Excellence in Online Course Design recognized high-quality instructional materials, learning objectives, assessment strategies, learner interaction and engagement, course technologies, learner support and accessibility. Awards for excellence with distinction were presented to Meegan Kennedy, associate professor, English; Linda Schrader, clinical professor, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies; and Crystal Taylor, adjunct professor, Urban and Regional Planning.

Awards for excellence were presented to J. Chalet Comellas, assistant teaching professor, Art; Melinda Gonzales-Backen, assistant professor, Family and Child Sciences; Elizabeth Osborne, associate professor, Theatre Studies; Banyon Pelham, law enforcement training director, Public Safety and Security; Rosemary Prince, teaching faculty II, Recreation, Tourism and Events; and Allen Romano, assistant teaching professor, Program in Interdisciplinary Humanities.

Honorable Mention in Online Course Design awards were presented to Noyan Ilk, assistant professor, Entrepreneurship, Strategy and Information Systems, and Banyon Pelham, law enforcement training director, Public Safety and Security.

For instructors, connection is a critical element of the online experience, and the tools and technologies used in course design can help to achieve this goal.

“I learned a lot about different technologies that I could use to foster student engagement and collaboration,” said Linda Schrader, who taught the course Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods. “One of the things that I’ve learned in working through the design of this course is that there were elements that I put into the online course that I hadn’t really considered for my face-to-face, so I’m hoping to take some of the ideas and transfer them into my campus-faced courses.”

Allen Romano, commended for his course The Art of Being Human: Examining the Human Condition through Literature, Art, and Film, agreed with the importance of online technologies.

“I run an activities-based, face-to-face course where we do a lot of group work that gets [students] writing and thinking in different ways,” Romano said. “In an online class, you can do that, but you can do it in all kinds of even more exciting ways with digital tools, and so what I tend to find exciting is seeing what kinds of things can only live online — what kinds of collaborative work can only be done online.”

Excellence in Online Teaching acknowledged the effective use of online teaching strategies that demonstrate superior methods of instruction and student engagement. Awards for excellence with distinction were presented to Elizabeth Osborne, associate professor, Theatre Studies, and Rosemary Prince, teaching faculty II, Recreation, Tourism and Events. Awards for excellence were presented to Mary Frances Hanline, professor, School of Teacher Education; Meegan Kennedy, associate professor, English; and Banyon Pelham, law enforcement training director, Public Safety and Security.

Honorable Mention in Online Teaching awards were presented to Brandon Brice, graduate assistant, Economics; Banyon Pelham, law enforcement training director, Public Safety and Security; Allen Romano, assistant teaching professor, Program in Interdisciplinary Humanities; Ulla Sypher, associate professor and associate director, School of Communication; and Lisa Weinberg, teaching faculty and director of undergraduate studies, Sociology.

Meegan Kennedy, honored for her course Literature and Medicine: Diseases and Debates, Then and Now, embraced the innovation involved in online instruction.

“Teaching online was new to me this year, and I was concerned at first about how was I going to replicate the classroom experience that I enjoy so much,” she said. “I thought a lot about how to do that in an online environment and it forced me to find new ways to teach and reach students and to have them engage with me and with each other. Some of those ways are things that I’m bringing into my face-to-face class as well. I think one of the great things about online teaching is that it’s challenged me to be a better teacher in all kinds of ways.”

Excellence in Online Mentoring recognized the successful use of strategies for student support and engagement in the course materials and learning environment. An award for excellence with distinction was presented to Michelle Davis, College of Fine Arts, and an award for excellence was presented to Jennifer Blalock, College of Education. Honorable Mention in Online Mentoring awards were presented to Caleb Castro, College of Communication and Information; Vaibhav Diwanji, College of Communication and Information; and Courtney Porter, College of Applied Studies.

All Florida State University instructors of record and mentors were eligible to be nominated. The winners were selected by the ODL Instructional Development Faculty and the Distance Learning Awards Committee, which included past award winners.