The Florida State University Office of Distance Learning paid tribute to 17 members of the university community for their service to online education during the 2013-2014 Distance Learning Awards Ceremony on Nov. 14.
The event, which coincided with National Distance Learning Week, celebrated Florida State instructors’ creative use of technology, effective online teaching methods and high-quality course design, as well as student-mentors’ contributions to the online classroom.
“To develop, teach and support online learning takes competency, consistency and courage,” said Susann Rudasill, director of the Office of Distance Learning. “We’re here to recognize our distance learning developers, instructors and mentors who have been selected as the very best.”
An award for Innovative and Effective Use of Technology, which requires instructors to effect positive change on student learning and motivation through recently implemented technology, was presented to Vanessa Dennen, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems. Dennen’s course, MOOCs and Open Learning, used FSU’s online tools to teach students about massive open online classrooms.
“As I thought about designing and teaching a course on the topic, I realized, ‘What better way to teach it than to actually do it,’” Dennen said. “I created a course in which my students worked with me to design and then deliver a MOOC for an open audience.“
Excellence in Online Course Design awards — honoring quality in instructional materials, learning objectives, assessment strategies, learner interaction and engagement, course technologies, learner support and accessibility — were presented to Joshua Newman, associate professor, Sport Management; Michael Ormsbee, assistant professor, Nutrition, Food and Exercise Science; Christie Koontz, research associate, Information; Andrew Frank, associate professor, History; Melinda Gonzales Backen, assistant professor, Family and Child Sciences; and Ken Baldauf, director, Program in Interdisciplinary Computing, whose work was named “Best in Category” for his course, Introduction to Web Design.
“With online courses, communication becomes the biggest challenge and the most important component,” Baldauf said. “There’s no shortcut to education — engagement is key to bringing students into the material and motivating them and inspiring them to go on to learn more.”
Excellence in Online Teaching awards — recognizing instructors’ effective use of online teaching strategies that engage students as learning partners — were presented to Gang Chen, associate professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering; George Williamson, associate professor, History; Melinda Gonzales Backen, assistant professor, Family and Child Sciences; Andrew Frank, associate professor, History; Michael Ormsbee, assistant professor, Nutrition, Food and Exercise Science; and Vanessa Dennen, associate professor, Educational Psychology and Learning Systems, whose work was named “Best in Category” for her course, MOOCs and Open Learning.
“Students were able to see what they designed and developed in action, and that’s a really rare thing for us,” Dennen said. “We have classes where our students get to design and develop instruction and perhaps pilot test it, but they don’t often get to see it go live with authentic learners and that was the really cool thing about this class. “
Excellence in Online Mentoring awards — acknowledging online teaching assistants who show effective strategies for student support and engagement in the course materials and learning environment — were presented to Mireille Magee, Communication Disorders; Malaika Samples, Public Administration and Policy; Charles Blume, Classics; Judy Nunez, Public Administration and Policy; and Bryan Hochstein, Marketing. Honorable Mention in Online Mentoring awards were presented to Casey Chaviano, Family and Child Sciences; Catherine Perez, Sociology; and Stephanie Urena Salas, Sociology.
All Florida State instructors of record and mentors who taught or designed an online course at FSU over the previous year were eligible to be nominated. Submissions were evaluated on quality of design, ability to engage students and effectiveness of technology and online teaching strategies.
“For our second year of granting these awards, we established a robust and rigorous criterion-referenced evaluation process,” Rudasill said. “Our faculty conducted multiple Quality Matters reviews of each course, collected and analyzed course evaluations, and worked with our Awards Review Committee to evaluate all submitted narratives using a randomized, blind review process.”
The nominations were reviewed by ODL Instructional Development Faculty and an Awards Review Committee consisting of past University Teaching and Distance Learning Award recipients including Neil Abell, College of Social Work; Kevin Beaver, College of Criminology and Criminal Justice; Janet Berry, College of Social Work; William Dewar, College of Arts and Sciences; Susan Fiorito, College of Business; Read Gainsford, College of Music; Jennifer Koslow, College of Arts and Sciences; Gloria Lessan, College of Social Sciences and Public Policy; Sandra Lewis, College of Education; Jorge Piekarewicz, College of Arts and Sciences; Rosemary Prince, College of Applied Studies; Arthur Raney, College of Communication and Information; Lisa Spainhour, College of Engineering; Julie Stierwalt, College of Communication and Information; and Phyllis Underwood, College of Education.