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eLIS hosts Excellence in Online Teaching Celebration

Fri Apr 2, 2021 at 09:43 AM

On Friday, March 26, e-Learning and Instructional Support hosted the virtual Excellence in Online Teaching Celebration to honor all 35 nominees for the Online Teaching Excellence Award. The award honors a nominee selected by the University Senate Teaching and Learning Committee who demonstrates excellence in teaching methodology, innovation in teaching, continued growth and development in teaching, distinction in the ability to stimulate critical thinking and facilitate student understanding, serve as a role model to students and exhibits exemplary services to students and the teaching profession. 

While the Online Teaching Excellence Award ceremony is usually held as part of a luncheon, this year, nearly 50 participants joined via Zoom to hear from remarks from Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost Britt Rios-Ellis as well as 2019 award recipient Amy Rutledge, a special instructor of management information systems, and Chris Kobus, associate professor of mechanical engineering, who also helps e-LIS by supporting faculty through the Quality Online Teaching Certification Course.

The celebration was opened by Rios-Ellis, who commented that Oakland University’s ability to pivot to online learning so quickly and successfully was remarkable.

“The university’s done this because those of you who (taught online) in the past have been able to network, share ideas and learn from others in terms of what to do when you’re teaching online,” said Rios-Ellis. “I have no doubt that many of you who have been teaching online for many years now became tremendous resources for the colleagues who had little or even no experience in this arena a little more than a year ago. I also suspect that, in the process of supporting these colleagues, you’ve had the opportunity to learn still more about this instructional approach and to develop new ideas to make it even more effective.”

Rios-Ellis added that in a non-pandemic world, students find online learning convenient, especially when juggling families, careers and other interests. Online learning allows them to continue moving forward in their education, and it is important for OU faculty to continue to share best practices and learn and develop themselves in the area of online teaching so OU can provide them with the best possible education. 

“This will allow all of us to expand our expertise and the positive role we can play in the lives of our next generation of leaders, innovators, implementers and, of course, instructors,” said Rios-Ellis.

After Rios-Ellis, Rutledge spoke about teaching with online video and other content. Rutledge said she began teaching online almost a decade ago and at first she didn’t do it well. She said her assignments had long due dates, lectures were really long and she assumed she could just take her face-to-face course and put it online, but that wasn’t the case. To help herself and her students, she worked with e-LIS and also the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning to get more information on how to teach online.

She said she wanted her student to interact with her, fellow students and the material, so she had to redesign portions of her course. She said many of her students are early on in their college careers, so giving them shorter assignment times, like they had in high school, makes it easier for them to understand the expectations and do the work in order, rather than just trying to do the assignment and working backward through the material.

Rutledge said she also learned how to organize the material so that it was easy for students to navigate.

In the course, Rutledge said she lays out all of the things students can expect, including how long activities take the students to complete on average. This helps students budget time and their focus throughout the week.

Rutledge said her course also includes shorter videos and interactive material to increase students’ overall interaction and understanding of the lessons.

“I did a lot of research on what is a good amount of time for a video and I kept coming up with five to seven minutes. It’s hard to get there and not every topic works for five to seven minutes,” said Rutledge, but that’s what she aims for with each one. They also include titles that outline the key topics, which makes it easy for students to go back and replay the information they need. Rutledge recommended adding sections within the videos to help with navigation as well.

To ensure that students watch the video, Rutledge said she embeds quizzes and questions right within the content. She said the quizzes don’t account for many points so that students aren’t afraid to make mistakes as they learn the material.

Kobus gave information about things he has learned in his several years of online learning. He said while the pandemic forced everyone into survival mode in the spring 2020 semester, many good things came out of it.

“One of the things I always say about so many situations in life in general is that there are always silver linings, learning lessons, and positives that come out of these things, and such is true with this pandemic and online learning,” said Kobus. For one, he believes that students and professors may think that online learning is easier than face-to-face classes, but that’s not the case for either party. 

“Until you step into the online world, you don’t know either from the student side or the faculty side, all that is needed to run a good, quality course, and I think all instructors want to run a good quality course,” said Kobus. 

Kobus said the tutoring center for engineering students has always been in a face-to-face environment. While there has been interest in adding an online component, it was met with resistance from leadership. In the pandemic, the online tutoring has become a necessity and the engineering department has seen that it works. 

“It’s more convenient for students, especially non-traditional students to do online. We have students that, for instance, have families, they’re married or single parents, they work full-time jobs and can’t be here 9-5 and they can’t take advantage of some of the services that we have,” said Kobus. 

He said faculty also indicated that students were more frequently attending office hours and asking questions when they could do so virtually. 

“Typical face-to-face office hours for a lot of faculty mean you sit there for an hour or two and you may have one customer, and some days you may have none. And all of a sudden, when online student hours started, you start getting half your class in there now. A lot of students don’t even have a question, they just want to hear other students ask the questions and want to hear your answer to it,” said Kobus. “They wouldn't’ be there in a face-to-face setting, but there they are in a virtual setting and they’re taking advantage of a service that typically they would not take advantage of.”

Kobus said these came as a result of a pandemic, but he hopes that the effects stick around long after COVID-19. 

Nominations for next year’s Excellence in Online Teaching Award are accepted at any point throughout the year. To nominate someone for the award, visit the Senate Teaching and Learning Committee website and click on Teaching Excellence Nomination Form. 

This year’s nominees are:

Aubrey Arian
Lizabeth Barclay
Ashley Branson
Stephanie Crockett
Nicole Dambrun
Tara Diesbourg
Cody Eldredge
Tim Gralewski
Katie Greer
Mary Hartson
Charlene Hayden
Jessica Koppen
Roman Kosarev
Julie Kruse
Lindsey Larsen
Jenna Lunge
Susan Lynne Beckwith
Heidi Lyons
Peter Markus
Kate Masley
Mary Jo Miles
Gary Miller
George Milne
Shaun Moore
Richard Olawoyin
Jason Overfelt
Brian Peterson
Thomas Raffel
Helena Riha
Samuel Rosenthall
Julia Smith
Sandra Troxell-Smith
Lisa Welling
Douglas Zytko