Online Course Wins International Exemplary Course Award

5/13/2010 - By: Staff Report

The University of Nevada, Reno seems to be setting the standard when it comes to creating stellar online courses. For the second year running, a University course, its instructor and a team of instructional designers have won the Blackboard Exemplary Course Award, an international award which recognizes innovative and engaging online courses.

The Disability: Social and Health Issues course taught by Judy Hammock was named a winner of the 2010 Blackboard Catalyst Award for Exemplary Courses by Blackboard Inc. As a panel of more than 100 faculty judges from institutions around the world reviewed submitted courses in a search for the best, Hammock’s course stood out from the crowd.

The course was designed by a team comprised of Hammock, Alina Solovyova-Vincent, an instructional designer in IT’s Teaching & Learning Technologies unit, and the Extended Studies’ Independent Learning unit. This is the second year in a row that an online course supported by Solovyova-Vincent and Independent Learning has won this international award.

 Disability: Social and Health Issues went through a Course Makeover Program in 2007. This University program, offered three times a year by the Instructional Design Team in TLT, provides instructors with detailed comprehensive review and feedback on the design and delivery of their courses. Over the following year and a half, Hammock implemented an array of suggestions from the review team consisting of instructional designers and instructors from various departments.

As a result of the program, the class features weekly narrated lectures, online discussions and blogs, virtual guest speakers who interact with students via voice tools, streaming movies, glossary, YouTube videos, flash-card self-tests and even a virtual tour of the course. Hammock’s innovative and effective use of technologies to keep students engaged made Disability: Social and Health Issues stand out in the Blackboard competition.

“I would prefer the varied technologies and different teaching methods over reading a lecture online any day,” said one student. “This class provided support for different types of learning and I absolutely love it.”

Hammock also provides many opportunities within the course for students to interact with each other and with people with disabilities.

"They [students] learned from the material, but more importantly, they learned through the interactions with each other. The course was designed to facilitate community learning, with students exploring new ideas and challenging their preconceptions of people with disabilities," Hammock said.

Shannon Brown, assistant director of Independent Learning, gave Hammock her highest praise, saying, “Judy’s passion for sharing her knowledge and experience with students and her openness to adopting new ways to teach make her a joy to support.”

Hammock and Solovyova-Vincent will both attend the Blackboard Annual Conference July 14-16 in Orlando, Fla., to be recognized for their outstanding work and to give a poster presentation on the Disability: Social and Health Issues course, which will become a model of exemplary practices in designing and teaching online courses for university faculty around the world. Hammock and Solovyova-Vincent also created three videos that highlight exemplary practice in designing and teaching an online course: Virtual Guest Speakers, Getting Started Activities, and Final Project Discussion.


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