Blog written by:
- Dr. Rhonda Blackburn
- USDLA Board Member
The winner for the United States Distance Learning Association’s 2018 Excellence in Teaching/Training Award in Higher Education is Dr. Stacy Southerland, University of Central Oklahoma Professor of Spanish. Dr. Southerland has developed an innovative approach to support engaging, high quality learning experiences for UCO online elementary Spanish I and II students. Through this approach, she increases the students’ confidence in their ability to learn Spanish and help them achieve academic success. These initiatives are not only integrated in courses she teaches, but also in the course template she designs as a foundation for all sections of online elementary Spanish.
UCO’s undergraduate core curriculum requires one semester of a foreign language and some majors require two. Out of all the language courses, Elementary Spanish experiences the largest enrollment. Students are increasingly selecting online delivery for these courses with approximately 30% enrolling in online sections each fall and spring and 55% each summer. This amounts to nearly 700 students taking online Spanish at UCO each year.
Many of those learners have no prior study of Spanish and indicate low confidence in their ability to learn it and many have little prior experience with online learning. Dr. Southerland has led UCO’s efforts to develop and implement various innovations to support learner success in these courses.
One of these innovations is a course-specific online orientation that promotes a successful semester startup. Three online orientation modules provide comprehensive, concise information about course procedures and language learning strategies, courseware setup and use, and LMS tools. The modules also familiarize students with site navigation, module organization, and basic technology topics. They also include links to additional online learning and language learning resources and address frequently asked questions.
Another innovation that has met with wide success is UCO’s award-winning Online Spanish Learning Community. It houses an extensive collection of diverse resources that allow students to create personalized informal learning pathways that complement and support their success in formal—classroom-based–learning experiences. Moreover, it offers flexible, convenient, cost-effective, anytime, anywhere learner support. The community is set up as a course in UCO’s LMS, thereby bringing a familiar feel to students and increasing its accessibility and affordability. Each semester, Dr. Southerland coordinates and participates in site tutoring and refreshes its resources.
Two other initiatives that model excellence and innovation in learner support are Dr. Southerland’s strategic implementation of digital courseware and integration of Learning Environment Modeling.
Digital Courseware: UCO’s online elementary Spanish uses McGraw-Hill Connect to provide extensive practical application of language skills, grammar tutorials, and an immersive language learning game. Dr. Southerland’s strategic courseware integration plan has promoted high faculty and learner satisfaction with Connect. Recent pedagogical adjustments were followed by an 84% decrease in video test non-completion rates and performance on the tests rose by more than 4 points. Metrics also indicated that an average of 94% of spring 2017 students who passed the course Connect component also passed the course.
Learning Environment Modeling: This internationally award-winning visual design technique developed by UCO’s Center for eLearning and Connected Environments promotes the design of engaging, effective, and efficient learning experiences. UCO uses LEM to guide online course development and Dr. Southerland has leveraged it to support student efforts to prepare course assignments effectively. The models provide a visual overview for study sessions and video narrations accompany the visual diagram as an additional level of support.
In addition to these innovations that reflect an understanding of and empathy for the needs of online learners, overall design and facilitation practices evidenced in Dr. Southerland’s online teaching of Elementary Spanish are nothing less than a pillar for effective online teaching and instructional design at UCO.
She models excellence communicating with learners and promoting learner engagement through discussion forums, announcements, and intelligent agents. These features are leveraged to: offer responsive, engaged, personalized, and encouraging feedback; share study strategies; provide assignment reminders; and share information about campus and community events related to the Hispanic culture.
Dr. Southerland also created and maintains a Twitter account with posts on diverse Hispanic language and culture topics that is embedded in her course and course templates. Her instructional strategies and assessments effectively engage learners’ reasoning and critical thinking skills and challenge their perceptions of their local and global community.
Dr. Southerland’s voice and presence is integrated throughout the course to provide many opportunities to connect with and engage learners. Constructive feedback and learner-focused interactions are supported through discussion boards on a variety of language, culture, and social topics. Quizzes and dropbox assignments allow for detailed and supportive personalized feedback in a timely manner.
To ease the workload for other faculty and ensure that all sections reflect UCO online course quality principles, Dr. Southerland builds these facilitation and design features into the course templates that she refreshes each year to reflect learner and faculty feedback. She also facilitates online Spanish instructor workshops for relevant and timely faculty development to bring consistency and quality to online Spanish learning experiences that others on campus strive to emulate in other multi-section core curriculum offerings.
Dr. Southerland is an amazing instructor and has great passion for helping her students succeed in learning Spanish and building their self-confidence in the academic endeavors. Through all the various innovations she has implemented in her class and the course design template, we were very honored to present the Excellence in Teaching/Training Award in Higher Education to Dr. Southerland this year.
November 5th – 9th, 2018 – National Distance Learning Week (NDLW)
November 28th – 30th, 2018 – International Forum for Women in E-learning (IFWE) – San Antonio, Texas
Learn more about the USDLA and how you too can be a member. The association supports all core markets including Enterprise, Government, Telemedicine, Education and others.