WISE Excellence in Online Teaching Award Recipients
Best Practices – 2012

Lilia Pavlovsky, Rutgers University
Social Informatics, Summer 2012

Best Practices: Teaching is about cultivating an environment that motivates students to learn. Teaching online is about doing this in a digitally mediated context where the design of learning spaces is critical to fostering interaction and engagement in a virtual classroom. I put as much effort into the design of my classes as I do in teaching them. As students become more experienced online learners the creation of quality learning environments continues to be a challenge. Effective teaching is about helping students master the material, engage in critical thinking and apply what they learn in a way the best fits into their professional goals and objectives. To accomplish this, it’s important to really know every student so that specific attention can be given to their learning experience. It’s not about pushing information at them -- it’s about showing them the value of that information as it applies to their future goals. It’s also about getting students to think and solve problems creatively. Creating a space where students feel comfortable to express and explore their ideas is a priority for me. They are not just there to listen to me -- I am also there to listen to them. I want them to take ownership of the material in a meaningful way. For the course to have value, students have to find some personal connection to the subject matter and the learning experience. It is my job to help them do that.

What Professor Pavlovsky’s students say: Lilia taught a tight short course with enormous scope deftly and with great skill. She was able to get discussion active amongst students and guide it very effectively. She showed great compassion for her students.

Lori Lindberg, San Jose State University
Encoded Archival Description, Spring 2012

Best Practices: Complex technical courses presented online succeed best when the instructor is consistent, organized and prepared. Utilizing the course management system in a clear, comprehensive manner, with every useful tool employed, gives students confidence that you have spent the time to organize a complete and valuable course. Providing course materials in an assortment of formats, from web resources to Jing recordings to PDFs and .mp3s, ensures they are portable and available both on and offline. For lectures, taking time to speak clearly and somewhat slower than conversational speech is critical, as is thorough step by step demonstrations. Using a script is a good idea to help minimize the "um" and "ah" that can occur. Providing a transcript along with a voice recording is appreciated by students, even those who can watch a recording on a web conferencing platform like Blackboard Collaborate. Having a weekly system of check-in, discussion review and participation and as much individual communication as possible gives students good feedback and helps anticipate problems that may occur. Presenting examples of course content as application in the workplace is especially useful and validates both your teaching as well as the student's investment in your course.

What Professor Lindberg’s students say: This online course was very hands-on. Lori Lindberg's teaching style is very thorough, meticulous, and exciting. I enjoyed her knowledge and experience in the field of EAD. Her teaching style and experience made learning interesting, and approachable. I knew that with my hard work and her help, I would be successful in or out of the class. Lori Lindberg is also resourceful; we shared job/internship opportunities. Her expertise gave me the confidence and skill on an internship. Because of Lori Lindberg, I was able to be a great resource during my internship, at times giving advice and guidance to those more experienced.

Michelle Holschuh Simmons, San Jose State University (repeat recipient)
Seminar in Information Science: Information Literacy, Summer 2012

Best Practices: : Informed by Lev Vygotsky’s theory that social interaction plays a vital role in learning, I try to structure my classes so that students get to know each other and me, not just as fellow students and a teacher, but as human beings who have lives outside of our academic work. I do this in a variety of ways. For example, I recently began asking students at the beginning of the semester to plot their location on a GoogleMap that I integrated as a widget onto our D2L (our learning management system) class site. Because our students are scattered all over the globe, I hope that this small visual helps students to make connections with each other and with me, as they discover that they might be neighbors (broadly defined!) with a class member, which can be easily forgotten if our geographic locations are only listed in our introduction posts at the beginning of the term. Another way that I attempt to make personal connections with students is that I periodically share photos of my kids, such as them in their Halloween costumes, and I invite class members to share their own photos either of themselves or their family members. Additionally, I believe that students learn best when the learning environment is deliberately-structured and well-organized, whether this is in face-to-face environment or an online environment. I make a significant efforts to be consistent with the layout and presentation of all of my assignments, with each one presented on a separate page of our class site, each with a detailed assignment sheet, a grading rubric, examples of previous students’ work, and screencasts explaining what made these examples successful. And finally, I take students’ feedback very seriously, and I try to reflect every semester on how I can improve my classes for the next time I teach them.

What Professor Simmon’s students say: This WISE course was my first (ever) online class and Professor Simmons made this a very enjoyable and informative experience. Michelle's class was filled with opportunities to connect with her, my fellow classmates, and members of the library community. Michelle made sure to always provide multiple inputs and outputs for learning to appeal to a wide variety of learning preferences and styles. For lack of a less cliche term, she practiced what she preached-providing us with an innovative learning environment where students had opportunities to participate in ways they felt most comfortable as well as experiment with new learning activities to stretch beyond our comfort zones. Our assignments included discussions, papers, observing a local instruction session, and (my favorite) designing a lesson plan and teaching a lesson via collaborate. At the start of the course, I had never seen blackboard software and had never used blackboard collaborate web conferencing software. Michelle was extremely helpful-very easy to get in touch with and gave me a remarkable amount of individualized attention to help me practice my presentation and ensure I felt comfortable and confident using this new software. She really encouraged me to go beyond my comfort zone and take advantage of all of the features of the software to create and teach an exciting lesson! Her encouragement and support really made a critical difference in this class; I thank her immensely for preparing me to begin teaching in both virtual and physical environments, with students from a wide variety of backgrounds who have different preferences and challenges when it comes to learning and assessment. Everything I learned in this course has helped me as I begin conducting instruction sessions as an intern at a local community college this semester. While I had studied education as an undergraduate student, this WISE course really allowed me to think critically and creatively about the unique circumstances surrounding library instruction. Specifically, I recognize the challenges and potential benefits of online lesson materials, such as LibGuides and video tutorials, and how we must continue utilizing web technologies to reach growing populations of online students. I would be so happy to see Professor Simmonsreceive an award for her dedication and hard work as a Professor at SJSU. Michelle truly raised the bar in terms of making an online classroom feel welcoming, providing multiple outlets for communication, and providing us with the individual support we will need to learn the new technologies that are necessary for making a difference in the lives of our patrons as we enter into instruction professions.

Michael Stephens, San Jose State University
The Hyperlinked Library - Emerging trends, Emerging Tech, Spring 2012

Best Practices: Libraries and librarians are faced with a technological and societal wave of change that will only increase. Preparing new graduates to deal with constant change, use current and emerging technology tools to further the mission of their institutions, and meet the needs of communities of library users while never losing sight of our foundational values and principles is of utmost importance to me as an LIS educator. Be a learner...always. I have a plaque in my home office that quotes Michaelangelo, “I am still learning.“ I keep that in mind as I reflect on my own teaching and use of technology. It’s an ongoing process to continue to improve. I learn from my students, my colleagues and from the networks I participate in online. It’s fine to say “I don’t know“ about the next new thing and explore it with previous learning in mind. I want this for my students as well. Skills they develop now-exploring a new tool, creating new knowledge, making connections with others-will serve them well in their careers. Be real...I’ve also learned not to get hung up on perfection. A mistake or two in a lecture or stumbling over words in a video does not negate the experience for students. In fact, it helps counteract the “culture of perfect“ that sometimes permeates libraries and other environments. “Everything is beta“ is a popular way to describe this approach. Be present...Communication is key to successful online teaching as well. Being present on the course site and answering questions directed to me are a given, but I also work at consistent updating. If I’m traveling to speak at a library or conference, I let my students know. If I’m at a conference, I’ll share links and insights. My students have done the same, using Twitter or their class blogs to share their own opinions and takeaways from attending professional conferences. The sharing and communication can be informal, and it strengthens the feeling of community. Be human...Michael Wesch, professor at the University of Kansas and a vocal advocate for participatory teaching, has stated “It doesn’t matter what method you use if you do not first focus on one intangible factor: the bond between professor and student.“ That connection must come first and is best forged with feeling and humanity. At our 2012 all-faculty institute at San Jose State University, CA, professors and adjuncts exchanged tips for developing that sense of connection across our virtual program. Posting family photos, communicating within our collaborative IM application, and connecting with students via social media and in-person meet-ups were all among the suggestions. Bring yourself to your online teaching-share, be authentic and connect with students via the heart and the keyboard.

What Professor Stephen’s students say: Even though it was a remote course, it felt very alive. We all had our own blogs so communicating and being able to look at fellow classmates ideas was intuitive and easy (as opposed to wading through discussion threads). He advocated for a services-centered approach to libraries, and called for reform where necessary. Overall a wonderful class.
Michael is a wise leader walking in front to guide the way, and it feels as though he is also walking among us as we learn and share new things. He is always curious about new ideas and consistently supports collaboration and kindness among colleagues. He supports student content and publishes it widely, and he practices what he teaches about social media and emerging technologies. His assignments are clearly thought out and practical. I feel more centered now entering the profession than I did at the beginning of term.

Gawain Weaver, San Jose State University
Photographic Preservation, Summer 2012

Best Practices: Teaching online is a constantly evolving practice for me. I strive for a combination of “classroom-like” interaction through live lectures whenever possible, and online quizzes and activities that keep the students both challenged and inquisitive about the specialist world of photograph preservation. For my subject matter I believe that the use of video is important. In addition to basic lecturing, I use the video to show different photographic processes and to demonstrate how to examine them to observe their unique characteristics. The use of photographic sample sets which are required in the course also help to expand the class outside of the online environment and provide some practical experience in this very object-based field of study.

What Professor Weaver’s students say: An extremely helpful instructor, quick responses to my many emails and in different time zones. Great interactive videos and always answers questions when I was unable to be there for the live lessons. Great imagination to make the topic very interesting and exciting. His enthusiasm was catching for his great knowledge of the subject.

Patty Wong, San Jose State University
Seminar in Library Management: Grant Writing, Spring 2012

Best Practices: Teaching in an online environment means complete student engagement and communal thinking and learning. For me it means sharing knowledge and ideas to last a career, as if my semester with these students were the only opportunity I have to touch and be touched by their brilliance and potential. So in every course I teach, I tailor the interaction to benefit the individual and the group. In “Grant Writing and Alternative Funding Resources,” we work with actual clients selected by the students, and provide detailed research on private and public grants, create a proposal for submission, and conduct an environmental scan so that the community benefits directly from the student’s hard work. The student benefits from the real world experience in working with a colleague agency, determining client needs, and integrating practice with theory within a deadline. The learning is continuous and progressive – we incorporate ethics, inclusion, community engagement, and problem solving into the discussions, and, by design, students and the instructor approach each topic together in appreciative inquiry. I spend a good deal of time refining the course design every semester and I provide an extra credit option for open feedback from the students midway and adjust my course tactics, if possible, to make the learning stronger. The skill building takes place with the client as well. One outcome of the course is to introduce these library, museum and nonprofit clients to a variety of resources, techniques and best practices associated with Grant Writing and diversified funding. Students will contribute all of their work but are also encouraged to share the course materials with their clients so the instruction and opportunity continues. Some of my students come from a variety of experiences and, if a tool we use – like the Foundation Directory Online – is not especially strong with resources and foundations outside of the US, this poses a disadvantage to my international colleagues or those with interests throughout the world. So I will provide additional research sources – the student will learn the valuable searching strategies through exploring the tool at hand, but I will tailor their experience to focus on resources that may be more applicable to their home communities. This may include work with indigenous populations as well as international environments. Students are colleagues and the contributions and skills they build are natural assets to any current or future professional or community experience.

What Professor Wong’s students say: Patty is an amazing lecturer. She obviously takes pride in her course and was very interested in knowing what we thought of the course and how it could be improved. Even though there were many assignments due she spent a great amount of time on each one and wrote copious notes on how we went and what could be improved. Patty took time to suggest websites and other readings that might suit Australian grant writers and went out of her way to speak to colleagues to see if they had more information that might help me. Lectures on Blackboard were thorough and we were allowed plenty of time to take notes and ask questions. I found I learnt a lot of practical information from Patty's course and have since used this information in my work. Patty was an inspirational teacher and I would definitely recommend her for a Faculty award.

Cynthia Cheng Correia, Simmons College
Competitive Intelligence, Spring 2012

Best Practices: My focus for my course is to create an online environment that facilitates learning and to help my students develop depth of knowledge, critical thinking skills, and practices that will help them achieve their academic, personal, and professional goals. Many students in my course are new to online instruction, which requires that students refine their learning skills and techniques from those in a traditional classroom setting. As they become acquainted with the course, I ask them to reflect on and share their goals for the course; and I try to minimize barriers to access and communication, help them find efficient ways to learn, establish clear expectations, provide resources that are easily accessible and use, and develop a comfortable environment (accessibility, humor, and tone can help). I spend a significant amount of time (more time than for a traditional course ) preparing and refining the course in terms of content, tools, and approaches, prior to the semester, as well as during. As I develop the course, I try to adopt students’ points of view in various aspects of the course experience: navigation, accessing instructional content, executing assignments, communication, rapport, etc. By incorporating discussions about current events that relate to the topics, I can keep the course timely, relevant, and even exciting. Flexibility and multiple points of contact, communication, and instruction are vital to establish and maintain good feedback, to help students develop our online community, and to accommodate various learning styles and preferences. Our live tele-meetings have proven to be helpful in achieving these aims and they allow me to present guest speakers that can lend greater breadth of perspectives. Finally, throughout the semester, I maintain notes on how I can improve the course for the future, taking into account student questions and feedback, my observations on student experiences, and new developments in online pedagogy.

What Professor Correia’s students say: Cynthia was a great teacher and very thorough and responsive. As a CI professional with lots of experience I felt I got a much clearer picture of CI than had it been taught by just a professor with no or little current experience. She was also very flexible and let us retry assignments to ensure we really understood the material instead of just focusing on the grades. She knew how important it was for us to truly understand the content especially at the beginning as it built on itself throughout the course. The fact we got to work on a real project and not just theoretical was invaluable.

Ross Harvey, Simmons College
Archiving and Preserving Digital Media, Summer 2012

Best Practices: I want my students to develop ways of thinking and working they can build on as they develop their professional careers. So, in addition to students achieving the objectives of my online courses, I’m looking for two things to happen in them. The first is that students interact with one another in ways that build on their knowledge and take them to new places – to harness the considerable experience and expertise they possess. The second is that students develop a sense of themselves as part of a cohort and start to build a professional network by forging bonds that help them keep in contact after their studies. I use the methods of all effective instructors: I encourage discussion (both quantity and quality); I am available; I maintain a strong online presence in the course; and I give timely responses to queries. I also build in opportunities for reflection wherever possible, designing questions for that purpose, and requiring reflective posts at the end of modules (my courses have a modular design). I use the Simmons Digital Curriculum Laboratory, an online laboratory my colleagues and I have designed for online learning, to help students develop technical skills. And I try to build in humor where possible-if students have fun along the way, that’s all to the good.

What Professor Harvey’s students say: Ross Harvey brings structure and interactivity to the online classroom. He makes himself available to students both online and outside the classroom, providing valuable insight to course topics. It's very apparent that he takes the subject matter seriously, that he is well versed in it, and that he takes great pride in sharing this information with anyone who is willing to learn.

Carisse Berryhill, The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Theological Librarianship, Spring 2012

Best Practices: My Theological Librarianship course began in 2005 as a collaboration between UIUC’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science and the American Theological Library Association, which recruited me to teach the course and assisted with developing course content. As an introduction to a specialized field of librarianship, the course surveys its community, materials, services, and issues; but even more importantly, it opens a hospitable door to a community of theological librarians. Course readings emphasize ATLA Proceedings. Almost every week a librarian from an ATLA member library is our guest during a live-stream synchronous session , answering questions submitted in advance by the students.From 2005 to 2012, 35 different ATLA librarians have given 77 interviews during class. The generosity and disciplined humanity of these guests help me create and sustain a welcoming environment for students who wish to explore this field of library service. Because creating online community is very important, from the beginning I ask the students to reflect on what online behaviors might encourage or discourage class community while appreciating diversity. During the first semester that the course was offered, the season of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, I began the practice of starting class with two minutes of audio silence where students could list on the course chat the names of friends or family who were missing or in distress. The Quiet List has remained a permanent feature of the course. It offers the opportunity to be attentive to the whole person.

What Professor Berryhill’s students say: Carisse offers a solid, grounded introduction to the field and concerns of theological librarianship. Her weekly class meetings and assignments are clearly designed to build students' networks as well as to teach, proving functional both in the classroom and well into one's professional career. Her foresight in course design and delivery paired with her deeply nurturing approach to teaching make the entire semester a delight. She is passionate and articulate about her subject, generous of time and spirit and committed to her students' growth in knowledge about the profession. Even though I am one of her students who does not anticipate pursuing a career in the field of theological librarianship, I am so glad I took this course, as much for the opportunity to work with Carisse as to learn more about a specialized branch of librarianship.

Julia Khanova, The University of North Caroline, Chapel Hill
Electronic Health Records: Emerging Standards, Applications and Services, Summer 2012

Best Practices: I believe that online instruction is less about teaching and more about facilitating student learning. In this short (5-week) summer course, I use discussion as the main learning activity. To avoid the all too common “write a forum entry, then reply to a couple of classmates’ posts“ trap, I require frequent (at least five days a week with more than one post per day) discussion forum participation with emphasis on building dialog with peers, respect for diversity of classmates’ expertise and willingness to share own knowledge and experience. I provide explicit guidelines, then model the desired discourse, especially in the first couple of weeks of the course, and provide weekly individual feedback to each student, as well as summary feedback to the entire class. Another “best practice“ that I try to follow is being constantly present in the virtual class space, regularly chiming in on discussion, and responding promptly to questions from students.

What Professor Khanova’s students say: Julia presented an emerging field (electronic health records) in a holistic, interesting and well organised manner. Her support was first class. The feedback she provided to the class, or to me directly, was always timely, consistently constructive and generally helpful.

Mary Wepking, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee
GLBTQ Literature for Young Adults, Spring 2012

Best Practices: When I started teaching online 6 or 7 years ago, I was not convinced that the quality of the online learning experience could match that of the face to face classroom. As I began to take full advantage of the environment, though, I came to realize that online learning has unique benefits and ample opportunity for effective teaching. Rather than restrict reflection and dialog to a single 2-3 hour class session each week as is the on-site model, students in the online classroom have time to more fully consider the topic. The depth of thought I see in class discussions online tells me that students have contemplated readings, weighed the themes, and contributed thoughtfully to the conversation. While some online instructors remain in the background on the discussion forums, I participate regularly by leading, guiding, and extending the dialog in the same way that I do in my on-site teaching. To respond to various learning styles and also to “ease the distance“ in my online courses, I’ve also begun to incorporate technology (Relay or VoiceThread, for example) that gives distance students experience presenting to a group and also allows them to hear the voices of their classmates. Student response to this type of assignment has been very positive since it seems no one enjoys a class in which all student communication is limited to reading and writing. I’ve incorporated these concepts of instructor presence and diversity of communication methods into the GLBTQ Literature for Young Adults course I’ve been teaching through WISE for the past several years. I’m pleased to know that students have found the course both beneficial and enjoyable.

What Professor Wepking’s students say: Mary was so involved and communicative throughout the whole process, it was like having an in-person instructor. Her comments on assignments were always complete and thoughtful - you could tell she put the same effort into this class that she did her in-person classes and she put time into giving us feedback. She was very active on the forums, and the work she assigned was useful, interesting, and practical. I wish I could meet her in person and have a traditional class with her, too!