Monday, September 26, 2022

UM Educators Selected as Inaugural WOW! Faculty Fellows

By Pam Starling

University of Mississippi

Marc Watkins, a lecturer in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric, will serve as one of the first WOW! faculty fellows at the University of Mississippi. The three 2022-23 fellows will lead workshops and learning communities that share ideas and collaboration for engaging online learning throughout this academic year. Submitted photo

Teaching online can be a process of continually exploring and adapting to evolving digital options, as well as understanding the needs of students. 

Three University of Mississippi faculty members plan to address these areas this academic year as they work to create learning communities where fellow UM instructors can share about productive elements in their online teaching experiences. 

This fall, the Wow the Online World, or WOW!, Faculty Fellow program implemented by the UM Academic Outreach office and Ole Miss Online will begin.

The program is a way to highlight innovative achievements and sound instructional practices of online instructors and distribute that information among Ole Miss faculty members as they come together in learning community roundtables. 

The fellowship program was started as a way for online instructors to have time and resources to offer their expertise to fellow faculty members, said Mary Lea McMillian, UM assistant director of academic outreach.

“The WOW! program began as a way to highlight and share ideas that are truly engaging and exciting in online pedagogy,” McMillian said. “Most classes at UM have some type of online element integrated within the curriculum; this might be a product of COVID, but we are also seeing the added benefits of these types of engagements with student learning outcomes. 

“Through these faculty-led workshops, UM instructors will have the opportunity to hear more about new and advanced techniques or technologies they can use in their own classrooms. They will share ideas about integrating those tools as they participate in learning communities specifically crafted for UM instructors by UM instructors.”

The first three WOW! faculty fellowships have been awarded to Katerina Berezina, associate professor of nutrition and hospitality management; Carey Bernini Dowling, instructional associate professor of psychology; and Marc Watkins, a lecturer in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric.

Watkins will kick off the program with the first WOW! Workshop, “Open Pedagogy in the Digital Classroom,” offered at 10 a.m. Sept. 12 in Lamar Hall, Room 323. The workshop also can be accessed through Zoom and will cover the inclusion of student-created open pedagogy assignments, course tutorials and open assessment tools. 

“I understand the myriad challenges that faculty and students face when taking an online course, but regardless of modality, I know that students can be engaged and learn in online spaces,” Watkins said. 

“Putting this pedological practice in place within my own online courses has helped drive engagement between students in peer-to-peer learning and helped them establish connections with how they learn in online spaces.

“I believe that my fellow faculty members can benefit from the innovative teaching pedagogy and strategies we will cover in our learning community.”

Watkins’ second workshop and learning community, “Planning for Future Disruptions: Resilient Teaching Beyond the Pandemic” is set for 10 a.m. Oct. 17 in Lamar Hall, Room 323, as well as through Zoom.

Each WOW! faculty fellow will offer two workshops, either in-person or virtually, this academic year, plus two roundtable discussions to accompany the topic they present.

Berezina will share how she implemented design thinking into online hospitality management courses, as well as the benefits and engagement available from offering a variety of assignment modes.

“I saw the benefits of how design thinking can be applied to classes, and I collected students’ feedback on my NHM 376 course to build student personas, identify pain points and improve students’ experience in future semesters,” Berezina said. 

She also hopes to share information about the benefits of incorporating a diverse range of teaching and learning tools, such as virtual escape rooms, into curriculum.

“While a virtual escape room may be built like a video game, it may also be built using Google Suite products, such as Google Slides and Forms,” Berezina explained. 

“These tools are available to all professors and students at UM and adding virtual escape rooms may be an interesting way to diversify the learning materials and exercises used in the course. Additionally, they provide an entertaining way of summarizing and applying students’ learning.”

Berezina will lead the discussion on “Facilitating Remote Collaboration” at 10 a.m. Sept. 27, followed by the workshop “Applying Design Thinking to Online Courses,” at 10 a.m. Oct. 25. 

Being present and available for students is a cornerstone of Dowling’s online psychology courses. 

“Despite having online courses with over 100 students enrolled, I have worked to create a sense of community for the students and implemented multiple methods where they learn to communicate with me and their classmates effectively,” she said. 

Dowling will lead workshops in the spring semester on getting the most out of Blackboard and keeping online students engaged.

“Student disengagement can be a problem in both face-to-face courses and online courses,” she said, “It is important for us to collectively work to prevent disengagement and figure out how to effectively stop it when we see it starting to happen.”

Dowling’s workshops will take place next semester in February and March.

To learn more about this year’s WOW! faculty fellows’ workshops and learning communities or to register, click here.  


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